Last week was the 2012 US Open championships and what a week it was. I bought the PPV from Accu-Stats, like I have done the last 3 years and it just keeps getting better. I know not everyone can watch pool all day and all night, so I did what I could and live-tweeted the matches I was able to catch. You can find all of them here if you’re interested.
So many great matches and this year was one of the strongest fields I’ve seen. Efren Reyes was playing as good as I’ve seen him in at least 2 years. Earl Strickland seemed to be really on it as well. Jose Parica was a terror until he hit Shane van Boening in the final 12. Darren Appleton was a real threat to win a 3rd consecutive US Open until he played Efren Reyes and if it hadn’t been for an incredible fluked 9 ball he might have continued on the winner’s side a round or 2 longer. As it was, he still put a strong showing together, taking out Hao Xiang Han, then Oscar Dominguez, then Earl Strickland, then Corey Deuel then finally Johnny Archer all on the west side. But it was Dennis Orcollo that proved too much for Darren in the quarter-finals.
Efren stayed on the winner’s side through the quarter finals as well, until he ran into Alex Pagulayan where The Lion ran over The Magician 11-5 and sending Reyes to the left. Reyes made a wonderful comeback to take out Ronnie Alcano, but just couldn’t withstand Dennis Orcollo.
Alex’s luck changed when he hit the brick wall that is Shane van Boening. Shane put together a couple of 3 packs and nothing went Alex’s way at the table. Alex looked out of sorts early and never really got into gear. Shane wins it 11-5 to stay on the winner’s side into the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, Dennis Orcollo took out He Wen Li, then Darren Appleton, then Jose Parica then Efren Reyes and now faced Alex Pagulayan for the 3rd place spot or the chance to win the whole thing.
Both guys started off slow and neither one in their present form would pose any challenge to Shane if they kept this up. Once each player took a break and reset themselves, things turned around. They turned on better for Dennis than Alex and The Lion was forced into a 3rd place finish this year.
A few hours later, the finals of the US Open began and it was clear that Dennis was ready to play. But Shane was quite intent on not letting him play much. After a couple of safety battles and each player running out it was tied at 2 games each. And that’s when things changed. Shane builds a 4-pack on top of a 2 pack with a safety battle in the middle to win the next 7 games. It’s now 9-2 in a race to 13. After Shanes 4-pack (which only ended because the CB was kicked into the side pocket), Dennis takes a break to gather himself. He comes back shortly and runs out. From here, Dennis starts his own run and builds his own 4-pack to make it 9-7. Unfortunately, that was all the juice Dennis could conjure. Shane starts running out from everywhere, playing great safes and generally just not letting Dennis to the table with anything but a full-table jump or kick. Shane breaks and runs out the final rack to win the match 13-7.
Shane van Boening is the 2012 US Open Champion!
You can see the final brackets here (click to view full size) and you can see the entire tournament bracket at USOpen.AZBilliards.com
Aside from Shane being Shane, one of the things that set him apart from everyone else was his break. He’s known for having the best 10-ball break – but why is that? Power, yes. But more importantly – shape. He’s playing to make 3 balls reliably and controlling the cue ball and the 1 ball. He never was feared for his 9-ball break, but after this, that might change. One thing I noticed during his first TV match was that he had adopted his 10-ball break for 9-ball. But, also, he plays to make the wing ball and move the 1 ball to a repeatable position; while also controlling the cue ball.
At least 80% of the time, his break layouts started with a shot on the 1 from these areas: The 1 ball was always up-table and somewhere near the headrail – opposite from the corner where he broke. And he’s bouncing the cueball back to the same long-rail from where he broke. This left him a decently open table and a good shot on the 1. For probably 60% of his racks, the “key shot” in the rack was the 1 ball. After that it was a roadmap. In the finals alone, SVB broke and ran EIGHT of his 13 racks. Later in the match, during Dennis’s final comeback he figured out what Shane was doing and he copied it. It wasn’t as picture perfect, but it worked and it allowed him to get as many games he did.
Everyone was complaining that Shane was rigging the rack, because the wing-ball would *literally* fly into the corner, every time. It was off the felt when it hit the pocket. Every official confirmed a frozen rack though, Shane wasn’t putting gaps in the rack, he was just crushing them around 26mph and with a frozen rack, all that force had to go somewhere. It went into the corner pocket.
I’m curious to see how much fuss this is going to stir up. It wont take people long to figure out what he did, like when they figured out his 10-ball break, most people emulate it (few with as good results, for now).
I will be watching the forums and I’ll probably try it myself; not that I can control the cue ball on my break that well, but it’ll be fun to see what happens.