By: Markus Noé
Myself like many die hard Canadian pool fans burned the candle at both ends last night watching John Morra play the final of the China Open. In Shanghai where this tournament took place, the time is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard time. The semi-final began at 11:30 pm local time meaning Morra supporters were in for a long night if he were to make the final.
For North Americans it might be difficult to understand how prestigious this tournament actually is; not only for it's high pay out but this is a 64 player invitational only. Perhaps in a field of a 128 players a few holes could be found in the draw. However with only 64 in the field these are all killers and every win had to be earned. To many this is equal to or even harder than winning a World Championship.
In the first semi-final match, Albin Ouschan was up against a local favourite Chu Bingjie. Ouschan a well known player on the Euro Tour, and runner up to Niels Feijen at last years World 9 Ball Championship won this match 11-8. Ouschan had notable wins on his march to the final over elite players such as Ping-Chung Ko, Johann Gonzales Chua and Lee Vann Corteza.
The second semi-final pitted multiple Euro Tour winner and Mosconi Cup Champion Nick van den Berg vs John Morra. Van den Berg had an impressive tournament to this point knocking out players such as Mika Immonen, Wu Jiaqing and Wang Can. On the flip side Morra had to go through players such as Marc Bijsterbosch, Warren Kiamco and Fu Jianbo.
In this match Morra was breaking at a level that I am not sure I have ever seen before throughout an entire set. With the Magic Rack, the wing ball is almost automatic with the cut break but squatting the cue ball centre table and getting a shot on the 1 ball each time is far from automatic. In this set Morra easily broke and ran 40-50 % of his breaks. After a few safety battle victories off of van den Berg's breaks, Morra was able to break serve and with his continued break and runs was able to win this set 11-8. It should be mentioned that this tournament was an alternate break format and this level when you are able to "break serve" it is very hard for your opponent to get back into the match if you are playing at Morra's level.
This final had all the makings of a thrilling match, as these are two young exciting players with very similar styles. Going into the match a slight edge would have to be given to Ouschan for his second place at the World Championships last year. Morra has been knocking at the door for some time now but this was his first final in what would be considered a "major" in golf terms. Throughout the match, both of these players were breaking and running at an elite level. Therefore this match was going to come down to who made the first mistake and who got the rolls.
Early on Morra was unfortunate of his break. By all appearances he was hitting the break the same as he did in the semi-final match. However a few times he would squat the cue ball as he has been doing but a random ball would come and kick it somewhere he would not have an opening shot. This combined with a fortunate roll in which Ouschan jumped at a 1 ball and missed it, but the cue ball bounced off the side rail and knocked the 9 off the spot into the corner pocket, gave him a 5-2 lead.
In a race to 11 alternate break a 3 game spread like this is very difficult to overcome. To put it into perspective Morra went on to break and run his next 5 break opportunities and still came up short in the end losing 11-8.
Congratulation to both players as they put on an incredible performance. The payouts for this year are not posted anywhere yet however last year first place was $40,000 and second was $20,000. I would imagine the payouts would be similar this year, we will post them when they are confirmed.
|Ouschan enjoying a hard fought win. There is a big smile underneath that towel.|
On a side note, here at Cue Sport Nation it is no secret that we are big supporters of our friend John Morra. This was a coming out party of sorts for him on the international stage as he never placed this high outside of North America. We would like to congratulate him on his success at the China Open and wish him all the best on what has been a monster year for him so far.