by Ben Hudd • February 20, 2023
Rising Syrian star Mohammad Soufi secured his maiden Euro Tour title in fairytale fashion, defeating top seed Francisco Sanchez Ruiz 9-6 in the final to become the Estonian Open champion in Tallinn.
Soufi was agonisingly beaten in the recent World Pool Championship final against world number one Sanchez Ruiz, although he exacted revenge in his first outing since that breakthrough campaign to clinch the biggest accolade of his career.
Sanchez Ruiz headed into the title decider as a sizeable favourite in his attempt to claim a fourth Euro Tour title in less than 18 months, but Germany-based Soufi was inspired following his Poland exploits and that spurred him onto a landmark triumph.
It was a match involving some glimpses of brilliance but also a number of decisive errors from both. Several racks, particularly during the early exchanges, could have gone either way and that was reflected by scores being tied at four apiece.
Soufi was able to punish the Spaniard’s mistakes more often than not, managing to open up a three-rack cushion at 8-5, and there was no route back into the contest for Sanchez Ruiz as the Syrian pocketed the €6,000 top prize.
Soufi, whose previous best on the Euro Tour was a run to the semi-finals of the 2021 Lasko Open in Slovenia, commenced his campaign with victories over Estonia’s own Mark Magi and Greece’s Konstantinos Koukiadakis.
The 29-year-old was subsequently beaten at the hands of one-time Euro Tour winner Alexander Kazakis, although he bounced back with a resounding 9-2 win over Kim Laaksonen to seal his place in the single elimination phase.
There, Soufi claimed some sensational scalps, brushing side the likes of Lithuania’s Pijus Labutis and the Polish duo of Tomasz Kaplan and Mieszko Fortunski, before surviving a hill-hill thriller against European champion Niels Feijen in the semi-finals.
Sanchez Ruiz, meanwhile, was unbeaten during a dominant campaign on his way to the final, notably beating Kazakis and Wojciech Szewczyk in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively but was below par in the title decider.
Elsewhere, recent World Championship semi-finalist Mario He was beaten in his opening match against Adam Stankiewicz and was unable to recover, eventually bowing out in the fifth losers’ round at the hands of Finland’s Jani Uski.
Four Polish players in Fortunski, Szewczyk, Daniel Maciol and Mateusz Sniegocki embarked on runs to the quarter-finals despite the absence of two-time event winner Wiktor Zielinski, only for the quartet to endure defeats.
U17 world champion Karl Gnadeberg from Estonia beat Fortunski earlier in the tournament and impressed on home soil, but Denis Grabe was the last-standing Estonian prior to him being beaten by Sniegocki in the last 16.
The Euro Tour continues from April 14-17 in Austria, with the annual St Johann im Pongau Open taking place before the Tampere Open is held in Finland between May 27-29.