All weekend long, Alex Kazakis has been saying he wants to win the Aramith 9-Ball Players Championship for his nation as much as for himself.
The host venue for the event – Steinway Billiards in Astoria, Queens – is owned by fellow Greek Manny Stamatakis and Kazakis has competed at the facility about eight times in hopes of winning.
“It’s a Greek-owned place and I never won a tournament here and I really want to. So, I think that made me try harder in this match,” Kazakis said after his semifinal victory over Canada’s Jason Klatt.
He moved one step closer to his goal, defeating England’s Chris Melling 13-8 in the second semifinal of the tournament Sunday afternoon. Kazakis will face Denis Grabe of Estonia in the race-to-17 finals at 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Grabe defeated Dennis Orcollo of the Philippines 13-8 in the first semifinal of the day.
Kazakis struggled to find his stroke as he and Melling traded games in the match’s early stages.
Desperately wanting to win the match as well as the tournament, Kazakis put additional pressure on himself. Trailing 4-3 he stepped to the table after Melling missed the 7-ball and promptly missed a makeable shot on the same ball, giving his opponent a routine out and a 5-3 lead. With the match tied at seven games each Kazakis looked positioned to run out the rack and regain the lead but missed a slow cut shot on the 3-ball in the side pocket. He slammed his hand down on the table in frustration but also decided to alter his mindset should he return to the table.
“After I missed the 3-ball in the side I said to myself, ‘Don’t think about anything else. Just focus on your stroke. Focus on your game and whatever happens, happens,” Kazakis said. “Don’t give yourself so much pressure to win that match.”
His attitude alteration along with a dry break by Melling in the 16th game changed the momentum of the set, with Kazakis running the table to tie the contest at eight and mixed in a pair of breaks and runs to jump ahead. He then added a pair of safety battle victories and another run out to close out the match.
It was a tough loss for Melling, who was bounced over to the one-loss side by Kazakis 11-6 on Friday afternoon. He played as well as Kazakis in the match but struggled with his break shot at times, twice breaking dry and also leaving himself without a shot after the break in a couple of instances.
“It’s very hard to win when you’re not getting a ball on the break or no shot when you do make them, and that was the difference in the match,” Melling said. “I guarantee if I had made the balls on the break that he did I would not have lost.”
The Aramith 9-Ball Players Championship is the first event of the four-tournament 2018 World Pool Series. This event is being held at Steinway Billiards in Astoria, Queens, New York City from April 19th to 22nd, 2018. The World Pool Series is sponsored by Aramith, Rasson, Predator, Iwan Simonis, Tiger, and Kamui. Our suppliers and partners are Billiards Digest, CueScore, Let’s Go Print, On The Wire, Outsville, UpState Al, and the WPA.