Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer Mika Immonen certainly didn’t make things easy on himself.
Playing in his first match of the Apex Wisconsin Open, Immonen was upset by rising young American Sam Henderson in a shootout. After Henderson won the first set, 4-2, the former two-time United States Open 9-Ball champion stormed back to win the second set, 4-1, and force a shootout. Henderson held the steadier hand in the extra-frame spot shot contest, pocketing three balls while Immonen could only manage two.
Now playing on the one-loss side against Evan Lunda and trying to avoid early elimination, the former World 9-Ball champion again split the sets and headed to a shootout. This time, however, the Hall of Famer was able to preserve, defeating the American in the penalty shot frame to remain in the hunt at the 64-player, double-elimination event at Ho-Chunk Gaming in the Wisconsin Dells. Immonen will now face American Nakia Guyton Thursday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. local time.
After he took an early lead in the opening rack, Lunda appeared to be in position to tie the score but misplayed position on the 7 ball and was forced to kick, leaving an opening for his opponent to clear the table. After adding another rack to build a 3-0 lead, Lunda climbed onto the scoreboard with a combination shot on the 10 ball but failed to pocket a ball on the break in the following game, allowing Immonen to clear the table and claim the opening set, 4-1.
Lunda drew first blood in the second set when his opponent missed the 4 ball but allowed Immonen to tie the set when he missed the 2 ball in the corner pocket in the next game. Lunda gutted out the third rack to reclaim the lead, then took advantages back-to-back successful safeties to close out the set, 4-1, and send the match to a shootout.
In the extra frame, Immonen pocketed three straight spot shots while Lunda could only manage to land one.
Meanwhile, defending champion Alex Kazakis of Greece stumbled in the next round against Vietnam’s Anh Nguyen Tuan, losing the first set 4-3, then rallying to claim the second set, 4-1, before falling in a sudden-death shootout, 4-3. The Greek, who easily defeated American Guido Joost in straight sets in his opening match, now moves to the one-loss side of the bracket, where he will face Kyrgyzstan’s Iliyas Adamov at 2:30 p.m. local time.
On the winner’s side of the bracket, Canada’s John Morra went the distance in each set of his second-round match against Jeremy Sossei to defeat American, 4-3, 4-3.
After Morra jumped out to an early 2-1 advantage, Sossei tied the score with a successful combination shot on the 10 ball, then took the lead with a victorious safety exchange after the break. The American had a chance to clinch the set but failed to pocket a ball on the break in the sixth rack, allowing Morra to use a safety exchange and a break-and-run to steal the opening set.
Morra was plagued with positional problems throughout the next frame, allowing his opponent to grab a commanding 3-0 lead before a scratch on the break allowed him to climb on the scoreboard. Now leading 3-1 with a chance to close out the set and send the match to a shootout, Sossei missed a sharp cut on the 3 ball into the side pocket that allowed the Canadian to pull to within a single rack. He then used safety exchanges in consecutive games to come from behind and steal the second set and remain undefeated.
In other notable matches, former World 9-Ball champion Joshua Filler cruised by Donald Adams, 4-2, 4-0, then defeated LJ Briesath, 4-0, 4-2. Reigning Derby City Classic Master of the Table Fedor Gorst also took down American Jeffrey Jandrt, 4-1, 4-1, in the first round and took down Tarek Hamdan, 4-0, 4-2 in the following round.
The second day of competition for the men continues at 2:30 p.m. local time for the men and the women’s Apex Wisconsin Open starts at 9 a.m. local time, with Kristina Tkach of Russia matching up against Mayte Ropero of Spain, Canada’s Brittany Bryant taking on Veronika Ivanovskaia of Germany and reigning Alfa Las Vegas Open champion Seo Seoa meeting American upstart Kennedy Meyman. Later in the evening, the competitors who were granted opening-round byes – including Hall of Famers Kelly and Allison Fisher and reigning World Women’s 9-Ball champion Chieh-Yu Chou – begin play.
Matches can be watched on Billiard.TV and on World Billiard TV, the official YouTube channel of CueSports International. A schedule of televised matches will be posted daily on the Pro Billiard Series and CSI Facebook and Instagram pages.
The Apex Wisconsin Open is the second tournament of the season for this year’s Predator Pro Billiards Series schedule. The Pro Billiard Series is a series of open, professional events held around the world to provide more opportunities for professional and aspiring pool players to compete in high-quality events, earn more income, sharpen their skills, and earn their way into the Predator World 10-Ball Championship held in Las Vegas each year as part of the CueSports International Expo.
The Predator U.S. Pro Billiard Series by CSI feature six open professional events during the calendar year. Created by league operator CueSports International together with the Predator Group, these tournaments will run in tandem alongside of CSI league events being held throughout the country. The winner of each competition receives a guaranteed spot in the following year Predator World 10-Ball Championship, which will be held during the annual CueSports International Expo in Las Vegas at the Rio Hotel and Casino.
These events are played on Predator Apex Pro tables covered with Predator Arcadia Performance Cloth, with Predator Arcos II balls, and under the Predator Arena billiard lights.
CueSports International (CSI) is an international pool league and event leader and is currently comprised of three divisions: CSI Leagues, CSI Events and CSI Media. CSI Leagues manages the BCA Pool League and USA Pool League, CSI Events produces numerous amateur and professional events around the globe and CSI Media creates live streaming and digital content. Through its vision and strategic alliances, CSI is “shaping the future of pool.” For more information about CSI or any of its divisions, visit www.playcsipool.com. Predator’s mission is to inspire billiard fans by providing innovative experiences and products that deliver high-performance, with unsurpassed class and style. Predator, Poison and Uni-Loc are Predator Group brands that focus on performance pool tables, cues, billiard accessories, and precision components. For more information regarding Predator Group’s products, visit www.predatorcues.com, www.poisoncues.com and www.uni-loc.com.