Comeback kid Kaci crowned world 10-ball champion for a second time

Photo: Predator Pro Billiard Series

by Ben Hudd • March 5, 2023

Eklent Kaci tasted success at the lucrative World 10-Ball Championship for the second time in three years following a captivating comeback against a Spaniard eyeing an historic feat in Francisco Sanchez Ruiz.

Sanchez Ruiz currently holds both the World 9-Ball Championship and the World 8-Ball Championship titles and was on course to complete an unprecedented treble, although his hopes of history were stopped in their tracks by an inspired Albanian.

Kaci knew how to become the world 10-ball champion and knows how to perform when it comes to the $250,000 tournament in Las Vegas. He has reached at least the semi-finals in each of the last three years, now lifting the trophy on two occasions.

He quickly found himself fastened in his chair nonetheless in the early exchanges of the final as Sanchez Ruiz motored through the opening two racks with successive break and runs, including an incredible thin cut along the top rail on the eight ball.

The Spaniard executed an exceptional bank shot on the one ball in the third rack, only for a sloppy attempt at a second bank to allow Kaci a route back into the contest. Kaci cleared the table and halved the deficit but an unwanted dry break soon followed.

Kaci’s misfortunes didn’t leave his opponent a clear path but Sanchez Ruiz came through a safety exchange to restore his two-rack advantage. Then, having broke and ran on a third occasion, FSR pulled off an outstanding jump shot on the three ball after another safety battle to move 5-1 ahead.

A fabulous two-rail kick shot on the three ball for safety soon created an opportunity for the Albanian. He began to force Sanchez Ruiz into errors, capitalising on a inaccurate return safety prior to a misfired yet difficult jump shot to reduce the arrears to 5-3.

Photo: Predator Pro Billiard Series

Sanchez Ruiz was shortly left scratching his head after a Kaci safety that gave him minimal options. The Spaniard opted for an intentional foul which went wrong and Kaci cleaned up, before restoring parity at five apiece following a relatively straightforward rack.

Kaci then put together a couple of racks, break and running on two occasions to move 7-5 in front. Three missed shots from Sanchez Ruiz allowed Kaci to further his lead, but FSR was soon back in stroke following an unbelievable carom proceeded by a five-eight combination.

Sanchez Ruiz was breaking to move within touching distance of Kaci but a demoralising missed four ball spelled the beginning of the end. The Albanian moved onto the hill and was soon saluting the knowledgable Las Vegas audience as their champion.

Beforehand, Kaci had defeated former runner-up Joshua Filler in the semi-finals and Shane van Boening in the quarter-finals, having fended off the challenge of Polish teenager Szymon Kural in the last 16.

Both Kaci and Sanchez Ruiz endured defeats during the double elimination phase of the tournament, with the Albanian being beaten by 2019 champion Ko Ping-Chung prior to Sanchez Ruiz’s defeat against 2009 runner-up Lee Van Corteza.

Sanchez Ruiz was involved in a hill-hill thriller in the semi-finals against Fedor Gorst, winning 10-9 following three fouls from his opponent in the deciding rack, having already beaten Aloysius Yapp, Chang Jung-Lin and Alex Pagulayan in single elimination.

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