MANILA, Philippines - Last-minute entry Johann Chua proved his worth as he thrashed fancied American Corey Deuel, 9-2, in his opening outing Sunday night in the 23rd WPA World 9-ball championship at Al Saad Sports Club in Doha.
The young Chua, a virtual unknown in international play, was supposed to pack his bags after falling short in the qualifiers but got a good break when a participant from Peru backed out, leaving one slot open.
Chua and Japanese Arita Hideaki were actually tied in the qualifier point system but the Filipino bet won, 5-1, to clinch the last spot in group play.
Chua was to face Taiwanese Lo Li Wen last night in Group 13, seeking another victory that will secure his entry into the Round-of-64.
Jeff de Luna (Group 14), Israel Rota (Group 14) and Elmer Haya (Group 16) also disposed of their respective opening-round rivals to stay in the hunt.
De Luna survived a hill-hill battle with Polish Tomasz Kaplan, 9-8, while qualifier Rota blanked South African J-Ram Alabanzas, 9-0. Qualifier Haya, an OFW based in Abu Dhabi, stunned world No. 4 Lee Vann Corteza, 9-2,reliving their old rivalry from their days back in Davao.
“I had too much confidence and that’s because I played him many times over the years. I always have confidence when I play Lee Vann,” Haya said on the World Pool-Billiard Association website.
But Corteza immediately bounced back with a come-from-behind 9-6 win over Canadian Mario Morra in the one-loss side to stay alive.
Also keeping a lifeline after his opening-day setback was grizzled veteran Efren “Bata” Reyes, who pulled off a 9-8 squeaker over Estonian Denis Grabe.
The 60-year-old Reyes, who suffered a 5-9 loss to Korean Jeong Young Hwa Sunday, had to dig deep into his bag of tricks and experience before overcoming Grabe in a game where he played catch-up most of the way.
Reyes can advance to the next stage with another triumph tonight, against either Karl Boyes and Bruno Muratore, who were slated to meet in the winner’s side.
Ramil Gallego and Francisco Felicilda likewise stayed on the hunt after beating Qatari Mishel Turkey, 9-7, and Ecuadorian Christian Aguirre, 9-5, respectively, in the loser’s side of Group 4 and 12.
With Sunday’s results, all 14 Filipinos remained in contention in the prestigious tourney.