350 players competed at the 18th edition of the Japan Open in
Tokyo, the second most important JPBA tournament. In the qualifying stages,
the competitors were divided in 16 groups organized in 5 different venues
and only the group winners were qualified for the final round of 16 players
on the second day.
After a walk-through, I won my first match against the Japanese amateur A.
Yotaka 8-2. The second match was to become already more difficult. Against
another Japanese amateur, T. Kaoro, I came to the table for the first time
at a score of 0-3. Since the balls fell very easily on this table, I had to
watch out not to switch to the losers side too early. After an intermediate
sprint, I got the match under control and entered round 4 with a 8-5. To my
surprise, the KO bracket of the 128 last players started already here (8 in
each group). I had to play once more an amateur from Japan, but I have to
add that there are very many amateurs in Japan having the strength of
professional. In Japan, you can pass an exam and if you succeed, there are
strict rules regulating the life of a professional. However, many players do
not wish to pass this exam, for various reasons. According to some Japanese
officials, this test seems to be all but difficult.
After a long break, I
played the Japanese player M. Hiroyuko and the match was all in my favour.
After winning 9-4, I had reached the semi-finals of my group 15 against the
professional K. Ohashi. I had played Kiotaka Ohashi already twice at the WC
in Cardiff in the qualifying groups, and so I knew him well. The match went
back and forth since no one could win more than two racks in a row. At 6-6,
I shot a triple rack to win 9-6. Now, I had to win the decisive group final
to enter the final round the next day in a sold-out venue (app. 800 audience)
as a player and not as one of the spectators. Against the professional Y.
Yuichi I started well and took a rapid 5-0, 6-1 and 7-2 lead. A break foul
brought the Japanese back into the match and with a bit of luck, he came
back to 7-5. Then, my opponent made a mistake and I could win the match 9-5.
I had managed to qualify for the final round, whereas many top players had
missed this qualification (such as Bustamante [PHI], Chao [TWN], Wu [TWN], Kawabata, Toshikawa, Okumura and
Takahashi [all JPN]).
In the round of the last 16 players, I had to play D. Razalan from the
Philippines. I the beautiful arena, we played on new tables and I
started with 4 aces. After a black break, the player from the
Philippines could score one rack before I took a 6-1 lead. After a
few racks for each player, I entered the quarter-finals with a 9-4
win. My next opponent was another player from the Philippines, R.
Luat. I was in control of the match and should have won easily 9-4,
but things turned out differently. At 2-1, I shot the cue ball with
maximum speed into the middle pocket. The same happened at 3-3 and
instead of a comfortable lead and in spite of the several mistakes
made by my opponent, he was leading 3-4. At 6-5, I was unlucky since
the 1 ball was so straight upon the break that I could not play a
good position for the following 2-7 combination. The missed
combination and a bad safety were decisive for the match. At 6-6,
Luat pocketed 6 balls upon his break and the remaining three balls
were so easy that 98 % of the participants would have cleared the
table. In spite of his numerous mistakes and bad game, Luat could
win the match 9-6 and I finished on the 5th rank. In the semi-finals,
Luat defeated the Japanese player Takanami 9:1 and E. Reyes had a lot of
trouble to finally upset another Japanese player, Tanaka. Tanaka was leading throughout the match and had the big chance to win at
7-6. Three easy balls just waited to be made, but Tanaka got a
heavy arm. Reyes did ot show any mercy and entered the final against
his country fellowman winning 9-7. Last year, Luat had defeated
Reyes, but then had lost the final to Hsia from Taiwan. This match
was also full of suspense and until 6-6, the match went back and
forth. Then Reyes made uuse of his opportunity to win 9-6, winning
for the first time the title of the Japan Open Champion.
In the women competition, 90 players participated and only one
player who came not from Japan. The 2004 Junior World Champion
Meng-Meng Zhou from China made the impossible and won the title
against F. Miyuki from Japan (8-4). Only her quarter-final was very
tight, when she upset the Japan No. 1 A. Kajitani 8-7, after having
Rank 1-4 Women