by Ben Hudd • October 9, 2022
There’s nothing that comes close to the US Open Pool Championship in the world of professional pool. Everybody wants to add the sport’s most prestigious nineball accolade to their collections, and this year’s star-studded field makes that task extremely difficult.
From the current crop of sometimes unstoppable youngsters to former champions to relatively untapped talents from across the world, it’s one of the toughest fields the US Open has ever produced and a tournament that has an array of potential champions.
World Pool Masters champion Joshua Filler is the leading candidate to be lifting the famous Barry Behrman trophy on Saturday evening, although reigning champion of the world Shane van Boening and a number of other title contenders could etch their names onto the roll of honour.
Who are the favourites?
Joshua Filler has been simply sensational this season, winning the Masters and inaugural UK Open as well as reaching European Open, Premier League and Derby City Classic finals. The German youngster has been unstoppable at times and he’s the one expected to be wearing the green jacket come the conclusion.
Reigning world champion Shane van Boening could create history as he begins his quest to become a six-time US Open champion. The American could also complete the blue-ribbon double following his World Championship triumph in April and he’s regained his form this season after a patchy couple of years.
Albin Ouschan will be vying to add the sport’s most prestigious accolade to his two world titles. The European Open champion hasn’t been quite as dominant as he was last season, although that’s more down to Filler’s proficiency than his standards slipping.
There’s more on the line for Spain’s Francisco Sanchez Ruiz than just his bid for glory. The Derby City Classic champion is in contention for a Mosconi Cup debut after a breakthrough campaign, while Scotland’s Jayson Shaw will be attempting to land his first major accolade since his 2017 US Open scalp.
Fedor Gorst may have been out of action from international events for the most part of this year, although he has been keeping his stroke in check on the American scene. Serbia’s Aleksa Pecelj could prove a tough test for the Russian youngster in the second round nonetheless.
Who are the outsiders primed for a run?
Aloysius Yapp became the latest champion on the nineball circuit after going undefeated at the Sandcastle Open on Saturday, with the Singapore in sizzling form ahead of his return to the venue where he made a name for himself twelve months ago.
Defending champion Carlo Biado’s spirited comeback was all that stopped Yapp in last year’s title decider, with the Filipino out to join elite company this time around. Only Nick Varner, Mika Immonen, Darren Appleton and Van Boening have successfully defended the prestigious title.
Alexander Kazakis and David Alcaide have pedigree in nineball majors, with Kazakis potentially facing either Venezuela’s Jesus Atencio or Esteban Robles in a tricky second round tie. Both have reached major semi-finals this year at the World Championship and UK Open respectively.
Two-time champion Darren Appleton was finding his groove incredibly well prior to receiving a one-month ban in the summer. He has a tough section to work through involving teenager Riku Rompannen, Roberto Gomez and John Morra, but he’s more than capable of reaching the single elimination stage based on this year’s performances.
Abdullah Al-Youssef was a surprise package during April’s World Championship, overcoming the likes of Yapp and Max Lechner before being denied by runner-up Ouschan. The Kuwaiti sensation was defeated early at both the UK Open and European Open, so he will be hoping that all his fortunes have been saved for the biggest open tournament.
Brothers Ko Pin-Yi and Ko Ping-Chung have shown their class since returning to action earlier this season. They headline a strong lineup of Taiwanese talents, which also includes Chang Jung-Lin and Wu Kun-Lin who both fared well at the recent Sandcastle Open.
In addition, a dangerous contingent of players have travelled from Poland, including world 10-ball champion Wojciech Szewczyk. He and three-time Euro Tour champion Wiktor Zielinski are yet to make their mark in televised tournaments, while Daniel Maciol and Mieszko Fortunski have reached major quarter-finals this year.
What are the other talking points?
The US Open marks the conclusion of the Mosconi Cup race, with European and American players aiming to secure their spots on the respective teams. Sanchez Ruiz and Ouschan are in pole position for Europe, while opportunity awaits for two Americans.
Only a few thousand dollars separates Oscar Dominguez, Skyler Woodward, Shane Wolford, Nicholas De Leon and Billy Thorpe in the American race, with a deep run from any American likely to secure their place at November’s spectacle in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, banned Russian players Gorst and Kristina Tkach as well as Belarusian Margarita Fefilova make their anticipated returns to international competition, with Tkach and Fefilova amongst a mere four female competitors in Atlantic City.
Pia Filler faced her husband Joshua at August’s European Open and she heads into her second US Open fresh from winning her maiden Women’s Euro Tour title last week, while Taiwan’s Amber Chen tries her luck after winning the Women’s Canada Open last month in the 10-ball discipline.
Thirteen British players have also travelled across the pond following the inaugural UK Open in May, with Shaw and Appleton the obvious stand-out Brits. Imran Majid will be hoping to build on his London exploits, while Chris Melling and Elliott Sanderson can challenge the best on their given day.