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Team Europe Gunning for USA at Mosconi Cup

One of the strongest European teams in years believes that it can dethrone Team USA at the 2005 Mosconi Cup, set to kick off Thursday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev.

The four-day international pool tilt will pit Americans Johnny Archer, Rodney Morris, Shawn Putnam, Jeremy Jones, Earl Strickland and Charlie Williams against a stacked European squad, featuring Mika Immonen, Niels Feijen, Thorsten Hohmann, Raj Hundal, Marcus Chamat and Alex Lely.

The Americans have won nine of the 11 previous Cups, including a 12-9 victory in 2004.

BD Publisher Mike Panozzo notes that, in previous years, Team Europe has been somewhat handicapped by the inclusion of snooker stars and unproven United Kingdom 9-ballers, often included to boost interest and television ratings in the U.K., home of tournament producer Matchroom Sports and primary TV partner Sky Sports. Team Europe has no such hindrances in 2005, and has, in fact, pieced together its most talented squad ever.

However, Panozzo has still picked the USA to win the event this year (and in the process has set off a firestorm of controversy in online chat rooms), based on its overall talent, experience and sense of entitlement.

For up-to-the-minute updates on Mosconi Cup action, go to the event’s Web site at www.mosconicup.com.

England’s Raj Hundal Wins World Pool Masters

Hundal made a prize winning comeback.

Hundal made a prize winning comeback.

Playing against American powerhouse Rodney Morris, Raj Hundal was down. He was way down, in fact — behind 7-1 in a race-to-8 final at the 888.com World Pool Masters, held Sept. 2-4 in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England.

But the 23-year-old Londoner wasn’t finished just yet. He’d already had the run of his life, beating Niels Feijen and Thomas Engert, among others, to get to the finals. Morris got to the hill after Hundal scratched on the break, and victory seemed unimaginable for Hundal, but he wasn’t ready to hang up his stick. Morris missed a long cut on the 1 in the next game, and Hundal turned it into the opportunity of a lifetime.

Game after game, Hundal put himself back on the scoreboard. He won eight consecutive games to win it all with a final score of 8-7. “I guess what goes around comes around,” Morris told event promoter Matchroom Sport. “But that’s pool. I don’t mind losing to Raj, though, because he’s a cool guy!”

Hundal, who collected $20,000 for the win, was overwhelmed: “It was the best day of my career, but now I’m just at a loss for words,” he said.

U.S. Fields Powerhouse Platoon for World Championship

The United States has fielded one of its strongest contingents yet for the 2005 World Pool Championship, bringing 12 proven shooters with at least one significant title each.

Producer Matchroom Sport this week announced the draw for the round-robin stage of the 128-man event, to be held July 2-10 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

The U.S. contingent will consist of former world champions Johnny Archer and Earl Strickland; U.S. Open victors Rodney Morris, Jeremy Jones and Gabe Owen; Reno Open champs Mike Davis, John Schmidt and Danny Basavich; BCA Open winners Cory Deuel and Charlie Williams; Glass City Open champion Charles Bryant; and 2005 Pro Players title-holder Shawn Putnam. (Several of these players have won more than one major title.)

At least in this case, new performance-based entry criteria devised by Matchroom Sport appear to have accomplished the goal of fielding the strongest players from participating countries. In recent years, with the United States Professional Poolplayers Association charged with fielding America’s participants, several marginal players slipped into the tournament when higher-ranked players declined invitations.

This year’s WPC field will feature players from at least 45 different countries. Six remaining slots for the final 128 will be determined during a qualifying tournament to be held in late June in Kaohsiung.

In the round-robin stage, it appears that Schmidt and Deuel have the toughest draws. Deuel’s 8-man group includes Holland’s Niels Feijen, Korea’s Young-hwa Jeong, Ronato Alcano from the Phillippines, Thorsten Schober from Germany and Italian champ Fabio Petroni.

Schmidt must contend with Sweden’s Marcus Chamat, Germany’s Andreas Roschkowsky, Gandy Valle of the Philippines, Spanish star David Alcaide, and Ying-chieh Chen of Taiwan, among others.

The top 64 players from the round-robin stage will advance to the single-elimination round. This year’s top prize is $75,000.

U.S. Retains Mosconi Cup

In past years, it was the heavyweights who carried Team USA to victory in the annual Mosconi Cup. But on Sunday night it was the “support” squad that pushed the Americans to their ninth Cup title in the 11-year history of the tournament.

Wins by Cup rookie Gabe Owen and previously snakebitten Charlie Williams gave Team USA the wins it needed to seal the 2004 title, 11-9, over a game European squad.

Leading 10-8 entering the final session at the Grand Hall of the Hotel Zuiderduin in the Dutch seaside village of Egmond aan Zee, Owen, the 26-year-old winner of the U.S. Open, scored a critical 5-2 win over Germany’s Thomas Engert. The win pushed the U.S. to the hill in the race-to-12 Ryder Cup-style team tournament.

But fiery Euro captain Oliver Ortmann staved off elimination with a nearly flawless performance in a 5-1 drubbing of Earl Strickland.

With a capacity crowd of partisan European fans screaming for more, snooker legend Steve Davis squared off against Williams. The 27-year-old Floridian had ended his streak of six consecutive Cup match losses on Saturday, but was still considered an underdog against the seasoned six-time world snooker champion and Mosconi veteran.

Playing loose and smart, Williams took advantage of several Davis missteps to forge a 3-0 lead. Davis fought back to 3-2, but scratched on a kick attempt following a Williams safety. Williams ran out to put the Yanks a single game from ultimate victory. In the final game, Williams once again buried the Brit with a safety, and Davis’ miss on a 3-9 combination attempt gave Williams an open table. Williams eased his way to a dead-on 4-9 combination and whacked it in to seal the Cup for the defending champions.

“I’ve had nightmares about the final 9,” joke Williams when asked if he had dreams of pocketing the winner. “I had a chance to be the last player last year and blew it. And I knew then that I might never get that opportunity again.”

“I’m so proud of these guys,” gushed U.S. captain Johnny Archer. “Earl and I didn’t play well this week, and everyone else just picked us up and carried us home.”

Leading the way for the Americans were MVP Rodney Morris, who was unbeaten in five matches, and Owen, who won four of five attempts.

The Mosconi Cup will return to America in 2005, assured Matchroom Sport promoter Barry Hearn. Hearn said that the likely site would be the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

U.S. Takes Early Lead

On the heels of near perfection from the duo of Earl Strickland and Rodney Morris, and the cool play of Gabe Owen, Team USA took a 2-1 lead over Team Europe on the opening day of play at the 2004 Mosconi Cup at the Hotel Zuiderduin in the Dutch seaside resort village of Egmond aan Zee.

For the first time in the 11-year history of the Matchroom Sport produced event, the European squad was installed as a slight betting favorite by Gibraltar-based betting service Stan James. And the Europeans scored the opening salvo when Dutch hero Niels Feijen and Matchroom-managed snooker star Steve Davis squeaked past luckless Charlie Williams and Tony Robles, 5-4. The loss marked the sixth consecutive Cup loss for Williams, who took the collar in four matches in 2003, and his last match in the 2002 Cup.

But Owen, the 26-year-old surprise U.S. Open winner making his Cup debut, proved to be the steady hand with captain/partner Johnny Archer in a 5-3 win over the German duo of Oliver Ortmann and Thomas Engert. Owen rescued Archer on several occasions after the world’s No.1 player botched a pair of easy shots to allow the Europeans to stay in the match. “I wasn’t nervous at all,” said Owen. “I was a wreck in my television matches at the U.S. Open. But here we’re the underdog, and I love being the underdog. Always have.”

The Americans seized the lead in the final match on the first day when Strickland and Morris stomped Mika Immonen and Marcus Chamat, 5-1. The U.S. pair played flawlessly throughout the match.

The best-of-12 event continues Friday with three doubles matches in the afternoon, followed by three singles matches Friday evening.

Mosconi Cup Teams Announced

Promoters Matchroom Sport have announced the teams for this year’s Mosconi Cup. Johnny Archer captains the American team; he is joined by Rodney Morris, Gabe Owen, Tony Robles, Earl Strickland and Charlie Williams. Germany’s Oliver Ortmann heads up the European team, which also includes Marcus Chamat, Steve Davis, Thomas Engert, Niels Feijen and Mika Immonen.

The Mosconi Cup takes place December 16-19 at the Hotel Zuiderduin in Egmond aan Zee, Holland.

Engert Masters Another Field

Thomas Engert can’t explain why, after years of playing in the shadow of his internationally successful countrymen Oliver Ortmann, Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Hohmann, he’s suddenly title-prone, but he’s not arguing.

“I can’t explain it,” said the 38-year-old German after coming from behind to beat Ortmann, 8-6, in the finale of the World Pool Masters in Egmond aan Zee, Holland. “But it’s okay with me.”
Engert, who picked up $50,000 in August at the International Challenge of Champions, earned another $20,000 at the Matchroom Sport-run World Pool Masters. The reigning European 9-Ball Champion may even have earned a spot on Europe’s 2004 Mosconi Cup squad with the win.

Engert led most of the match against Ortmann, but trailed 6-5 before rattling off the final three racks for the title in the 16-player international field.

World Pool Championship Highlights to Air on Fox Sports Net

August 11, 2004: Matchroom Sport, promoters of the World Pool Championship announced that Fox Sports Net, America’s widest reaching sports network, will be broadcasting four one-hour highlight programs of the 2004 World Pool Championship throughout October. The WPC features 128 players from over 40 countries competing for pool’s most coveted title.

Fox’s broadcast represents the most extensive coverage yet in America. The Championship gets aired at 6:00 pm on Sunday evenings throughout October. Program one goes out in Sunday the 10th and action continues on the 17th and 24th, culminating in the closing stages on Sunday, October 31st. *

Commented Matchroom Sport Chairman Barry Hearn, “After showing a one-hour highlight of the Mosconi Cup earlier in the year, Fox have caught the pool bug. With a regular time slot in October I am sure that the World Championship can attract the type of viewing figures that will lead to more and more quality pool on the network.”

Fox Sports Net to air Mosconi Cup on April 4

Matchroom Sport, producer of The Mosconi Cup, has taken another step forward in its mission to pave inroads for pool in major media outlets by striking a deal to air a one-hour highlights package from the 2003 Cup on Fox Sports Net.

The program will air at 5 p.m. in all time zones on Sunday, April 4.

The move is significant for big-time tournament pool, which until this deal with Fox Sports Net had relied almost exclusively on the ESPN family of networks for national TV exposure. Fox Sports Net reaches 81 million homes, according to a release from Matchroom.

“This represents real progress for the Mosconi Cup and men’s pool in general,” said Matchroom Chairman Barry Hearn. “This is Fox Sport Net’s first broadcast of one of our pool events, and they’ve started with the very best.

“Hopefully, this will be the start of something big, and we will be coming up with some more ideas for Fox Sports Net to look at in the future.”

“I am happy to be in business with Barry Hearn and Matchroom Sport,” said George Greenberg, Executive Vice President of Programming and Production for Fox Sports Net. “It is a great opportunity to get world-class events that will make for wonderful programming on FSN.”

With a ten-year history behind it, The Mosconi Cup has developed into one of pocket billiards’ most exciting events, as two six-man teams from Europe and America go head-to-head in a Ryder Cup-style format.

Following nine successful years in London, the 2003 Mosconi Cup was staged at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev., where it was received by sell-out crowds, including some representatives of Fox Sports Net.

Featuring legends of the game such as Earl Strickland, Steve Davis, Johnny Archer and Ralf Souquet, the contest went right down to the wire before Team U.S.A. pulled out an 11-9 win.

Mosconi Cup Lineup Set

57aMatchroom Sport released its Team USA and Team Europe rosters for the popular Mosconi Cup, held at York Hall in Bethnal Green, England, Dec. 20-23. The two six-man rosters were respectively selected in consultation with the Billiard Congress of America and European Pocket Billiard Federation.

Five-time Player of the Year Earl Strickland will return as captain of the American squad, which is rounded out by Corey Deuel, Johnny Archer, Jeremy Jones, Nick Varner and Charlie Williams. All but Varner and Williams were members of last year’s Cup-winning team.

Team Europe is comprised of captain Ralf Souquet (Germany), Marcus Chamat (Sweden), Steve Davis (England), Niels Feijen (Holland), Mika Immonen (Finland) and Steve Knight (England).