Soufi creates World Pool Championship history with Ouschan victory

Photo: Taka Wu / Matchroom

by Ben Hudd • February 4, 2023

Mohammad Soufi has emerged as the story of this year’s World Pool Championship and the Syrian continued his exceptional campaign in Poland by overcoming two-time champion Albin Ouschan to reach the semi-finals.

Click here for the 2023 World Pool Championship draw, live scores, format, prize fund and how to watch

A first-time champion is guaranteed to be crowned come Sunday evening following the exits of both Ouschan and defending champion Shane van Boening on the penultimate day, with Soufi being one of four players who remain in the reckoning for the $60,000 top prize.

Soufi, who had entered the tournament as the world number 79, booked his place in a maiden major quarter-final through a thrilling deciding rack contest against Poland’s own Sebastian Batkowski, but his subsequent sensational comeback against Ouschan created the headlines.

Ouschan was a rampant 11-3 winner in his last 16 win over Poland’s Mateusz Sniegocki and the fourth seed continued that form as he constructed a healthy 6-2 lead in the quarter-finals.

There were subsequent flashes of brilliance mixed with fortune from the former Euro Tour semi-finalist based in Germany. He battled back to 8-7 behind with his initial ounce of luck, before two flukes in succession in an unbelievable sixteenth rack allowed him to restore parity at eight apiece.

Soufi then swiftly reeled off the remaining three racks to become the first-ever Syrian player to reach the semi-finals, where he will encounter another relative surprise package in world number 70 Wu Kun-Lin.

Wu had already emphatically defeated two former semi-finalists in Alexander Kazakis and Naoyuki Oi, and the dangerous Taiwanese cueist added US Open runner-up Max Lechner to his scalps with an 11-9 victory in the last 16.

A former Las Vegas Open champion on the 10-ball scene, Wu scuppered the growing hopes of Vietnam’s Duong Quoc Hoang in the quarter-finals, opening up a 5-0 ascendancy that his opponent was ultimately unable to recover from.

Sanchez Ruiz motors on

Francisco Sanchez Ruiz has maintained the sensational standard he produced last year into the new season, and the world number one breezed into his maiden World Championship semi-final without breaking into a sweat on Saturday afternoon.

The reigning US Open champion could complete a blue-ribbon double come Sunday evening and is now a sizeable favourite to do just that, having fended off Estonia’s Denis Grabe 11-8 and dispatched Chang Jung-Lin in convincing fashion.

Sanchez Ruiz will encounter Mario He in the semi-finals, with the Austrian having grounded out another two hard-fought victories. His deciding rack victory over John Morra was followed by an 11-9 win over 2014 champion Niels Feijen.

He and Canada’s Morra served up a hill-hill classic on Saturday afternoon, featuring plenty of incredible shots under immense pressure, before the European Open semi-finalist overturned a 9-6 deficit against Dutchman Feijen to reach the final four.

Van Boening dethroned

Shane van Boening’s quest to become only the second player to defend their World Championship accolade was scuppered at the hands of Vietnamese sensation Duong Quoc Hoang in a thrilling deciding rack tussle.

Earl Strickland was crowned world champion in both 1990 and 1991 but Van Boening will not be following in his legendary footsteps after being unable to complete a valiant comeback against Vietnam’s World Cup of Pool star.

Quoc Hoang dominated the early exchanges and raced into a 4-1 lead, mounting the pressure on the shoulders of the defending champion, although the top seed responded admirably and bounced back into contention.

Van Boening reeled off three successive break and runs from 6-5 behind and moved 8-6 ahead, but Quoc Hoang remained resilient and awaited his opportunity, booking his place in the quarter-finals with the help of one or two fortunate rolls.

The World Pool Championship reaches its conclusion on Sunday in Kielce, Poland, with the semi-finals taking place during the afternoon session followed by the showpiece worth $60,000 in prize money.

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