MANILA, Philippines -- Carlo Biado displayed great heart and fighting spirit in the US Open Pool Championship, where he fought back from the loser's bracket all the way to the championship.
Along the way, he exacted revenge against the player who sent him to the loser's bracket, then rallied from a big deficit in the finals to become the first Filipino to win the tournament in 27 years.
Not since the legendary Efren "Bata" Reyes defeated Nick Varner in 1994 had a Filipino ruled the prestigious nine-ball event.
"Dahil sa sobrang saya, kaya ako napaluha," Biado said of his show of emotion after his triumph, during an appearance at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday morning.
"At dahil sa dinadanas natin ngayon, pinagdadaanan natin ngayong pandemya, hindi ko ine-expect na ganito 'yung kalalabasan ng pagkapanalo ko. Unang-una, 'yun nga, itong event na 'to, itong US Open na 'to, pangarap ko talagang makuha ito, matagal ko nang inaasam 'to," he admitted.
"Nanalo ako sa World Games, gold medal tayo, at saka sa World Pool Championship, nanalo ako, pero ito 'yung pinakagustong-gusto kong mapanalunan, 'yung US Open," he added.
A total of 256 players competed in the US Open last week in Atlantic City, New Jersey, including defending champion Joshua Filler of Germany, who beat Biado in the World Nine-ball Championship in 2018. Several Filipinos, including the veteran Dennis Orcollo, also competed.
Biado won his first three matches, including an 11-1 whitewashing of "The Iceman" Mika Immonen in the third round, but an 11-5 loss to Spain's David Alcaide Bermudez sent him to the loser's bracket.
"Noong tinalo niya ako sa unang round -- siya 'yung nagdala sa akin sa loser's bracket -- sabi ko sana makabalik ako at sana magkatapat kami ulit, para mabalikan ko siya," said Biado.
Biado worked his way from the loser's bracket into the last 16, where he found himself matched against his tormentor. This time, he held his nerve to beat the Spaniard, 11-10, and advanced to the quarterfinals.
"Nagtapat kami ulit ng elimination round na, 'yung last 16," Biado said. "Talo niya ako sa break eh. Sa totoo lang, talo niya ako sa break. Tanggap ko 'yun, natalo ako sa break. Kaya lang, tinalo ko siya siguro sa lakas na lang ng loob. Kaya nanalo tayo."
It wasn't a straightforward win, however, as Biado recalled faltering on the six-ball while already on the hill, 10-9.
"Muntik na tayo doon," he said. "Buti na lang kamo at bumigay din 'yung kalaban natin at nakabalik ako sa mesa, at nanalo tayo."
He went on to oust fellow Filipino Johann Chua in the quarterfinals, 11-10, and then beat Naoyuki Oi of Japan, 11-9, in the semifinals.
In the finals, Biado trailed, 8-3, to Aloysius Yapp before pouncing on a mistake made by the younger Singaporean and running out 10 consecutive racks.
Once again, he said it was "lakas ng loob" that carried him to victory, especially after struggling early with his break.
"Noong umpisa kasi, medyo hindi pumapabor 'yung bola sa akin, kaya nalamangan ako ng kalaban. Lahat ng break ko, hindi umo-open 'yung bola, kaya hindi ako maka-run out," he explained. "Hindi katulad doon sa kalaban ko, kada-break niya, naka-open lahat ng bola… Uubusin niya na lang, nakakalat na 'yung bola."
"So sabi ko noong down ako, 8-3, sabi ko sana mabigyan ako ng isa pang chance na mabigyan ng benta at pwede akong umarangkada," he added.
That was exactly what happened, as Yapp missed on the nine-ball in the 12th rack to give Biado the opening that he needed.
Once he got his rhythm, Biado seized control of the final.
"Sa totoo lang 'yung susi sa pagkapanalo ko dito, 'yung ano eh, nilakasan ko na lang 'yung loob ko," said the 37-year-old cue artist from Nueva Ecija. "At sana kako, mabigyan ako lagi ng magandang benta ng bola, 'yung kalat ng bola, para maka-arangkada ako."
"At ayun na nga, nangyari nga 'yung iniisip ko na mabibigyan ako ng chance."
For Biado, his triumph made the sacrifice of the past few months worth it. Biado left the Philippines in May to participate in events in the US, as the quarantine restrictions in the country prevented him from training.
He competed in local competitions such as the Texas Open and the Austin Open, before making his magical run in the US Open.
"Ito 'yung pinaka-prestigious event na, pinakamalaking prestigious event," he said of the US Open. "At napakaraming player, 256 na player, at sangkatutak 'yung mga magagaling na player dito, puro world class, kaya happy ako at nanalo tayo."