Well, as I write this, day, one of the World 9-Ball Championship is just about complete. Kielce Poland is playing host this year to the event, and once again, Matchroom and the host country seem to have set up a wonderful venue to present our sport to the public. In addition to the venue, Matchroom offers one premium stream by subscription and two free streams on their YouTube channels.
Eleven players from the United States were scheduled to play at this year's event; unfortunately, two were unable to make it. Sky Woodward got caught in a winter ice storm and was unable to make it flight, and in the case of Greg Hogue, a backlog caused a delay in the issuance of his passport, and he too was too late to make it to the venue. I feel for both of these players, but I am confident that they will ride this glitch out and be back better than ever.
So, for the nine players that did make the trip, how did day one go? Well, the defending World Champion, Shane Van Boening, came out with a strong statement that he is not giving up his title easily. He faced Masato Yoshioka, and after losing the first game, he won the second and then broke and ran five in a row to go up 6-1 and eventually won 9-2. He had an 85% break-and-run rate, and he missed only one ball in the match. He will play Mats Schjetne on Thursday.
Shane Wolford, a rising star and Mosconi Cup hopeful, took on Pia Filler in the first round and secured a 9-4 victory. Meanwhile, Hunter Lombardo gained a win over Dimitri Jungo 9-5. Shane moved into the second round, where he was up against the formidable Eklent Kaci. It was a tough match going hill-hill, but Kaci secured the win, knocking Shane into the one-loss side. He will play again Thursday. Hunter’s second-round test was against Aleska Pecelj, and he came up just a bit short, losing 9-7.
Two of the US players had to play each other in the first round, Tyler Styer and Mason Koch. Someone had to win, and Tyler came out on top in this exchange, and Mason was knocked into the one-loss side. Both players will play again tomorrow, with Tyler going up against Alexis Kazakis and Mason will face Erik Hjorleifson.
Oscar Dominguez, having secured a Mosconi Cup spot last year, came out strong in his first match, winning 9-4. He will play Ali Nasser Al Obaidli tomorrow, and he will be looking to go deep in this event so he can build up the early ranking points this year.
Joey Tate, a young star coming from the Junior ranks, has had a lot of eyes on him for the past year. While no stranger to attention since his close match last year with the current world champion, coming to this event on foreign soil has to be a mix of excitement and a want to prove himself. Joey stands up to pressure very despite his young age, and while he came strong winning the first two games, his opponent Jose Alberto Delgado refused to give him many opportunities, and Joey found himself in the chair for long stretches. Even though he lost the match 9-4 to move to the B side, Joey took the loss like a professional, and I would not count this young man out just yet. He will see Chris Alexander in his second match on Thursday.
Billy Thorpe started the day off going into the lion’s den facing the always dangerous David Alcaide. Alcaide, knowing that you cannot give Billy a foothold, took control of the match and refused to let Billy get loose. David won the match 9-5, and Billy will join the players on the B side, where he will play Chetan Chhabra.
So, we had 5 wins in round one with SVB, Shane Wolford, Hunter Lombardo, Oscar Dominguez, and Tyler Styer. All of the players remain in after day one and will see action on Thursday. Hopefully, we will see a positive and productive performance from everyone.
Good luck and best of rolls!