Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Mosconi Cup: Americans Hopeful After Day 1

By: Erik Hjorleifson

Monday was an exciting start to the 2014 Mosconi Cup, for anyone that was able to view the live stream. The way that Matchroom produces its events with past highlights, live interviews and music interludes makes true fans of the sport sit up and realize what this game could one day become. It is not just another half way done broadcast where we don't get to know the players and it is being seen on T.V months after we all know the final results, this is the Mosconi Cup live drama at its best.

There were 5 matches on the agenda for day one; play began with a team match which was not the traditional scotch format where players take turns shooting only one shot at a time. It was a shoot until you miss format but one player could not shoot for more than one game.  One of the first things I noticed was that they have changed the breaking requirements this year allowing players to once again break from anywhere and moving away from the 3 inch break box that they employed last year, there is also no requirement for number of balls past the head string. This rule change will inevitably lead to more break and runs but I believe it is the right way to go with the 9 being racked on the spot, something that has not been changed.

Surprisingly a few players still chose to break more from the center including Shane Van Boening, Justin Hall and Darren Appleton. On Halls first break he chose to break from the middle and fouled, sending the cue ball off the table. This was a bit of a turning point in the first set as the European team was up 2-1 at the time and continued their momentum, running out that game and taking the first set 5-1.

In the second set Hall and Deuel played Appleton and Boyes. Mosconi Cup rookie Hall looked very confident and strong, all facets of his game were put to the test here including a clutch bank on the 6 ball after Deuel with ball in hand on the 5 left Hall so bad on the 6 that he had to bank it. Deuel simply overran position on the shot, something that seemed to be coming up for most players as the table was playing extra fast. From my observations the pockets also seemed to be playing fairly big as to be expected with the brand new cloth. Deuel also missed two other balls in the set getting away with one miss, and after leaving the door open for Boyes and Aplleton, Darren missed a tough 9 down the rail which would have brought the match to hill hill in the race to 5 format. The Americans took a sigh of relief and notched their first point on the board.

The third set of the day was a very entertaining match-up between John Schmidt and Mark Gray. As I expected the new breaking rules showed themselves in this match as both players were making the one in the side and traded break and runs in the first 6 games. Both players were obviously playing well but for the Americans the strong performance from Schmidt was very reassuring as some were skeptical of his inclusion on the team. As of the first day of play he has made captain Mark Wilson's selection look genius and to Schmidt's credit his manner about the table seemed to be that of a player that was very well prepared for the task.  Schmidt finally broke Gray's serve in rack seven and finished of with a 3-9 combo in the deciding game, breaking and running all of his breaks. 

The fourth set was a pretty one sided doubles match between Van Boening and Bergman, Feijen and Ekonomopolous. Bergman had an odd first day in his Mosconi Cup debut, although he made a couple of minor errors he was on the receiving end of a lot of run-outs from his opponents. It will remain to be seen as the competition goes on how he will perform on the big stage but overall he seemed fairly comfortable.

The final set of the day was between two players that both sides are counting on for strong performances. Van Boening was up against Appleton and with the score tied at 2-2; the winner of this match would give their team the overnight lead and more importantly sound piece of mind going into day two. As expected there were very few errors in the match, both playes were now breaking from the side rail and both had a couple of break and runs. Not much separated the two but in the end Appleton redeemed himself after his earlier missed 9 in the second set, giving Europe the 3-2 lead Moving into day two.

Overall what stood out to me most was that the U.S. is once again working as a team and seem much more relaxed, even though many of their members are less experienced. Europe also looked very strong and although the U.S. played well today I felt they escaped with a victory in the Deuel/Hall doubles match, otherwise could have found themselves going into day two with a 4-1 deficit. Play continues Tuesday at 2pm eastern and you can catch all the action at http://www.pool.livesport.tv/home for the nominal fee of $5. 

Stay tuned for all the results with cuesportnation.com

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