Sanchez Ruiz keeps historic three-peat alive as Kaci stuns Van Boening

Photo: Predator Pro Billiard Series

by Arabdho Majumder • March 4, 2023

More than two hours elapsed before the game-ending handshake came between Francisco Sánchez Ruíz and Singapore’s Aloysius Yapp. It was another marathon match at the end of another marathon day for the Spaniard, who’s likely spent more time on the table at major tournaments since the start of 2022 than any other player in the world.

Capitalizing on a dry break from Yapp, Sánchez Ruíz confirmed his spot in the final four at the World 10-Ball Championship on Friday evening even as his fatigue grew. With the win, he keeps his chance at making history alive. Two more wins on Saturday would make FSR the first man ever to win world championships in 8-ball, 9-ball and 10-ball. Even more impressive, he’d be holding all three titles simultaneously.

In the Spaniard’s way on Saturday morning in Las Vegas is Fedor Gorst. Then, Joshua Filler and Eklent Kaçi will share the table to decide the second finalist. Despite the event switching to a single-elimination format on Friday opening the door for more upsets, all four semi-finalists are former world champions in some discipline of the game. Kaçi is a former winner of the 10-ball event. Filler and Gorst won the 2018 and 2019 World Pool Championships, respectively. And as mentioned before, FSR already has the 8-ball and 9-ball crowns from last year.

The day began at 11am local time in Las Vegas, and Filler and Gorst cruised through their last 32 matches. Filler downed Vitaliy Patsura, 10-3, and Gorst beat Quoc Hoang Duong, 10-1. Sánchez Ruíz took a little longer but got by Alex Pagulayan, 10-5. Kaçi also began slowly. He needed 18 racks to dust off Polish teenager Szymon Kural.

FSR played a scrappy last 16 match against Chang Jung-Lin, escaping with a 10-8 win which also took more than two hours like his quarter-final bout. The last 16 contest looked to be heading to a hill-hill finish, but trying to go three rails for position on the seven ball, Chang caught the ten ball and snookered himself. He attempted a jump, which missed, and left Sánchez Ruíz a three-ball out to close out the match.

Photo: Predator Pro Billiard Series

Filler, meanwhile, didn’t slow down as Friday wore on. The German ace dispatched Lee Van Corteza, who was undefeated until that point, 10-4. Then, after a long wait since he was placed in the second flight of quarter-finals, he cruised past Ko Ping-Chung, who was also undefeated till that point, 10-3.

Both players struggled to find their stroke in that quarter-final match, but Filler’s shot-making was enough to ensure he stayed in the tournament for Saturday. It was also revenge for the 2019 World 10-Ball Championship final when Ko defeated Filler, 10-7.

Jan van Lierop snagged seven racks from Gorst in the last 16, but the Russian eventually prevailed. He restored his comfort in his quarter-final match against Denis Grabe, winning 10-3. Like Filler, Gorst hasn’t lost a match yet in the event, and except for his match against Van Lierop, he hasn’t lost more than four racks in a single match. With this run, Gorst will already be at well over $100,000 in earnings for 2023. Only ten players managed to accumulate that amount during the whole of last year.

The final player to etch his name into the semi-finals, Kaçi, grew more comfortable throughout Friday. His wins still came far less convincing than Gorst and Filler’s. He defeated Olivér Szolnoki, 10-5, in the last 16. Then, he found a way past Shane Van Boening in the quarter-finals, 10-7.

It’s a resurgent effort from the young Albanian whose play dipped slightly in 2022. He was a mainstay on the European Mosconi Cup squad between 2018 and 2021, but was dropped last year when he struggled to make deep runs at major events consistently. He’s continued excelling at the World 10-Ball Championship, though. This marks a third-straight year he’s reached at least the semi-finals of the event. He’ll look to repeat his 2021 title-winning performance on Saturday.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s