Seoul, Korea- The 5th Annual XTM Asia 10-Ball Championships has concluded with a new champion in the men's and women's division. Thorsten Hohmann of Germany has joined past champions of the event as the 5th different country to win it including 2004 Heoun Ho Kim(Charlie Williams) (KOR), 2005 Mika Immonen (FIN), 2006 Hisashi Kusano (JPN), 2007 Joven Bustamente (PHI). Chihiro Kawahara of Japan has become the 3rd Japanese woman to win joining 2004 Miyuki Sakai (JPN), 2005 Ohtani (JPN), 2006 Sung Hyun Jung (KOR), 2007 Hsiang Ling Tan (TPE).
The day started off with the first women's semi-finals with Korea's #1 seed and amateur champion Gui Young Lee against Japan's Kaori Ebe, the only player in japan sponsored by Sony Entertainment. lee jumped out to a 2-0 lead after Ebe missed an easy 9-ball. The match was close, but Lee kept a comfortable 2 game lead the entire match to win 7-5 and put Korea into the finals of the event for the 5th consecutive year in a row.
The men's semi finals would put unknown Korean amateur Hwang Yhong against perhaps the hottest, most famous player in the world currently in Mika Immonen. Yhong facing his first career TV match seemed out of sorts and Immonen punished every mistake and missed shot. Immonen would win 8-1 leaving Yhong in an impressive 3rd place finish in his first pro event.
Yhong not yet ready for the experienced Immonen
"It's going to take alot for Yhong to be able to come with a win against Mika. The pressure of TV for the first time and against the tour's hottest hand right now is going to be tremendous." predicted Charlie Williams before the match.
Women's semi #2 featured a re-match with Japanese roomies Junko Mitsuoka and Chihiro Kawahara. Mitsuoka defeated Kawahara earlier in the event 7-5, but this time the tide was completely turned as Kawahara dominated her friend 7-2 with little resistance.
Next came the second men's semi finals with Heoun Ho Kim (KOR Charlie Williams) versus Thorsten Hohmann. Hohmann started with a two game lead and then Kim bounced back with a break and run to make it 2-1. Hohmann missed an easy 3-Ball the 4th game and lucked it in and then ran out and then broke and ran the next to lead 4-1. The rolls seemed to get better for Hohmann and worse for Kim as Hohmann took advantage of each opportunity to steam roll to a 8-2 win. Kim would tie for 3rd place along with fellow Korean Yhong while Hohmann and Immonen would make an all European finals.
The women's finals was a two hour marathon, even with a 30 second shot clock. The very small pockets and tense nerves were huge factors on both players. Kawahara led the entire match by a two game margin and reached the hill first at 6-4. Lee showed tremendous heart and made two back to back amazing outs to tie the match at 6-6 to the Korean audience's delight and cheers. Kawahara looking nervous and feeling the pressure of losing the lead, made a tremendous effort on her final break. As the balls scattered around , somehow the 10-ball was kicked upward towards the side pocket and then kissed in by another ball as Kawahara shrieked out a triumphant and pleading yelp! Lee then got up and smiled to congratulate the new Asia 10-Ball Champion.
The men's finals was significantly shorter. Immonen seemed unstoppable the past month winning the US Open and IPT Challenge, and now entering his third finals in four weeks. Hohmann had been lackluster and titleless in 9-ball and 10-ball the past two years. Hohmann did have the advantage though record wise over Immonen with four wins and 1 loss, but Immonen having the win the last time they played 9-ball at the Florida Pro Tour Championships. Immonen looked confident on the tight equipment but even so missed several routine shots including a very easy 10-ball in game 3 while Hohmann looked sharp and hungry. Hohmann adding insult to injury also was the beneficiary of the rolls the entire match, continuing from his earlier match with Kim.
"I can't get one roll." muttered a dejected Immonen towards the middle of the match as he was trailing.
Hohmann taking advantage of every missed shot by Immonen and several key rolls, quickly thrusted himself into a 7-1 lead. Immonen had an easy out the 9th game and got perfectly straight in on a 18 inch shot on the 8-ball and missed it. That told the tale of the match as Hohmann ran down to the final 10-ball laying near deliciously perfect for the win. Hohmann despite having the win in hand, seemed cautious and asked the referee to remove a particle off the cueball. After which he re-composed himself and made the 10-ball for the win, raising his cue and hands in the air out of more a sigh of relief it seemed to get a monkey off his back.
"I don't care how I did it, I'm just glad I won!" said Hohmann minutes after the match to a few chuckles of his friends. "A funny story is that these boots I'm wearing now,..well the last time I wore these was the European 9-Ball Championships that I won two years ago. Then someone broke the heel and I couldn't wear them anymore. I have not won a title in a rotation game since then. I got them fixed and here is the first tournament I wore them, and then I win!" explained The Hitman on the secret to his success. "I've always done poorly in Korea and not so well in Asia in general. So winning this is significant for me as it's my first win in Asia."
Hohmann will get to celebrate his $10,000 1st place while Immonen will have to console himself with $4000 that he will add onto a total of $52,000 in winnings in less than 30 days. Kawahara goes home with $3500 and her first major international title.
The XTM Asia 10-Ball Championships is produced by Dragon Promotions and played on Min Tables Professional Edition with Simonis Cloth and Aramith Balls. Official Cue is Poison Cues www.poisonbilliards.co.kr and Predator Cues www.predatorcues.co.kr . The event was also sponsored by Tony Moley Cosmetics and professional make-up and hair provided by Ra Beauty Salons. The final six matches will air on XTM and XPORTS.