Sunday, 21 January 2018

2017 Year in Review and BIG RED'S Picks for Players of the year!

By: Erik Hjorleifson 

Belated Happy New Year from Markus Noé and I at Cue Sport Nation, 2017 was an eventful year as always in the pool world lets take a look back at some of the highlights.

North American Pool scene

The pool scene in North America remains a bit of an enigma. There are fewer and fewer players playing full time, the game seems to have shifted to bar table events rather than 9 foot events. Major 9 foot tournaments continue to be The Turning Stone classic (twice a year), The Derby City Classic, U.S. Open 9 ball, Super Billiards Expo and this year saw the return of the U.S. Open 8 ball and 10 ball on the 9 foots held at Griffs in Las Vegas. 

2017 also marked the first year of the World Pool Series, the 4 event tour was held at Steinway Billiards in New York City. Promoted and extremely well run by professional player Darren Appleton this tour failed to fill the 128 board they were expecting in any of the 4 events. By any means no fault of Appleton's as he vigorously promoted and provided an excellent tournament venue and structure. 

The main set back to these events was the lack of American representation and the lack of American rooms willing to jump on board to run qualifiers. In other words I'm sure there were many players that would like to have gone but could not afford it and have minimal sponsorship to off set costs. I believe this tour really showed what a desperate state American pool is currently in, even at the U.S. open there were only about 50 American players in the field . If you added up the first place prize money from all of these tournaments you barely get over the six figure mark, a glaring problem indeed! 

However the one player that seems to continually rise above all the turmoil continues to be Shane Van Boening winning 3 of the 11 U.S majors and finishing second in two others of the 6 that he attended. He is without a doubt The U.S #1 and always in the conversation for player of the year. Bar table events have been abundant, particularly bar table events with huge player auctions. Skyler Woodward was the most consistent winner of these events, Dennis Orcollo and Roberto Gomez also won a few.

International scene/WPA events

The WPA (World Pool Association)  continued its embarrassing slide to mediocrity and frankly non relevance in the world pool scene. In 2017 there was once again no world 10 ball championship, no world 8 ball championship and the world 9 ball championship was held holding the same prize money as it has for the last 8 years. Prize money so bad that only 8 players were able to turn a decent profit. Of the few tournaments they did hold allegations of players waiting multiple months for payment were made and it came to a point where it seems that some have indefinitely boycotted the events. I could go on for a few paragraphs about the recent failures of the WPA but at this point it is fairly clear that they need to do more.
Winners of the WPA events that were held:

World 9 ball Carlo Biado
China open Joshua Filler 
                     Siming Chen

There were also many other tournaments that the WPA had no promotional involvement with but imposed a sanctioning fee in order for the events to be recognized and sanctioned by the WPA. So not only are they doing practically nothing promotion wise, they are taking money out of the prize funds of other major tournaments they have nothing to do with.

Matchroom sport events

Matchroom continues to be the one bright spot on the world pool scene. 2017 saw them run their three major tournaments the Mosconi Cup, World Pool Masters and the World Cup of Pool. These events are televised around the world and presented with class and professionalism. If there is any hope for pool in the near future it seems to lie with Matchroom. The first prize in these events can still be improved a little I believe but is better than most other events. All players that participate in Matchroom tournaments are guaranteed decent prize money which is a nice perk.

Mosconi cup Team Europe
World Pool Masters David Alcaide
World Cup of Pool Team Austria

Chinese 8 ball

Joy tables continued to make a strong push for Chinese 8 ball in 2017 holding two huge payout events. One with $87 000 first prize and one with $151 000, the full prize fund in these events wasn't quite up to par but it seems like that will come with time. Joy offers free hotel and free food to all players competing in the qualifying and main stages of these tournaments which is an unprecedented gesture that makes attending these tournaments possible for many players. It continues to be a theme that players with English 8 ball, Snooker or strictly Chinese 8 ball experience have been the most successful at these events but for the players with pool background the answer is to get out and practice the game.  Shane Van Boening gave the pool players a little hope as he finished ninth this past week in a field of all the best players.

Zheng Yubo and Yang Fan major tournament winners

Female playing of the year Siming Chen
Female Player of the year

Siming Chen from China was the most consistent winner on the women's world tour this year winning the Amway Cup and China Open, she also had a semi final finish at the Women's World Championships. The prodigious 24 year old has long been touted as the next dominant female player. After many top five finishes in the previous few years she followed up her first world championship in 2016 with a fantastic year in 2017. Her two first places and third place finish in the three most prestigious events are particularly impressive considering most of the women's events are short race formats. 

Jayson Shaw after securing the 2017 U.S Open Title 
Male player of the year

On the male scene there were four players that stood above the rest Jayson Shaw, Shane van Boening, Klenti Kaci and Josh Filler. The two breakout years were provided by Kaci and Filler, both under the age of twenty one these two turned a lot of heads in 2017. Filler displayed offense and speed of play that no one has seen since Jayson Shaw. He won the China Open and was the Mosconi Cup MVP, he also had deep finishes at the U.S. Open and World 9 ball Championshps, he has put the world on notice as someone to watch out for in the coming years. 

Rising star Klenti Kaci 

Klenti Kaci from Albania seemed to come out of nowhere to win two World Pool series events this year and finish second at the U.S. Open. Playing a more conservative style he showed poise and determination way beyond his years. Both products of the Euro Tour these two players showcased the young up and coming talent from Europe and a system of tournaments in Europe that is developing real professionals as was again evident in this years Mosconi Cup.

In my opinion the honour of player of the year was a dead heat between Shane Van Boening and Jason Shaw both had numerous wins in world class fields. Both did not compete in the World 9 ball Championships which again I believe speaks to the irrelevance of WPA events.
Here are their 2017 resumes 

Shane Van Boening
Super Billiards expo, Turning Stone Classic, U.S Open 10 ball, Chinook winds Ten Ball, Accu stats one pocket
Runner up
World Cup of Pool, U.S. Open 8 ball, Derby City 9 ball

Jayson Shaw
U.S. Open 9 ball, Derby city 10 ball, Accu Stats 8 ball and Straight Pool, Turning Stone Classic
Runner Up
Turning Stone Classic, World Pool Masters
3rd place 
World Chinese 8 ball

And by the absolute slimmest of margins Cue Sport Nation is going to give the nod to Jayson Shaw, congratulations!!! Stay tuned to Cue Sport Nation for everything to do with billiards in 2018.

1 comment: