MOHAMMAD SOUFI, the German-based Syrian, claimed his first ever Dynamic Billard Euro Tour title as he defeated World No.1 Francisco Sanchez-Ruiz (Spain) 9-6 to claim the Estonian Open in Tallinn. Staged at the Kalev Sports Hall in the Estonian capital city, the match was a re-run of last month’s World 9 Ball Championship final but this time the outcome was different as Soufi got the better of a sub-par Sanchez-Ruiz.
Soufi’s best ever finish on the Euro Tour was a semi-final in Lasko, Slovenia in 2021 but he seems to have found the confidence to take his always-entertaining game to the highest level. Sanchez-Ruiz came into the final on a roll of all rolls, having totally dominated tournament pool in the past 12 months. However, mistakes here and there allowed Soufi the opportunity to claim victory.
Commented Soufi, “I’m very happy to win this event. After our last match in Poland and coming second in the World 9 Ball Championship, it gave me a big push to win my next tournament. It inspired me.
“Before coming here, I felt I had to win it. I’ve the greatest respect for Francisco – he is the best player in the world, he plays very, very good but I wanted to get to this final. I’m so happy and ready for the next event. I’ve been training so hard and I believe that I have so much more and I want everyone to see what I can do,” he added.
Starting the match as favourite, Sanchez Ruiz unluckily scratched going from 6 to 7 in the opener and Soufi mopped up the table to take the opening rack. Not hanging about, the Spaniard dropped two balls on the break and a quick 2/9combo levelled things up. Soufi, whose fast-paced style can unsettle opponents, took no time to run out from the break and restore his lead at 2.1.
Sanchez Ruiz enjoyed a golden break to get back on level terms, before Soufi gave the next away, missing the 7 ball into the centre pocket. That gave Sanchez a 3-2 lead but he missed the 3 ball in the next and after some safeties, the Syrian banked it up table and cleared the rack to level it once again at 3-3.
A great table-length cut on the 1 ball from Soufi set up the runout and restored his lead at 4-3. The next rack slowed the pace down as both players had visits as they traded safeties before Soufi fouled to give ball-in-hand to Sanchez and he kept himself together to restore parity as the intriguing match moved to 4-4.
Three off the break gave Soufi a great chance to restore his lead, but he failed to bank the 2 ball and left it hanging over the centre pocket. There were errors from both players before a double kiss from Sanchez left the 3 ball on for his opponent and Soufi ran it out for a 5-4 lead.
Both players had visits in the tenth game but it was Soufi who saw it out to open up a two-rack lead at 6-4. That soon became a three-rack lead as a jump shot from Sanchez saw the cue ball fall favourably for Soufi.
Sanchez Ruiz took the next with a well-executed run out but Soufi reached the hill in the 13th rack as he whizzed through the table to put himself on the brink of his first major title. In a must win rack, Sanchez delivered a crusher which saw two balls drop and leave the 2 ball available. He made it and then locked Soufi in a tight snooker, which he escaped from but left the 3 ball on for Sanchez who pocketed it and ran out for 8-6.
Soufi's next break was both dry and illegal but left nothing easy for the incoming Sanchez. He didn't play the best safety and Soufi downed a long 1 ball to stay at the table. There was a 4/9 combination available and Soufi rattled the 9 ball but it stayed out.
Soufi tied up Sanchez in a tight snooker and Francisco had a flash at it that saw balls scatter across the table. Soufi then missed the 4 ball, as the drama mounted, and left it on for Sanchez. He looked favourite but made a shocking miss on the 7 ball to leave three balls between Soufi and the title which he duly executed for a terrific victory.
Soufi has caught the pool world’s imagination with his speedy play and devil-may-care attitude around the table and it is something he wants to work on; “I play fast and sometimes I play so fast but I need some coaching in how to play slower at times. It’s two or three seconds but I probably need to slow down on some shots. I’ll always give my best and I know there are so many good players on the Euro Tour but I’m ready!”
Earlier, Francisco Sanchez Ruiz had beaten Alexander Kazakis 9-6 to move into the final, while Soufi squeezed past Niels Feijen 9-8. The Dynamic Billard Euro Tour returns at St Johan Im Pongau, Austria on 14th April.
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