[PHOTO AT LEFT - Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes and Rubilen Amit MANILA, Philippines]

MANILA, DECEMBER 1, 2009 (STAR) Pool icon Efren “Bata” Reyes and multiple Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Lee Vann Corteza team up with their lady counterparts as they begin their quest in the 2009 World Mixed Doubles Classic today at the Nuvo City Lifestyle Center, C5 corner Calle Industria in Libis, Quezon City.

Reyes will partner with women’s World 10-ball champion Rubilen Amit for the Team Philippines A while Corteza and Fil-Am stunner Shanelle Loraine will spearhead Team Philippines B’s campaign in the six-team event.

The 10-ball tournament, produced by Dragon Promotions, will be telecast live on ESPN Star Sports and ABS-CBN throughout Asia and the Philippines.

Other teams seeing action in the tournament, held in cooperation with Puyat Sports, headed by Aristeo “Putch” Puyat, are Team USA, Team Europe, Team Japan and Team Korea.

Shane Van Boening and Amy Chen banner Team USA while newly crowned World 10-Ball champion Mika Immonen and Borana Andoni will spearhead Team Europe’s title drive.

Team Japan is composed of Hayato Hijikata and Kaori Ebe while Charlie Williams and Eun Ji Park make up Team Korea.

Immonen rips Corteza, cops World 10-Ball title By Abac Cordero (The Philippine Star) Updated December 01, 2009 12:00 AM

[PHOTO AT LEFT - Mika Immonen hoists the World Ten Ball championship trophy after beating RP’s Lee Van Corteza. JOEY MENDOZA]

MANILA, Philippines - Mika Immonen, the hottest and fittest pool player in the world today, was a little too good for Lee Van Corteza.

Immonen, born in London, raised in Helsinki and now a resident of New York, got off to a slow start, but once he got going there was no stopping him from winning the 2009 World 10-Ball Championship at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

Immonen’s 11-6 victory over the 30-year-old Corteza gave him his eighth title in the last 10 tournaments he has competed in since July this year. He is certainly the hottest player out there today, and he proved it in this star-studded tournament.

The reigning back-to-back US Open 9-ball champion recovered from a 2-0 deficit, took the lead at 4-3 and never looked back. After sinking the winning shot, he dropped to his knees, then got up to shake the hands of the Filipino runnerup.

Immonen, who turns 37 on Dec. 17, the same day boxing icon Manny Pacquiao celebrates his 31st birthday, won $60,000 for the victory, his fourth on Philippine soil. Ironically, his first victory in the country came exactly seven years ago yesterday.

It came in the LG Flatron event at the Casino Filipino on Nov. 30, 2002 when he defeated Efren “Bata” Reyes in the finals. In 2003, he won twice in the Philippines, in the On Cue Masters and the RP Open, again against the legendary Reyes.

He has won 13 titles so far this year, but this should be the biggest or at least next to his US Open win in Virginia last October. In that tournament, where Corteza reached the semifinals, Immonen won just a little less, $40,000.

With the year about to end, Immonen now has $227,820 in earnings. Last year, he had a total earnings of $149,582.

“This is insane,” said Immonen just seconds after the victory as he kept on acknowledging cheers from the Filipino crowd.

“I don’t know what’s going on right now. But I always wanted to win the world 10-ball title,” said the player who’s into yoga and a nutritional diet which he said helped turn his game around since 2007.

Immonen said being physically fit is as important as being mentally fit, that’s why he makes sure he’s at the gym more often than not. After he lost in the opening rounds here, he said he ran 10 kms on a treadmill in a Makati gym, “to let some steam off.”

Corteza had nothing to frown about, and with his $30,000 prize it should be a nice Christmas for him and his family. He looked headed to a magical win, but just couldn’t hold up against the the player who’s probably in the best shape of his life.

The Filipino took an early 2-0 lead but after a bad push and a foul in the next two racks he allowed Immonen to level the count. A dry break by the 2001 world 9-ball champion in the fifth rack, however, turned it around.

Corteza, who has the unique ability to smile against the most delicate situations, cleared the table for a 3-2 edge but soon after it was back to square one. Then came Corteza’s biggest mistake of the match.

On the orange 5 Corteza missed a cut shot he could have made blind-folded. On his chair he couldn’t hide his disappointment missing the shot that gave Immonen his first taste of the lead at 4-3. The title was virtually won on that rack.

It was Immonen all the way from there.

Corteza made it to the finals with a 9-7 win over David Alcaide of Spain, and had just a few minutes of rest before facing Immonen in the biggest game of his professional career.

The 30-year-old Corteza found some strength from his cheering countrymen, and was in fact on the brink of defeat, trailing 7-6, when the Spaniard blew what looked like an easy shot on the green six in the 14th rack.

That was all the six-time SEA Games gold medalist needed as he kept Alcaide glued to his chair, watching helplessly, the rest of the way. After levelling the count at 7-7, he scored runouts in the next two racks.

“Actually I hate games like these. It’s very scary,” said Corteza who worked so hard to get to the finals, beating Chang Yu Lung, 9-8, Thomas Engert, 9-7, and Li Hewen, 9-7, all in six hours Sunday.

In the semis, Immonen blew hot and cold to get past Antonio Lining, 9-7.

The player known in the pool circle as “The Iceman” got off to a great start at 4-1 but soon got a little careless and let the Filipino lefty to take control of the match at 6-5. It did not take long, however, for him to get back on track.

Notes: It’s either he got the dates all wrong or he never knew he’d be playing on the final day that Alcaide had his flight back home booked for last Sunday. But as he won match after match, disposing of Antonio Gabica, Fong Pang Chao, Dennis Orcullo and eventually 2008 champion Darren Appleton to advance into the semis, it was time for him to make the phone call and book himself a new ticket. Alcaide, in a chat with noted sportscaster and tournament emcee Anthony Suntay, said he had to pay $300 for a new ticket, but he didn’t mind at all because for reaching the semis against Corteza he assured himself of $15,000 or $5,000 more than his previous earnings after five tournaments this year. For a while it looked like he was bound to reach the finals when he took a 7-6 lead against Corteza. But that’s as far as he could get in the tournament and lost, 9-7.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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