Four medals for Team Europe and a chance for a title
The two remaining European players on the loser’s side in this year’s World 9-Ball Championships for Youth in Shanghai, China, were Raphael Wahl (GER) and Patryk Statkiewicz (POL).
Wahl met S. Myanganbayer (MON) in the loser’s qualification round. It was a one-sided match in favor of the German and even with a few mistakes committed, Wahl easily took the match with 9:3. Statkiewicz had a tougher opponent to face. Hsu Jui An (TPE) also wanted a spot in the single elimination stage of the event. The match was a tough battle between the two players. After 13 racks, the score was 7:6 in favor of Hsu. It was Statkiewicz’s break then. Both players seemed to be nervous and played bad shots. Hsu was able to win that rack and got on the hill with 8:6. The next rack turned out to be the final rack. Again, Hsu won it and ousted Statkiewicz with 9:6 after a hard fought encounter.
As the last matches of the loser’s side were played, the smoke cleared and it showed that eight players from Europe made it to the quarterfinals in their respective division.
Girls: Nataliya Seroshtan (RUS), Kamila Khodjaeva (BEL)
Under 17’s: Cyriel Ledoux (NED), Daniel Maciol (POL), Maxim Dudanets (RUS),
Under 19’s: Joshua Filler (GER), Pijus Labutis (LIT), Raphael Wahl (GER)
The draw turned out to be good from a European view. Khodjaeva and Seroshtan would meet in the final match earliest. In the quarterfinal, Khodjaeva met Kim Bo Geon (KOR). She had a good start and took a 5:2 lead. But Kim found her game and managed to tie that match at 5:5. That put high pressure on Khodjaeva. But she was prepared to handle it and won the match with 9:7 to proceed to the semi-final. Nataliya Seroshtan found another Chinese opponent, Xiong Shi Yan (CHN) who turned out to be a tough nut to crack. The score was 7:7 after 14 racks and none of them could be predicted as a winner by then. Seroshtan’s experience made the difference and brought her on the hill with 8:7. But Xiong struck back and suddenly the score was hill-hill. Again, it was the better nerves and experience from Seroshtan which made the difference and brought her a 9:8 victory and took her to the semi-finals. In the medal matches, Khodjaeva played against Chezka Luy Centeno (PHI). The Belgian played solid as a rock and again took an early 4:1 lead in the match. That gap lasted throughout the whole match. Khodjaeva was able to defend her lead and won the match with 9:5. She earned her spot in the final where she will try to reach for the crown in girl’s 9-ball. Defending Champion Seroshtan was not as successful. She encountered Liu Yuchen (CHN) who really got on a good role in the semi-final match. She took the first 5 racks in a row and left Seroshtan in despair. She tried to get back into the match. For a time it looked like she would be able to win and meet her teammate in the final match but Liu had something against that wish. The best Seroshtan was able to come up with was a 5:6 score, then Liu closed the book on that match and won it with 9:5. Khodjaeva will play Liu in the Championship match while Seroshtan achieved a bronze medal.
Fortunately, Raphael Wahl as the only European player who got drawn into the field, did not draw a teammate in the quarterfinal. He got Sun Guo Qing (CHN). At the same time, his buddy Joshua Filler played Hsu Jui An (TPE). The two matches went along almost simultaneously. Both players were leading 8:7 in a race to 11 over their opponents but then they went separate ways. Wahl was able to win his match with 11:8 while Filler missed a makable 9-ball and lost 8:11. Pijus Labutis won 11:5 over Wen Wu (CHN) and joined Wahl in the semi-finals. The next round brought an end to European hopes for Gold in the Under 19’s. Labutis lost clearly with 3:11 against Aloysius Yap (SIN) while Wahl found his master in Hsu Jui An and lost 5:11. Good tournament in the Under19’s though with 2 more Bronze Medals for Europe.
Cyriel Ledoux got Jeffery Roda (PHI) in his quarterfinal match. As usually, Ledoux fell behind and trailed in the beginning of the match. Then he was able to turn the tide and take a 7:5 lead in a race to eight. Things looked very promising for the young Dutch, but no matter how hard he tried, he could not get that last 9-ball pocketed. In the end, Ledoux lost to Roda with 7:8. His teammate Daniel Maciol dealt with Jesus Atencio (VEN). That mach was clear matter for Maciol who won easily with 8:4 to make it into the semi-finals. Maxim Dudanets battled it out with Kong De Jing (CHN).As usual, the Chinese are very tough opponents. Too tough for Maxim that day, Kong took the match with 8:5 and went on to meet Maciol in the next round. That match went along well for both players but in the end, Kong remained the upper hand and won 8:6. Maciol has to settle for another Bronze Medal for Team Europe.
Four times Bronze Medal and a chance for a title is the intermediate result for Team Europe. Let’s wait and keep our fingers crossed for Kamila Khodjaeva on her journey to glory.