Lee Vann Corteza has quietly gotten off to a rather solid start to the 2022 professional pool season – a trait that isn’t new recently for the 42-year-old.
The Filipino, who was a runner-up at the 2009 World 10-Ball Championship, has earned $31,000 in prize money this year thanks to top five finishes at the Wisconsin Open and Alfa Las Vegas Open and placed fourth in the Texas Open 10-Ball Championship. Prior to the pandemic shutdown in 2020, Corteza had already earned $26,000 in two months thanks to winning the 9-ball division and finishing second in the BigFoot division at the Derby City Classic.
Monday, on the opening day of the Predator World 10-Ball Championship, Corteza once again got off to a hot start by winning his first two matches, including an 8-4 victory against reigning World Pool champion Albin Ouschan. The Filipino overcame some early breaking struggles by capitalizing on a handful of opportunities left by his opponent to seal the victory at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino. Corteza will now face 2015 World 10-Ball Champion Pin-Yi Ko on Wednesday afternoon.
Using an early break-and-run along with some safety play mixed in, Corteza grabbed an early 3-1 but the Austrian took advantage of a pair of dry breaks by his opponent to tie the score at three games each. After splitting the next two games, Ouschan had the opportunity to take the lead but over-cut the 6 ball. The Filipino cleared the table to regain the lead, then tacked on another rack when his opponent fouled while attempting a jump shot. Now trailing by two games, Ouschan had an opportunity to pull within a single game but missed a 4 ball in the corner pocket.
Trailing 7-4, the Austrian had one last chance to mount a comeback in the 12th game, but instead executed a sequence which basically summed up his match. After Corteza missed the 2 ball and left it on the long rail, Ouschan cut the ball into the corner pocket, then jumped in the 3 ball only to watch the cue ball scratch into the side pocket, handing the table and the match to Corteza.
The final match of the night put a capper on a day where one competitor would jump out to an early lead only to have their opponent catch up in the second half of the match – including Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer Thorsten Hohmann, who came back from a 5-2 deficit to defeat Ping-Han Ko.
Hohmann used a pair of victorious safety exchanges to whittle away at Ko’s advantage until the two players were tied after 12 racks. The young man from Chinese Taipei had a chance to increase his lead but left the cue ball straight in line with the 6 ball along the rail with the 7 ball on the opposite side of the table. He was unable to move the cue ball to the other side of the table after pocketing the 6, then missed a sharp cut on the next shot. Hohmann cleared the table to regain the lead, then took advantage of a victorious safety exchange to snatch the set, 8-6.
Spain’s Francisco Sanchez Ruiz would experience a similar fate in the next match, building an early 5-2 advantage against Jeremy Seaman until a couple of unforced errors allowed the American to tie the match 5-5. Working his way through the rack in the 11th game, Seaman appeared positioned to take the lead but instead drew the cue ball into the side pocket while trying to secure position on the 5 ball. Sanchez Ruiz took full advantage, clearing the table then using a missed shot by Seaman and a victorious safety on the 4 ball in the 13th game to pull out an 8-5 victory.
Earlier in the day, Skyler Woodward built a 5-1 lead against Niels Feijen only to watch the former World 9-Ball Champion also claw back and tie the back 5-5. Feijen struggled to get the rolls down the stretch, failing to pocket a ball on the break in the 11th game and scratching during the 13th rack, as Woodward held off the late charge to win, 8-6.
The opening day wasn’t particularly charitable to competitors who gained automatic entry to the championship by winning U.S. Pro Billiard Series events, with Michigan Open champion Aloysius Yapp falling to Donny Mills in the opening round, 8-3, and Ohio Open winner Mario He falling to Jeremy Sossei by the same score. Both now move to the one-loss side of the bracket, with Yapp meeting Evan Lunda Tuesday evening and He taking on Melish Dagas Tuesday afternoon.
The second day of play resumes at 10 a.m. local time, with notable matches including Mika Immonen meeting Corey Deuel, Alex Kazakis facing off against Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer Alex Pagulayan and Derby City Classic 9-ball champion Francisco Sanchez Ruiz matching up with 2020 Diamond Las Vegas Open champion Jung-Lin Chang.
Find the Predator World 10-Ball Championship brackets on the Predator Pro Billiard Series website.
The Predator 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.
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.
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