Ouschan looked to be in championship form, before bowing out in the semifinals. (Photo by Ted Lerner)
Despite the controversies and misunderstandings, though, it was clear that once the tournament progressed beyond the three-day group stages, the proverbial cream surely rose to the top. By the time the quarterfinals rolled around on the fourth day, the inclusion of names like Karen Corr, Kelly Fisher, Jeanette Lee, Shin-Mei Liu, Amit, Jasmin Ouschan and Akimi Kajatani quickly made everyone forget the earlier complaints. There was obviously some good pool to come.
Two big names missing from the final eight were new Hall of Fame inductee Allison Fisher and two-time world champion Ga Young Kim. Kim got knocked out in the round of 16 via an 8-6 loss to relatively unknown Charlene Chai of Singapore. The Singaporean was down, 5-2, only to rally and beat back a shell-shocked Kim, finishing the match with a slam-dunk 3-6-10 combo.
Fisher drew Yu Ram Cha in the round of 16, and the two engaged in an entertaining match that had fans on the edge of their seats. Up 7-3, Cha looked to be cruising until Fisher turned up the heat, tying the race-to-8 match at seven games apiece. In the last rack, Fisher attempted and missed a 4-10 combo, only to leave the same shot on for Cha, who pocketed the final 10 ball and booked a quarterfinals date against Ouschan.
The Fisher-Cha match seemed to set the tone for the quarterfinal matches to follow on that long Saturday night, with all four matches becoming tense, give-and-take affairs heading straight down to the wire, and all ending on dawn's side of midnight.
Corr looked very formidable early on, having gone undefeated in the group stage. This earned the Irish superstar the no. 1 seed and a bye straight into the final 16. After defeating Korea's Yun Mi Lim, Corr moved into the quarterfinals and met up with Japan's no. 5 ranked player, Akimi Kajatani. The 40-year-old Japanese veteran outlasted Taiwan's current world 9-ball champion, Lin Yuan Chun, 8-7 in a nail-biter, which set up the showdown with Corr.
Kajatani jumped out to a 4-0 lead, only to see Corr claw back and move ahead, 5-4. Kajatani wrestled back the lead at 6-5. But the pressure wore on both players, and the errors followed. After nearly three tortuous hours, Kajatani held on for a 9-7 win and a place in Sunday's semifinals.
After taking down Fisher, Cha headed straight to the TV table for a marquee match with Ouschan. Ouschan had already played two matches that day, defeating Indonesia's Ticoalu and Japan's no. 1 Miyuke Fuke. The two engaged in an entertaining and high quality battle until a bobbled 7 ball by Cha in the 15th rack allowed Ouschan the clean up for a 9-7 win, and a spot in the semifinals.
The Austrian would meet up Sunday afternoon with the winner of the showdown between Liu and Kelly Fisher. Fisher, the world's current no. 1 player, established her credentials by going undefeated in the group stages, then demolishing Taiwan's current Amway champion, Chieh-Yu Chou, 8-2, in the round of 16. The veteran Liu, perhaps the greatest women's player to ever come out of Taiwan, also cruised through the group stage, then crushed Singapore's Chai, 8-1, to set up the match with Fisher.
The gravity and circumstances of this match-up of greats seemed to affect both players, with the two committing errors and neither able to get any distance on the other. The match lasted close to three hours, with Liu escaping with a 9-8 victory.
And then there was the unassuming Amit, who was quietly doing her thing, having easily won her two matches in the knockout stage, including a confidence-boosting win over Taiwan's Hsian Lin Tan. In the quarters, she met up with Jeanette Lee, who was playing solid pool and looked determined to end a several-year drought from the winner's circle in international competition. Lee, however, was unknowingly running into a woman whose guardian angels were hovering close over her shoulder.
After storming out to a 4-0 lead, Amit gave it all back and even fell behind, 7-5. With the match perilously close to slipping away, Amit exhibited the calm and gutsy spirit that would characterize her whole week at home in Manila. Down 8-7, she got some fortuitous rolls, held her nerve and won the last two agonizing racks, sending more than a thousand local fans into a tizzy. Suddenly, people started to believe a miracle could happen in the Philippines.
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