Thursday night at the Arcadia Arizona Open, Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer Alex Pagulayan and World 10-Ball runner-up Naoyuki Oi battled back-and-forth in a match which felt like it could have been being held on the tournament’s final day instead of its second.
The crafty Filipino managed to take advantage of some early positional errors by his opponent to jump out to a commanding lead, then watched as Oi found his break in the second half of the match. The eccentric 39-year-old shut down Pagulayan down the stretch, then clinching the match in a shootout of a winner’s side match at Casino Del Sol in Tucson. Oi, who also finished third at last year’s United States Open Pool Championship, is one of 16 competitors who remain undefeated in the 64-player, double-elimination tournament.
After splitting the first two racks of the first set, Oi had a chance to regain the lead but overran position on the 6 ball then missed a jump shot. Pagulayan cleared the table and added another victory when his opponent scratched in the fourth game. Now leading 3-1, the Filipino had a chance to close out the set but failed to run out after a break shot which left balls clustered on half of the table. Oi attempted to execute a combination shot on the 10 ball to narrow the deficit but left the ball in the pocket’s jaws, handing Pagulayan an easy first set victory.
While the Filipino struggled with his break in the opening set, Oi found his in the second as he broke and ran the first rack of the frame. After Pagulayan tacked on two wins to grab a 2-1 advantage, Oi won a safety exchange on the 4 ball by sinking a game-winning combination shot to tie the score. The veteran from Japan again turned on his break shot, scattering the balls and running out in back-to-back games to secure a 4-2 victory and send the match to a shootout.
The two competitors each pocketed the first two shots of the extra frame but Pagulayan left his third shot in the pocket’s jaws. Oi would sink back-to-back balls after his opponent’s miss to secure the victory.
Oi will now face Kuwait’s Omar Al Shaheen Friday evening in a winner’s side match while Pagulayan moves to the one-loss side of the bracket to face Dimitris Loukatos Friday morning.
Also remaining undefeated is Austria’s Max Lechner, who battled through a handful of unforced errors to defeat Alex Kazakis, 4-3, 4-3.
It was Kazakis who struggled with errors early on, as Lechner built a 3-0 advantage thanks to his opponent missing shots in the first and third racks. The Greek fought back, taking advantage of a foul, missed shot and dry break to tie the match at 3-3. After Lechner scratched after missing a jump shot in the deciding game, Kazakis appeared to be on the verge closing out the set but misplayed position on the 6 ball, which the Austrian pocketed and cleared the table to earn the victory.
The two competitors continued to battle in the second set, with Kazakis generating a 2-1 advantage only to watch Lechner tack on back-to-back racks to regain the lead. Standing at the table with a chance to clinch the victory, Lechner missed a long shot on the 1 ball in the sixth rack. Kazakis cleared the table to tie the set, then failed to pocket a ball on the break in the deciding seventh game, which Lechner ran out to clinch the match.
A handful of notable competitors will be facing elimination on the one-loss side when competition begins Friday morning, including Estonia’s Denis Grabe and former World 9-Ball champion Thorsten Hohmann, who will meet up at 10 a.m. local time. Grabe lost in a shootout earlier in the tournament to Poland’s Mieszko Fortunski while Hohmann struggled to find his stroke against Corey Deuel, falling in straight sets.
There is also no shortage of heavyweight matchups on the winner’s side of the bracket, such as Fortunski facing American Tyler Styer. The three-time Mosconi Cup team member earned his way into the third round of the winner’s bracket with comfortable straight set victories against Steve Lillis and Blaine Barcus, winning 16 total racks against only two defeats.
Also competing on the winner’s side will be Poland’s Konrad Juszczyszyn, who will be squaring off against Joven Bustamante and Russia’s Fedor Gorst, who be matching up against Francisco Sanchez Ruiz of Spain. Both Gorst and Sanchez Ruiz have been in complete command in their early round matches, with each winning 16 total games over three days while losing only one rack each.
Live coverage of the Arcadia Arizona Open will be streamed for free on any device with Billiard TV or the World Billiard TV YouTube channel throughout the week. Follow @probilliardseries on social media for up-to-date information, or visit probilliardseries.com for the latest results and live brackets.