Sunday, October 24, 2010

Appleton wins 2010 U.S. Open

Dreams of 3-peat dashed for Immonen

Video from

England's Darren "Dynamite" Appleton became the newest U.S. Open 9-Ball champion Saturday after sending pool titan Mika Immonen to the one-loss side and then prevailing during a see-saw tactical battle with American Corey Deuel in the finals.

The 32-year-old native of Pontefract, West Yorkshire, England was the only competitor to go undefeated during the week-long tournament, arguably the most prestigious in pool. The U.S. Open this year drew the biggest names in the sport from more than 30 countries. For the first time ever, women also competed along with the men.

Much of the suspense during the late stages centered on Immonen, ranked by many as the world's best. The Finish player had won the previous two Opens in 2009 and 2008 and appeared poised for a three-peat this year. On the final day of competition Immonen and Appleton were the only two undefeated players in the event. Immonen also was favored to win his hot-seat match against the Englishman.

But it was not to be. Immonen trailed by a small margin for much of the contest, but had a chance to tie it up at 10-10 in the 20th rack.  But then Immonen jawed a steep cut shot along the short rail, leaving a quick three-ball run out for Appleton.  Final score: Appleton 11, Immonen 9.

Immonen then joined the two other remaining players on the loser's side,  the Philippines' Warren Kiamco and 2001 U.S. Open champ Deuel. First Kiamco and Deuel would play, and then the winner of that game would meet Immonen for a chance to meet Appleton in the finals. Deuel beat Kiamco in the first match, but only barely. In fact, if not for a new rule this year requiring competitors in the semi-finals and finals to win by a two-game margin, Kiamco would have won. The Filipino was leading Deuel 11-10, but ended up falling to the Ohio player 14-12.

Deuel then met Immonen in the one-loss finals. The inventor of the soft-break had blanked Immonen during the U.S. Open finals nine years ago, and looked to runover the Iceman again this year. Immonen kept it close during the early going, but then Deuel began to pile on games. Deuel punished the Iceman for every mistake and then broke and ran the final three. The final score Saturday: 11-3

With his dreams dashed of becoming the only man to win three consecutive U.S. Opens, a clearly dejected Immonen pledged now to seek another record:  Earl Strickland's five U.S. Open victories.  Deuel, for his part, said he felt fortunate to have come so far. "I just think I played my best match at the right time," he told Nick Leider of Billiards Digest, moments after the victory Saturday. 

With the Iceman's third-place finish, what would be remembered as an epic U.S. Open showdown was set up between Deuel and Appleton. The Englishman pulled out to a quick lead, but then Deuel fought his way back from an 11-9 deficit to get to the hill, 12-11.  If Deuel would have taken the next game, the U.S. Open would have been his. But a dry break allowed Appleton to tie it up at 12-12.

Appleton then broke and ran the next game, bringing the score to 13-12. Deuel fought back, tying the match yet again. But the American handed the next game to Appleton after a scratch. Appleton then broke and ran the next game, winning the championship 15-13.

The final run out was a relatively simple affair,  if such a thing is possible during the final game of America's most prestigious pool tournament. I've posted a video (above) of the run-out, from  "At that point, the only way I was going to miss was if my hand fell off," said Appleton, quoted in Billiards Digest.

Appleton is the first English player to win the U.S. Open. Besides winning the World 10-Ball Championship in 2008, Appleton also won the World Pool Masters title in 2009.  Asked how this title compared to the others, and Appleton responded: "I think I'll enjoy this one more."

Video highlights
Check out the coverage of the Friday's action, in the video report from Samm Diep and AZbilliards, just below. You can also review the video highlights of the previous day's actions in my earlier blog posts.

-- R.A. Dyer

Video from

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