Hung goes undefeated to claim her first WPBA title at $15k-added Fairfield Invitational

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In the absence of the Women’s Professional Billiards Association’s top three competitors (Tzu-Chien Wei, Kelly Fisher and Jasmin Ouschan) at this past weekend’s (March 21-24) Fairfield Invitational, there was a clear opportunity for someone to step up and into the void created by their absence. The next 16 competitors on the WPBA’s rankings list (and beyond) from Margarita Fefilova (#4) to Monica Webb (#19) were on-hand to see what they could do about that. Of those 16, none had a chance at overtaking either Tzu-Chien or Fisher for the top two spots, although Fefilova and Allison Fisher (#5) had a shot at edging ahead of the absent Ouschan, but would have needed to win to do that.

What many likely did not expect was that a competitor who came to Fairfield as the #14-ranked WPBA competitor, Taipei’s Bean (Meng-Hsia) Hung, would win her first WPBA title, going undefeated through five opponents (one of them, twice), four of whom were among the top 16 who, like her, were on-hand to chip away at the substantial rankings lead of the tour’s top three. The $15,000-added Fairfield Invitational drew 48 entrants, who competed for the event’s Mad Hatter Cup at the Fairfield (Iowa) Convention Center.

There were any number of renewed, long-standing rivalries, first-time meetings and a host of unexpected, though pool being pool, not exactly surprising events. Who, for example, would have bet against Allison Fisher following up her first WPBA win as a representative of the US at January’s Iron City Invitational with another win here? Or have expected half of Germany’s ‘pool-power couple’ (Pia Filler), to go ‘two-and-out’ at the hands of (in order) April Larson and Savannah Easton?

In races to 8, Bean Hung’s path to the win began with a shutout over Ashley Benoit and moved on to send Caroline Pao and Allison Fisher, both 8-3, to the loss side before picking up Brittany Bryant in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Like Hung, Bulgaria’s Kristina Zlateva opened up with a shutout, over Tarah Connor. She advanced to down Stephanie Mitchell (2) and Kristina Tkach (4) to draw Fefilova in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Hung earned her place in the hot seat match with an 8-6 win over Bryant, as Zlateva and Fefilova battled to double hill in their match. Zlateva dropped the final 9-ball and then, moved to the semifinals when Hung defeated her 8-5 to claim the hot seat.

Upon the arrival of Fefilova and Bryant to the loss side of the bracket, the Fairfield Invitational was down to its final six, who were WPBA-ranked as #4 (Fefilova), #5 (Allison Fisher), #6 (Bryant) and #8 (Tkach); #7 (Zlateva) would be along shortly as #14 waited in the hot seat for one of them to return. Bryant drew Tkach, who’d followed her loss to Zlateva with wins over Caroline Pao and Kennedy Meyman, both 8-1. Fefilova picked up Allison Fisher, who’d followed her loss to Hung with victories over Stephanie Mitchell 8-3 and Briana Miller 8-1. One couldn’t have asked for a more taut, exciting conclusion to the event.

Fisher defeated Fefilova 8-4, while Tkach and Bryant locked up in double-hill battle. Bryant won it to join Fisher in the quarterfinal. Fisher defeated Bryant 8-6 in that quarterfinal and was eliminated by Zlateva 8-4 in the semifinals.

With Fargo Rates of 730 for Hung and 690 for Zlateva, the odds for a victory in the race to 10 final were 73/27, higher than they’d been in the hot seat match race to 8 (70.7/29.3). Coming off her best recorded earnings year to date (with us here at AZBilliards), Hung made it happen, downing Zlateva, a second time, 10-6 to claim her first WPBA title. The victory put Hung just shy of being halfway to making 2024 her best year at the tables, with nine months to go.

The WPBA thanked the ownership and staff at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center for their hospitality along with sponsors Jacoby Cues, Diveney Cues, Iwan Simonis, Iowa City Women’s 8-Ball League, The City of Fairfield, Ottumwa Radio Group, Mad Hatter Billiards, Holt Family Dental Care, Outsville, Aramith Billiard Balls, JamUp Apparel, Diamond Billiard Products, Vic’s Autobody Repair and Frontline Print & Web.

The next WPBA event, scheduled for May 1-5, will be the Borderline Brunswick Invitational. It will be hosted by Janet Atwell’s new Borderline Billiards Brunswick Arena, a few doors down from her former Borderline Billiards location in Bristol, TN, where you can cross the street from Tennessee to Virginia.
 
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