podium newyork

July 2018: it’s the summer of Merckx.

 

Two weeks after his impressive win in the 3CC Masters, Eddy Merckx has again put a major tournament on his resume. The Verhoeven Open in New York took place – as always – in the Carom Café, and nobody was able to stop the powerhouse from Belgium. He produces the goods when the tension is highest, and in the final, four-time world champion Dani Sánchez could only watch as Merckx ran away from him: 24-1 in 5 innings. The Spaniard put up a good fight (run of 12), but the gap had been made and Merckx finished the job at 40-27 in 13 innings, 12 for Dani. 

The field in the Big Apple was first reduced from 98 players to 40, and those 40 were split up in four groups of ten. The best two from each group reached the quarterfinals, where Sayginer played Sánchez, Leppens met Nguyen, Caudron played Horn and Merckx took on Forthomme. Players who just missed out were Sidhom, Tran, Blomdahl and Nelin. There were some good moments from the South-Americans (Catano, Diaz, Aveiga) but they are still quite a few steps behind the Europeans in average.

 

Caudron, always a tournament favorite, lost a quality match against Horn who looked supremely confident. Leppens got past the unpredictable Nguyen, Merckx came from behind to beat a strong Forthomme, and Sánchez capitalized on a dream start against Sayginer. 

The Carom Café was treated to two semifinals of high quality. Leppens met his nemesis Sánchez, and the Spaniard was the dominant player once again. Eddy had won their encounter in Seoul, this time Dani was the most productive: 40-23 in 19 / 18. The other semi was an instant classic: Horn and Merckx attacked and defended at the very highest level and came up with spectacular solutions to complicated problems on the table. Merckx had his usual cold-blooded finish and Horn had to concede, but he could look back on a good week. The Belgian won it 40-35 in 16 / 15 innings.

The final looked like a one-man show for a while (24-1 in 5), then Sánchez clawed his way back into it. The deficit was reduced to just eight points (31-23) but Merckx made a run of six to close the door: 40-27 in 13 /12. The first prize of 9.000 dollars was his, and Belgium confirmed that it is still the number one billiard nation in the world.

(c) 2018 Union Mondiale de Billard