By Sports Reporter/Doha
Drama, tension, excitement, heartbreak and glory. These are the enticing elements on offer to pool fans around the globe as the biggest and most prestigious prize in the men’s professional game, the 2014 WPA World 9-ball Championship, goes up for grabs in Doha, beginning on June 16 and running through June 27.
This will be the fifth straight year that that Qatar will host pool’s most prestigious tournament. Once again 128 players from over 40 countries will clash to see who will be crowned the king of 9-ball pool.
The tournament, which is being organised by Qatar Billiards and Snooker Federation, this year moves back to the beautiful Al Sadd Sports Club in Doha. The event will be run in two stages. Stage 1, which will run from June 16-19, is the qualifying stage where 128 players will try to fill nearly one dozen open slots. The brutally tough qualifiers are already filled up with players from around the world, but with heavy emphasis on Middle Eastern players, Filipinos, Taiwanese, Japanese, and several Europeans.
Stage 2, which also features 128 players, begins on June 21. Once again the players will be broken up into 16 groups of 8 playing a race-to-9, alternate break, double elimination format. Four players from each group will make up the final 64, which marks the start of the always tense and dramatic single elimination phase of the tournament. Matches will then become race to 11, alternate break. The final, which takes place on June 27, will be a race to 13.
With so many great players from around the globe in one arena battling it out for 9-ball supremacy, it is little wonder that each year produces loads of fascinating story lines and nervy drama that keep fans riveted and players squirming until the last ball is pocketed.
Although surely more than capable of back to back wins, defending champion and world number one Thorsten Hohmann of Germany will be hard pressed to pull off a repeat of his spectacular all-around performance in the 2013 World 9-ball last September in Doha. Hohmann’s run through the field into the winner’s circle was simply one for the ages. After barely squeaking by Japan’s Toru Kuribayashi, 11-10, in the final 64, Hohmann, brimming with confidence, proceeded to slay defending champion Darren Appleton of England, then crushed a wall of four straight Filipino stars on the way to the title.
In the final, Hohmann came up against a surprise opponent in Filipino veteran Antonio “Ga Ga” Gabica, who was playing the finest pool of his 15-year career and had produced one of the great feel-good stories pool had seen in years. The 41-year-old Gabica had lived and worked in Qatar for the last four years, working as an assistant coach for the Qatari national pool team. Both Filipinos and Qataris in the crowd were cheering wildly for Gabica.
Early on it looked as if Gabica would ride the magic carpet all the way to an unlikely world title as he went up 6-4 and was playing silky smooth pool. But one blatant miss by Gabica turned the momentum and the match as Hohmann took advantage and proceeded to hammer down the last nail for an emphatic 13-7 win.
The victory was the German’s second World 9-ball title and came 10 years after he burst onto the world wide scene with a world title win in Cardiff in 2003. Hohmann had already carved out a Hall of Fame worthy career in those ten years, but his win in Doha last year put him in that rarefied territory of pool’s super elite.
Hohmann, who made it to the quarter-finals in last week’s China Open, is currently the WPA’s number one ranked player in the world.
With the best of the best from all corners of the globe descending upon Doha in mid-June, fans can surely expect more of the same roller coaster ride of emotions, along with pool played at its highest and most entertaining levels.
The winner of the 2014 World 9-ball Championship will receive $30,000. The runner up will receive $15,000. The total prize fund is $200,000.
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