Eklent Kaçi and Ko Pin Yi joined Niels Feijen and James Aranas in the semi-finals of the 2023 World Pool Masters at the Brentwood Centre, Essex live on Sky Sports in the UK, DAZN in the USA, and networks worldwide.
Kaçi came into his clash with Mario He in red-hot form after overcoming He’s World Cup of Pool partner Albin Ouschan in the opening round and it proved to be another epic battle. The Albanian did the early running and led comfortably at 5-1 and it looked an unassailable position but a mountain He would choose to climb rather than falter. He pulled it back to 5-4 but Kaçi kept the Austrian at arms length to take the following two racks to edge over the halfway stage at 7-4.
He left Kaçi in a brutal hook in the 12th rack which led to the Albanian Eagle fouling to give He ball in hand. With ball in hand, He went airborne to try and make a 1-9 combo only for the nine to trickle in the opposite corner for a fluke that brought the two-time World Cup of Pool winner back in it before a further two racks brought it level at 7-7. The contest swung in He’s favour for the first time as he soon moved two away at 9-7.
Everything about the contest underlined just why it’s the elite of the very elite competing this week underlined by an expert run out by Kaçi to pounce on a rare error from He to get back at the table. Kaçi was crunching them in better than anyone all week and was left with only five on the table and dish up to level at 9-9.
It was proving to be a classic and the drama was not done yet, a break and run put Kaçi to the hill first and he looked to have it locked up in the final rack but went for an ambitious 8-9 combo in the penultimate rack that cost him dearly to allow He to force a one rack shootout after arguably the shot of the match on the eight to pull back for the nine.
In the final rack, a brief safety battle ensued before Kaçi’s failed bank seemed to let He in on the four only for the Panda to be jacked up meaning position wasn’t ideal. With that, He stunned the four in only to see his cue ball hooked on the five, from there, Kaçi stole the march to reach his second World Pool Masters semi-final in three years.
Kaçi said: “I thought I should’ve finished the match with the 8-9 and then I thought here we go! Hill hill. When you see the nine like that dead straight and you have an exciting match not for us but for the viewers, it’s great to see the nine like that.”
Shane Van Boening’s hunt for a third World Pool Masters crown will go on after it was Ko who ended the 2014 and 2015 winners journey. Ko was looking to make it back to back semi-finals and made the most of an early mistake from his opponent in rack two to go level before a golden break put him 2-1 up. It was nip and tuck early on and it was soon Van Boening ahead at 3-2. That was soon 3-3 after a 2-9 combo for Ko.
Ko found a rhythm at this stage whilst Van Boening’s shotmaking seemed to go missing as the Chinese Taipei star hit the front with a comfortable distance at 7-4. The tide from the Prince of Pool was high with Van Boening stuck on ideas with Ko rallying. Despite the tide, Van Boening did get back in it at 7-7 but from there, the break deserted him for the first time in the match going dry in the 15th. Ko found a different gear at that stage which Van Boening couldn’t deal with as he rallied toward a semi-final clash with James Aranas of the Philippines.
The final rack was a scrappy affair that did led Van Boening to the table after a brief safety battle on the two, it looked a routine runout for the five-time US Open from there ut the pressure got to him which allowed Ko to run out from the four and see it over the line 11-7.
Tomorrow is the final day of the 2023 World Pool Masters with the two semi-finals taking place in the afternoon session from 12:30 pm before the final with a Race to 13 from 7pm.
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.