Defending World Pool Masters champion Joshua Filler has been knocked out in the opening round of the 2023 edition at the Brentwood Centre in Essex, England live on Sky Sports to two-time winner Niels Feijen in an action-packed opening evening.
Filler came into the tournament looking to become only the second player in the tournament’s history to defend one of the sport’s most historic crowns and the German did some of the early running to take advantage of a Feijen scratch to canter into a 5-1 lead with 9 the magic number for a quarter-final clash. Feijen was warned early on by the referee for soft breaks but that only seemed to spur him on more to turn things around as the Terminator found another gear to produce his best 9-ball and go level pegging at 5-5 and soon 6-5.
Momentum was key to Feijen’s showing with the break on lock, the Dutchman continued to bulldoze his way Filler in a way that very few have seen in recent time with no reply. Feijen continued on his way and pounced late when a costly push out from Filler was punished by the former to come through 9-5 in an impressive showing to meet either Max Lechner or Mohammad Soufi next up on Friday, 12 May.
Feijen said: “I ran the first rack then I am not at the table until 4-1. I was trying to feel the table out. I made an error at 4-1 and soon it was 5-1. From there, I played well, I got a warning for soft breaking, debatable in my opinion! I thought I was just hitting them a bit thin and off but then, that extra speed on the break and I got some opportunities and I played some nice shots. It’s sometimes what you need!”
Lechner will be next up for Feijen after the US Open finalist came good against Soufi 9-4. Soufi fresh off the back of a run to the final of the World Pool Championship underlined just how important the World Nineball Tour Rankings are in qualifying on merit due to that run. It was a finely poised match when it came to the betting odds pre-match but Lechner made the early movements in this bout to lead 5-1, no small part down to three golden breaks including back-to-back in the fifth and sixth racks.
The Austrian seemed to have the break sussed and left Soufi with very little room for error. Soufi got to the table to pull things back at 6-3 courtesy of his own golden break and it wouldn’t be the last opportunity he was afforded by Lechner after a horrific miscue from him with only the nine left on the table put Soufi to 7-4 but in truth, that was as close as Soufi was to get as Lechner came through 9-4.
Lechner: “It was a crazy match but I had a good start. In the end, I wasn’t shaky but I didn’t play so well. Every player’s goal is to make a ball off the break and the second is to make the nine. I’ve never done that before though! I know I can go and do better than this match. The first match is always tough, I want to go all the way.”
Evening action was wrapped up by two-time Mosconi Cup champion Jayson Shaw who came up against an imperious Ko Pin Yi who proved to be in red-hot form. Ko was barely breaking a sweat as he moved into a 5-0 lead with Shaw yet to pot a ball. The coldness of being in the chair for Shaw was always going to be troublesome from that point on but he made some ground up to pull it back to 5-1 but that was short-lived optimism as Ko put on arguably the performance of the night to wrap up a 9-1 victory. The winner of Shane Van Boening and David Alcaide awaits the former world champion next.
The remaining Round 1 matches get underway from midday UK time tomorrow as WNT No.1 Francisco Sanchez Ruiz meets James Aranas before Wiktor Zielinski of Poland takes on Zheng Xiao Huai of China. A meeting of two Mosconi Cup titans in Albin Ouschan and Eklent Kaci wrap up the afternoon action. The evening sees 2021 champion Alexander Kazakis take on Mario He ahead of Van Boening and Alcaide who wrap up the Round 1 action.
Watch live on Sky Sports in the UK, DAZN in the USA, Spain, Italy, and Brazil as well as on Viaplay in the Netherlands, Poland, Scandinavia and the Baltics. If no broadcaster is available in your country, watch the action on Matchroom.Live. See where to watch in your country here.
The World Pool Masters returns to the UK for the first time since 2015 with a fresh look as the field reverts back to 16 players with 14 of the 16 automatically earning their place from the World Nineball Tour Rankings with two wild cards completing the field. Round 1 matches are Race to 9 with quarter and semi-final encounters Race to 11 before the final stretches to a Race to 13 for the first time. The prize fund has also been bolstered to $125,000 with the winner taking home $40,000.