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World 9-B: American Duo in Final 32
Jun 29, 2011, 10:53 AM

Lombardo ousted Austrian Mario He on Wednesday, 11-8.
Based on past performances, Antonio Gabica has often been viewed by pool fans as an extremely talented player who tends to wilt when it comes to big time pressure situations.

However, Gabica stepped up in the biggest way possible under massive pressure this afternoon and defeated former world champion Mika Immonen, 11-10, in a dramatic finish in the round of 64 at the 2011 World 9-Ball Championship in Doha, Qatar. Gabica now advances to the final 32 tomorrow while Immonen, one of the game’s premiere players, has been eliminated. “I’m just lucky to win,” said Gabica after the game, co-opting a famous phrase from his country’s Efren Reyes.

As expected on the first day of the single-elimination knockout stage, the heavy pressure and dramatic finishes weren’t confined to one table. England’s Mark Gray found himself on the verge of elimination after being down 10-6 to Taiwan’s Kuo Po Cheng, who has twice been runner-up in this event. But the 37-year-old Brit toughed it out and ran for the finish line in a hard fought 11-10 win.

“I’ve had a really tough draw this whole tournament and I haven’t really gotten in the grove,” Gray said afterward. “ So to be in the final 32 of the World Championship, I’m over the moon.” Unfortunately for Gray, the road he’s on is about to get even rockier as he next faces the hottest players in the tournament, fellow Englishman Chris Melling. Melling trounced Hwang Yong of Korea in a match that took just 45 minutes.

In other matches in the first two sessions on Wednesday, Shane Van Boening advanced with a comeback win over Russia’s Konstantin Stepanov. Van Boening rallied from a 6-2 deficit and took control of the match late to win, 11-8. Van Boening now faces Taiwan’s Chang Jung Lin, who easily beat the Philippines’ Joven Alba, 11-5.

Hunter Lombardo, the only other American alongside Van Boening in the field of 128, has raised plenty of eyebrows with his run into the round of 32. The 32-year-old Floridian advanced to the knockout stage with a hill-hill victory over Majid Waleed. He then ousted Mario He, 11-8, in his first match in single-elimination.

One of the biggest surprises of the day was the relatively easy victory for Japan’s Lo Li-Wen over former world champion Thorsten Hohmann. After starting out with a 4-1 lead, Hohmann simply fell apart, while Lo, who’s playing in his first ever world championship, missed one ball the entire match. Lo will now face Filipino Venancio Tanio, who surprised the Netherlands’ Nick van den Berg. The Dutchman started out strong against the Filipino overseas worker but then took a back seat as Tanio caught fire, running the rack seven times when he broke. Tanio won the match 11-7.

Sessions 3 and 4 in the round of 64 will take place later in the day. The field will be cut to 32 players after today, and to 4 players after play finishes on Thursday.

The WPA will be providing complete coverage from inside the Al Sadd Sports club throughout the tournament. Fans around the world can follow matches as they happen via our live scoring platform. The live scoring button can be seen on the front page of the WPA’s new and improved website, www.wpa-pool.com. There you can also see the brackets icon which will give you updated standings from each group and the knockout stage. Fans can also get instant updates, insights and scores by following the WPA on Twitter. Our Twitter user name is @poolwpa. You can go directly to our Twitter page at, http://twitter.com/poolwpa.&;#8232;

[Report filed by Ted Lerner]