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Final Verdict: Immonen Can Win It

After convincing victories in the early rounds - and quality wins over Nick Varner, 11-6; Shawn Putnam, 11-1; and Jose Parica, 11-8 - Immonen's game appeared under control.

"I've been able to consistently string racks together, and I'm sure it's creating doubts on my opponents' minds," Immonen said after beating Johnny Archer, 11-7, to earn a spot in the hot-seat match with Alcano.

"I'm coming out of the gate solid and always getting a big lead," Immonen said. "I can't expect to always lead in the beginning, but if I can just hold myself together and just do the things I'm doing, I'm going to string some racks."

Alcano, the spindly cue wizard from the Philippines, appeared somewhat less confident. After holding both the world 8-ball and 9-ball titles for several months in 2007, Alcano suffered a spate of runner-up finishes in major events, including the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2008 World 8-Ball Championship.

"I'm always in the finals," Alcano lamented after knocking Rodney Morris to the losers side, 11-7, and securing his spot in the hot-seat match. "I'm playing about as well as I did last year. I'll try my best."

As he had in 2007, Alcano did the field the favor of dislodging some of his fellow Filipinos from the winners bracket. This year, he bumped Lee Van Corteza, 11-9, and Francisco Bustamante, 11-6, prior to beating Morris.

Filipino veteran Warren Kiamco avoided Alcano by losing his second match in that unusually packed bracket, but faced an even tougher uphill climb to his eventual spot in the tournament's final four.

Over the course of two days, the 39-year-old Kiamco played nine matches on the losers side and beat an incredible array of top talents. He started with Robb Saez, 11-8, and then bulldozed through Scott Rabon, 11-7; Nick Varner, 11-10; Imran Majid, 11-8; Adam Smith, 11-5; Tony Chohan, 11-3; Daryl Peach, 11-3; and Corteza, 11-10, before squeaking past Morris, 11-10, to end the marathon.

"I am not a robot; I am a human," Kiamco bleated after the late-night match with Morris. "I have no energy. My whole body is shaking. I need to sleep."

Across the room, Archer faced Deuel for the last spot in the final four. Archer, who has put together a solid year with titles in several domestic events, kept spectators glued to their seats with excruciatingly long turns at the table. Taking two minutes to wipe down his cue, chalk his tip and size up most shots, Archer outlasted Deuel, 11-8, just after midnight.

When play resumed on Saturday, Kiamco wouldn't give Archer the chance to dither at the table. The well rested Filipino surged to a 7-1 lead in their losers-bracket semifinal. Archer's best shot at a comeback derailed after he popped the cue ball off the table on his break at 7-2. Kiamco closed out the match, 11-4, and awaited the winner of the hot-seat contest between Immonen and Alcano.

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