World number one Dennis Orcullo, former champion Efren "Bata" Reyes, and defending champion Francisco "Django" Bustamante all scored their second straight wins to book their seats in the Round of 64 knockout stage of the $250,000 World 9 Ball Championships in Doha, Qatar.
Orcullo and Reyes both emerged unscathed in Group 1 to become the first two from their group to advance to the next round. Orcullo made short work of Jala Yousef of Venezuela, 9-4, while Reyes blasted Konstatine Stepanov of Russia, 9-2.
In Group 4, Bustamante and young gun Carlo Biado were likewise through the last 64, with Bustamante outplaying Kuwait's Majid Alazme, 9-3, and Biado clobbering Korea's Lee Gun Jae, 9-2. Unheralded Oliver Medenilla defeated Vietnam's Nguyen Phuong Thao, 9-6, in Group 7 and Jeff De Luna beat Riyan Setiawan of Indonesia, 9-6, in Group 8 to also advance with their second wins.
Allan Cuartero, who works as the in-house coach of Kuwait's national billiards team, also punched his ticket to the round of 64 with a big 9-4 win over veteran Marcus Chamat of Sweden in Group 12. World number three Antonio Lining was the eighth Filipino to advance outright, routing Japan's Toru Kuribayashi, 9-4, in Group 16 action.
But while most of the top Pinoy guns were safely through, former champion Ronnie Alcano was stalled by Poland's Radislaw Babica, who sent Alcano to the losers' bracket with a close 9-8 decision. The lanky Filipino, winner of this event in 2006, will need to beat Vietnam's Nguyen Phuc Long to stay alive.
All nine Filipinos who lost their opening matches bounced back with big wins to keep their campaigns alive. Antonio Gabica ousted Majed Al Zaab, 9-4, to set up a Group 2 knockout match with rated Chinese Fu Jianbo in Group 2. Caneda Villamor blanked England's Jon Grimley, 9-0, in Group 4 to arrange a showdown with Korea's Ell Gun Jae.
Roberto Gomez stayed alive by the skin of his teeth, ousting Ahmed Naeem Ali, 9-8, and will now face Christian Tuvi in Group 5. In Group 9, Venancio Tanio booted out the UAE's Amin Fekry, 9-4, while Francisco Olita ousted Estonia's Denis Grabe, 9-8. Tanio and Olita will try to keep their bids alive against China's Lee Chen Man and Iran's Soheil Vahedi, respectively.
In Group 10, Joven Alba ousted Italy's Bruno Moratore, 9-6, to seal a do-or-die duel against India's Sundeep Gulati. Qualifier Israel Rota beat Mazen Berjawi, 9-6, in Group 11 and will face Bader Al Awadi for a spot in the next round. Lee Van Corteza beat Canada's Erik Hjorleifson, 9-4, in Group 12 and will have to deal with Chamat next. Raymond Faraon eliminated Alcano victim Hamzah Al Saeed, 9-2, and will next face Mohammad Al Hazmi of Saudi Arabia in Group 13.
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