In a stunning upset, defending World Pool Masters champion Joshua Filler was knocked out in the opening round of the 2023 edition of the tournament. The German player, who was looking to become only the second player in the tournament’s history to defend the title, was defeated by two-time winner Niels Feijen in an action-packed match at the Brentwood Centre in Essex, England.
Filler started the match strong, taking advantage of a scratch by Feijen to race into a 5-1 lead. However, Feijen was warned early on by the referee for soft breaks, which seemed to spur him on. The Dutchman found another gear and produced his best 9-ball to level the match at 5-5 before going on to win 9-5.
Feijen’s momentum was key to his victory, with his break on lock and Filler unable to produce a response. The former champion pounced late in the match when a costly push out from Filler was punished to seal the win. Feijen will now face either Max Lechner or Mohammad Soufi in the quarter-finals on Friday, 12 May.
Lechner progressed to the quarter-finals after defeating Soufi 9-4. Despite Soufi’s recent run to the final of the World Pool Championship, Lechner made the early movements in the match to lead 5-1, no small part due to three golden breaks, including back-to-back in the fifth and sixth racks. The Austrian seemed to have the break sussed and left Soufi with very little room for error. Soufi pulled things back to 7-4 after a horrific miscue from Lechner but was unable to mount a comeback, with Lechner coming through 9-4.
The evening action saw two-time Mosconi Cup champion Jayson Shaw face an imperious Ko Pin Yi. Ko was in red-hot form and moved into a 5-0 lead with Shaw yet to pot a ball. Shaw made some ground up to pull it back to 5-1, but that was short-lived optimism as Ko put on arguably the performance of the night to wrap up a 9-1 victory. The winner of Shane Van Boening and David Alcaide awaits Ko in the quarter-finals.
The remaining Round 1 matches will get underway from midday UK time tomorrow, with WNT No.1 Francisco Sanchez Ruiz meeting James Aranas before Wiktor Zielinski of Poland takes on Zheng Xiao Huai of China. A meeting of two Mosconi Cup titans in Albin Ouschan and Eklent Kaci will wrap up the afternoon action. The evening will see 2021 champion Alexander Kazakis take on Mario He ahead of Van Boening and Alcaide, who will wrap up the Round 1 action.
The World Pool Masters returns to the UK for the first time since 2015 with a fresh look as the field reverts back to 16 players. Fourteen of the 16 automatically earned their place from the World Nineball Tour Rankings, with two wild cards completing the field. Round 1 matches are Race to 9, with quarter and semi-final encounters Race to 11 before the final stretches to a Race to 13 for the first time. The prize fund has been bolstered to $125,000, with the winner taking home $40,000.
Pool fans around the world will be eagerly anticipating the rest of the tournament, which promises to deliver more thrilling matches and upsets. With the defending champion already out, the field is wide open, and any one of the remaining players could emerge as the 2023 World Pool Masters champion.