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In a battle for 9-ball's biggest ever prize, Fedor Gorst outdueled Eklent Kaci in a title match for the ages at the World Pool Championship.

By Mike Panozzo
Photos by Taka Wu

The clock is working its way towards 3 a.m. and Fedor Gorst is on the phone with room service at the Narcissus Hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, trying to scare up something to eat. He places an order for a cheeseburger for himself and some mixed grill selections for longtime coach Johann Ruysink and Ivan Sienes, a young Spanish pool enthusiast and aspiring filmmaker who had spent the week of the World Pool Championship documenting Gorst's every movement.

Sitting on his bed, wearing black gym shorts and a grey t-shirt, Gorst stares at his phone and shakes his head.

“I have more text messages than I can count,” he mumbles. “I can't even start reading these now. It will take all night.”

Among the messages Gorst does read is from wildly popular podcaster, comedian, UFC commentator and pool nut Joe Rogan. Since appearing on Rogan's “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast in December 2022, Gorst says Rogan messages him often after watching tournament streams.

Gorst reads Rogan's text.

“It says, ‘Sent a video of you celebrating with the ‘Nine Ball' song to Zach Bryan. He loved it!'”

“Nine Ball,” written and performed by country star Bryan, was Gorst's walk-on song at the glitzed out, extravagant World Pool Championship.

“I wanna see Zach Bryan,” Gorst says. “And Tyler Childers.” “Who's that?” Ruysink asks.

“They're country singers,” Gorst dismisses. “You don't know them cuz you're not American.”

The 3 a.m. country music conversation in the Arabian Peninsula between the Russian-born Gorst and Dutch-born Ruysink is somewhat surreal. Then again, the previous 12 hours — and, in fact, the previous six days — have been a tad bizarre for the 24-year-old Gorst. His epic 29-game, toe-to-toe battle with Albanian monster Eklent Kaci in the $1 million World Pool Championship finale, which concluded with Gorst winning the case game rack for a 15-14 victory and the $250,000 top prize, was simply the final act in a drama rich with wild ebbs and flows.

For Gorst, the World Pool Championship title was validation of the lofty praise and high expectations that hung over his head for the past three years. It was also an event that left him both physically and mentally exhausted.

(Of course, it is his second World 9-Ball title, having won the WPA event in Qatar in 2019. But there is little comparison between that event and 2024.)

For the pool world, the collaborative effort of Matchroom Pool, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Arabian Billiard and Snooker Federation offered a tasty preview of how the perfectly staged pool championship might look and what the next decade might hold for both the WPC and the World Nineball Tour.

The buildup to the WPC was understandably grandiose, with Matchroom having announced its 10-year deal with the Saudi Ministry of Sport for a million-dollar world championship in mid-February. Not since the days of the short-lived International Pool Tour had players tasted a seven-digit prize fund and six-digit top prize. In 9-ball, the 2024 WPC would stake its claim as the richest event in the history of the discipline.

Pool's inclusion in the sports segment of the Kingdom's ambitious Vision 2030 program, a gargantuan financial bet by the Saudi government to diversify its economy away from its reliance on oil and increase tourism, was a welcome and timely windfall. It offered the perfect platform to legitimately elevate the WPC to its status as “the Crown Jewel of Nineball,” as Matchroom has labeled it.

And prize money aside, the combination of pool's biggest event promotion company and the oil-rich Saudi government all but assured a next-level presentation of the event, and the duo didn't disappoint.

With Matchroom's Masters snooker championship, also part of the Saudi deal, scheduled for the Kingdom's largest city, Riyadh, the World Pool Championship was staged at the Green Hall arena adjacent to the 27,000-seat Prince Abdullah AlFaisal soccer stadium in Jeddah, a port city on the Red Sea. The arena's transformation was astonishing, with a main TV table in front of raised fixed seating for more than 500, flanked by a pair of arena-lit streaming tables in front of more stadium seating. A raised stage for pre-match and post-match commentator gatherings and player introductions (replete with pyrotechnics) appeared as a centerpiece to the arena, with 13 more tables completing the playing setup.

“Have never seen a more beautiful arena anywhere,” said Spanish hopeful David Alcaide, as the players milled through the setup during practice on the day before the event's start.

The WPC arena in Jeddah lifted pool's “Crown Jewel” to another level, with a four-sided jumbo monitor and pyrotechnics.

In fact, all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the event — with both Matchroom and Ministry of Sport camera crews swirling about to document the proceedings — seemed to result in palpable tension and anxiety among the players, particularly so among the favorites and other players in the 128-player field who came to Jeddah with high expectations.

“Yeah, you can tell everyone is a little nervous and anxious,” Jayson Shaw concurred. “I don't think it's really about the money. It's everything that goes with an event like this.”

There was no denying that the 2024 WPC lineup was among the toughest ever gathered, with the WNT's top 100 earning spots and a host of Saudi, Middle East and World Pool Association (WPA) players filling out the field.


The format itself was less-than forgiving, with double-elimination only used to cut the field in half. For winners, that meant that after two quick matches you were already flying without a net.

It didn't take long for the race-to-nine qualification stage to raise a few eyebrows. World 10-Ball Champion and favorite from the huge contingent of Filipino players on hand, Carlo Biado, was sent to the loser's qualification bracket by Holland's Marco Teutscher, 9-5. Likewise, Team USA captain Skyler Woodward was pushed aside by Taiwanese veteran Po Cheng Kuo, 9-4, 2023 Spanish Open winner Jin Hu Dang of China fell to Vietnam's Nam Phan Phuong, 9-8, two-time world champion Albin Ouschan of Austria lost to Taiwan's Che Wei Fu, 9-8, and 2023 UK Open champ Alcaide found himself on the wrong side of a 9-7 verdict against Kuwait's Abdullah Alshammari.

And, of course, Gorst properly set the stage for his almost comically dramatic run to the title by getting thumped by Mustafa Alnar of Cyprus, 9-4.

“Fedor looked completely out of sorts,” noted Ruysink. “He wasn't ready to play at all.”

Despite high expectations, the end came early for Shaw.

Over the next two rounds of loser's qualification, the 2024 WPC would move to single elimination without Biado, knocked out by Dang, 9-5, Woodward, who would win once but then lose to Austrian Max Lechner, 9-6, and Ouschan, spanked by Johann Chua of the Philippines, 9-3.

Still not playing to par, Gorst managed to muscle his way into the final 64 with wins over Duc Thien Luong of Vietnam, 9-7, and 21-year-old Filipino Kyle Amoroto, 9-8.

“I thought that match was over,” Gorst admitted later. “He had come back from 8-6 down and was breaking on the hill. I'm sitting there thinking, ‘Here comes the break and run.' He had been breaking great. All of a sudden, he scratches on the break and I run out.”

In a “Hold my beer” moment that pretty much summed up Gorst's week, he found himself trailing Iraq's Ameer Ali, 7-0, in the found of 64.

“To be fair,” Gorst recalled, “he played really good at the start. I missed a crazy shot in the first rack, and the next time I get to the table it's 4-0 and I'm hooked. At 7-0 I was seriously thinking about packing my bags.”

Suddenly, Gorst's stroke started to come back and he chipped away at the lead. Still trailing, 8-3, Gorst looked over to Woodward, who was seated tableside amidst a gaggle of fans from the Middle East cheering on the underdog from Iraq.

“I could see at that point that Ali had the weight of the world on his shoulders,” Ruysink recalled.

“I could see fear in his eyes, and I was getting my stroke,” Gorst said. “I looked at Sky and said, ‘There's no way I'm losing this match.'”

True to his word, Gorst stormed back for an 11-9 win.

At the same time, just a few tables away, tournament favorite Josh Filler of Germany was pulling a similar rabbit out of a hat, rebounding from a 9-4 deficit against Kosovo's Fitim Haradinaj to race to an 11-9 win.

World 10-Ball champ Biado made a hasty two-and-out exit.

Not quite so lucky was defending champion Francisco Sanchez Ruiz of Spain, who had no answers and no comeback against Denmark's 23-year-old Mickey Krause.

“I don't think I put extra pressure on myself,” said Ruiz, following the stunning 11-7 loss. “I try to treat it like any other tournament, but of course the difference is there. And we're all fighting for ranking points.”

Another pre-tournament favorite, former world champion Pin Yi Ko of Taiwan, also was ousted, losing to young Patric Gonzales of the Philippines, 11-9.

While favorites were struggling, the U.S. player contingent was exceeding expectations, sending six players to single elimination — 2022 World Champion Shane Van Boening, Gorst and Mosconi hopefuls Oscar Dominguez, BJ Ussery, Billy Thorpe and Hunter Lombardo. Thorpe (11-8 over Oliver Szolnoki), Ussery (11-10 over Alex Pagulayan), Van Boening (11-9 over Kun Lin Wu), Dominguez (11-2 over Ali Al Obaidli) and Gorst advanced to the round of 32.

Into the round of 16 were favorites Van Boening, Filler, Kaci and Dang, while next tier rising stars like Chua, 2023 runner-up Mohammed Soufi of Syria and Filipinos Chua, 2023 UK Open runner-up Anton Raga and Jeffrey Ignacio continued solid runs. As always, the Polish contingent was well represented, with 2022 World 10-Ball Champion Wojciech Szewczyk of Poland and young Wiktor Zielinski advancing.

Van Boening was sharp in his four wins, maintaining his focus by staying in a hotel away from the other players and spending his practice time at a local poolroom.

“There was definitely more tension with the players this year,” Van Boening noted. “They all wanted to win so bad. I saw more emotion after losses than at any tournament in a long time. I just tried to focus on playing one match at a time.”

And, holding true to form, Gorst had to go the distance in his final 32 match against the dangerous Yu Lung Chang of Taiwan. After coasting to leads of 8-2 and 9-5, Gorst fumbled his first chance on the hill at 10-6. In no time, the match was knotted, 10-10, with Chang breaking. “Again, I'm thinking, ‘Here we go. Break and run out.'” Gorst laughed.

Instead, Chang landed in a bad position for the 2 ball and Gorst eventually ran out, earning ball in hand after several safety exchanges.

While Gorst was living life on the edge in Jeddah, Kaci was showing the form that positioned him as perhaps the top player in the world in the early part of 2023 before an off-roading mishap nearly cost him his left arm. Displaying a gruesome scar and fighting mobility issues with his wrist and fingers, the 25-year-old has somehow managed to regain world class form, which was on full display at the WPC.

Kaci's road to the final was the polar opposite to Gorst's, with the Albanian effectively unleashing his monster break and closing out all his matches in convincing fashion. After opening with wins over Kuwait's Omar Al Shaheen, 9-4, and Krause, 9-3, Kaci steamrolled his way almost unchallenged through single elimination wins over Bosnia and Herzegovina's Sanjin Pehlivanovic, 11-2, American Ussery, 11-4, and Holland's Marc Bijsterbosch, 11-3, to reach the quarterfinals.

The round of 16 also saw Szewczyk end Van Boening's hopes for the world title, 11-7, in a match that saw the American commit numerous unforced errors, and Raga take down Filler, 11-7.

“I got uncomfortable, and my head wasn't right for some reason,” Van Boening said. “It was terrible, but it's all a learning process.”

Chua defeated Soufi and Ignacio eliminated Alcaide to send three Filipinos into the final eight, while Zielinski topped Portugal's Joao Grilo to give Poland two quarterfinalists.

And Gorst?

“Same scenario,” he said, shaking his head. “I wasn't getting on the hill when I needed to.”

Chua led a strong contingent of players from the Philippines, reaching the semifinals.

Leading surprising Brit Chris Melling, 9-5, Gorst left himself having to bridge over a ball and missed. Naturally, Melling fought back to tie the score, 9-9, before Gorst managed to steal the next game and run out on the hill to secure an 11-9 win.

With a strong contingent of Filipino players and locals in attendance, Ignacio, Chua and Raga entered the quarterfinals with hopes of sending three players to the semis. Chua obliged in a clinical dismantling of Dang, 11-3, a match in which Chua missed the 9 in the opening rack, then won nine games in a row, including seven break-and-runs.

“I played almost perfect,” admitted Chua, who also reached the semifinals of the World 10-Ball Championship in 2021. “After the first miss, I told myself that I will be fine if I get another chance.”

Chua added that he had extra inspiration to play well, with the match coinciding with his son Justin's first birthday back in the Philippines.

“I wanted to make his first birthday special,” he said with a smile.

Filipino hopes were later dashed when Ignacio missed an ill-advised behind-the-back attempt on the 8 while tied with Kaci, 5-5. He never recovered, falling behind 9-5 and eventually losing, 11-7. Shortly thereafter, Raga put up little fight in allowing Gorst his first easy win of the WPC, 11-4.

“I felt like this match could go either way,” Gorst admitted later. “But he was really nervous. Too nervous to put up a fight. And I was thankful to not have to play Filler. That's the toughest match ever!”

The last spot in the semifinals was earned by the 30-year-old Szewczyk, who rolled to an easy 11-5 win over Zielinski.

Interesting in Szewczyk's appearance in the final four was that he is not a WNT pro, earning his entry into the event through the WPA, which was allotted just four spots. As such, Szewczyk was earning no WNT points and would not be eligible to qualify for Team Europe in either the Reyes Cup or Mosconi Cup even if he eventually won the title.

“I tried to sign on as WNT after the WPA announced that Matchroom events would receive sanctioned status,” Szewczyk said. “But it was too late. It was a difficult decision for me to not sign with WNT right away, but I felt I needed to stay with the Polish federation at that time for family reasons. I am on their ‘pop-up' list for entry when spots open up but I can't earn points for Matchroom invitational events.”

“The 128-player WNT list was full before he attempted to join,” noted Matchroom Pool boss Emily Frazer. “I understand players had to make different choices. Right now, it's all about looking ahead to 2025. Nothing has been established on how those spots will change. We're here to help players join the tour, but it takes patience.”

Armed and Dangerous

There is an intimidation factor with Eklent Kaci. Sure, he is a man child (well over 6 feet and 230 pounds), with jet black hair and always displays a stoic demeanor. But the intimidation at the table comes from the manner in which he slowly stalks the layout, never showing emotion. No matter the score, opponents know that sooner or later, Kaci is going to punish you with a string of four or five racks. And while his break is menacing and he can string racks with the best of them, Kaci can also suffocate an opponent with safeties to gain the opportunities he seeks.

Such was the case in his semifinals match against Chua. Confident and quick, Chua raced to a 6-2 lead. But left without a clear shot following the subsequent break, Chua attempted a safety play that didn't pan out. From that point on, Kaci controlled virtually every rack. By the time the 30-year-old Filipino had open shots, he found himself pressing and missed. Kaci smothered Chua with nine consecutive rack wins to coast to an 11-6 victory and a spot in the final.

Back in action, Kaci looked as strong as ever with his runner-up finish.

“I missed a couple of chances,” Chua commiserated. “He is really used to the environment, so he stayed patient and played really well.”

“I just waited for my opportunity,” Kaci said.

Gorst's semifinal matchup with Szewczyk was another chapter in his weeklong dramedy. Trailing early, 4-2, Gorst stormed back to take a 6-4 lead. After Szewczyk tied the match, 6-6, Gorst took advantage of a pair of misses by the Pole to seize a seemingly commanding 10-6 lead. But he missed a long combination shot in the next rack and Szewczyk closed to 10-7. In the next rack, Szewczyk missed a 7 ball that rattled in one corner and rolled across the table into the opposite corner to narrow the margin to 10-8.

“I thought, ‘Here we go again!'” Gorst said. “I used to get down on myself when I wasn't running out when I had the chance and players started coming back on me. But this week I was able to run out when I had to.”

“I know I made the ball, but it is the shot I am most upset about in the tournament,” Szewczyk admitted. “Even though it didn't cost me the rack, I believe it cost me a chance for a comeback. I should have been strong and not missed the initial shot. The miss changed the dynamic of the game.”

While Ruysink paced back and forth behind the bleachers like an expectant father, Gorst and Szewczyk engaged in a nervy safety battle that eventually left an open table for Gorst. True to form, he ran out when he most needed it to secure his spot in the final with an 11-8 win.

❜Here We Go Again!'

By the time the extended race-to-15 title match got underway, Gorst was already running on fumes.

“I was too tired to think about anything, really,” Gorst said. “I knew it was going to be a long match, so I didn't really feel any pressure at the start.”

Following theatrical introductions and in front of the week's largest crowd, Gorst kicked off the proceedings by running the first rack from the break. It would prove to be a tease, with the 29-game finale producing a total of four break-and-runs.

For the next five racks, Gorst was forced to control the rack through safety play, and he forged leads of 5-1 and 6-2, aided by several highlight reel jump shots.

“He was breaking better at the start, and he made a few great jumps that helped him get the lead,” Kaci acknowledged.

Alternating between his standard cue and the addition of a 3-inch extension that he kept in his left pocket on almost every shot, Gorst authored his second run-out from the break to push to an 8-3 advantage. But with a chance to extend the lead, Gorst misread squeezing the 3 ball by an obstructing object ball and hung the 3 in a corner pocket.

Kaci responded to cut the lead, then took advantage of a pair of Gorst misses to narrow the lead to 8-6.

“The first time he missed a ball, I could see his mind change a little,” noted Kaci. “I could see he was feeling pressure. I felt really comfortable.”

“You try not to think, ❜I should be ahead by more games,'” Gorst admitted. “It doesn't make sense to think that way, but it's tough sometimes. But the way this whole tournament went, this is what has happened over and over. So, I started thinking different. I told myself to just take it one rack at a time. It's really tough, but that's the goal.”

The Albanian looked to be on his way to further trimming the lead when he missed a 4 ball and bumped the 9 into the jaws of a corner pocket, leaving an easy carom for Gorst.

The duo traded racks to 10-8, when Kaci once again missed a 4 ball with the chance to trim the lead to a game.

“I don't know how I missed the 4 ball,” Kaci lamented. “I was trying to open up a few balls and I don't know how I missed it.”

Gorst and Kaci traded games after each scratched on the break, and Gorst ran from the break for the final time to gain a seemingly commanding 13-9 lead.

A dry break by Gorst allowed Kaci to cut the lead to 13-10. In the following game, Gorst seemed to have a chance to put the match away, but missed a long, diagonal shot on the 7.

At 13-11, Kaci produced his only break-and-run to finally get within a single game. And at 13-12, a Gorst safety attempt left the 2-9 dead to the side pocket. The shot required Kaci to kick two rails and barely squeeze past an object ball to make proper contact.

Kaci's aim was true, and the 9 rocketed into the side pocket, tying the score at 13-13 and bringing the crowd to its feet.

Seemingly gaining in confidence with every shot, Kaci controlled the following rack and, incredibly, reached the hill first, 14-13.

With a television break being taken, the two left the arena to collect themselves for the dramatic finish. Gorst was first back to the arena. Upon Kaci's return, however, the crowd cheered.

“I noticed that,” Gorst admitted. “But it didn't matter. It didn't push me to try harder. At that point, I'm already a zombie and just trying my best.”

Wondering yet again if his opponent would break and run on the hill, Gorst looked on as Kaci broke. The unwelcoming pockets denied the Albanian.

Carefully, Gorst negotiated the rack, running out to send the match to a deciding game… essentially a single rack for $150,000 (the difference between first and second place).

“That was the key run out,” Gorst insisted. “It was really tough, and you can't give up the table.”

“Of course, I break dry,” Kaci added. “He made a nice run out there.”

Pausing at the head of the table, Gorst took a deep breath and stepped into a wide stance for the final break shot of the World Pool Championship.

Obediently, the 1 ball raced to the side pocket and the 2 ball traveled up table and back down.

“The 2 was traveling to where I wanted it,” recalled Gorst.

Had the 2 rolled a few inches more, Gorst would have had a shot at the corner pocket. A few inches less, and the side pocket would have been available. Instead, the 2 came to rest covered up by the 9 ball.

Gorst opted to push out, sending the cue ball to the top rail.

“I pushed to where I thought he would give it back to me, which he did,” said Gorst. “It was a tricky shot, and I did about as well as I could.”

Kaci was left with one offensive option, a cross-side bank on the 2, which he attempted. It missed, but Gorst was forced to play safe again. This time he left the attempt short, giving Kaci the first open look of the rack.

Kaci pocketed the 2 in the top left corner pocket. The cue ball bounced back down table toward the 3 ball. It nudged the 3, leaving no clear shot.

Kaci opted to bump the 3 up table and send the cue ball cross corner and in behind several object balls. Instead, the cue barely glanced the 3 and the cue ball scooted from one side of the table directly into the corner pocket.

“I was trying to hit the 3 thicker and just hit it too thin,” Kaci explained. “As soon as I saw how thin he hit the 3, I thought, ❜Uh oh! It went wrong!'” Gorst remembered.

With cue ball in hand and just six balls separating him from $250,000 and the world title, Gorst went to work.

“It was really all about the first three balls,” he said. “After that, it was easy. Except I made it tough on myself by getting on top of the 9 for the 9 ball! I'm perfect at finding the worst spot on the table.

“But even with ball in hand, time goes really fast when you don't have an extension. And I was struggling with the clock. That makes it really tough.”

Not tough enough, though, as Gorst worked his way to perfect shape on the case 9 ball. All of Gorst's close calls and doubts vanished with the 9 ball, as it found its way comfortably into the bottom of the corner pocket.

Sapped of energy, Gorst could do little more than toss his cue on the table and walk over to shake hands with Kaci, two warriors who seemed to appreciate the magnitude of the battle they'd just treated pool fans to.

“It was a good world championship final,” Kaci said. “Well deserved to Fedor. I thought I played well. I thought he missed a few more balls than me. It could have been different if I had taken advantage of the chances I missed to tie the match. But it also could have been different if he didn't miss some of the shots he missed. He usually doesn't miss.

Gorst jumped through plenty of hoops in winning the WPC title.

“The money is a big deal,” Kaci continued. “But at this point the trophy is more important. I really want to add the World 9-Ball Championship to the World 10-Ball Championship. This is the most prestigious tournament we've played. Everything here was great. And it was a really nice week for me. Second place here. I moved up to the top five. Announced for Reyes Cup and most likely Mosconi Cup. It feels good.”

Back at the Narcissus, the new world champion is devouring his hamburger and scrolling through his phone. It's after 4 a.m. and he has a next-day flight to Dubai for the Knight Shot Open, after which he will head to Hanoi, where he's built a huge fan base, for exhibitions and appearances. Few of the men players are as brand aware as Gorst.

“Hanoi is going to be great,” he understates.

But while pool pros seem to favor luxury watches and designer wear, don't expect to see Gorst spending his $250,000 top prize frivolously.

“I'll probably dump it into real estate,” Gorst says, matter of factly. “I'm not going to buy anything that I will later think I shouldn't have done. I might buy something for myself, or Kristina or my mom. But it won't be anything crazy.”

Give Gorst credit. He's treating his career like a table layout. The 9 is “retirement” and, like all good pros, he's constantly thinking three balls ahead. He's in the process of building a “team” to handle social media and business matters. He wants to build a self-sustaining brand so that he can concentrate on pool during his peak years, while at the same time building a mini business empire.

“I don't want to still be playing pool at 50,” he says. “I'd like to quit at 40. I might still play some, but I don't want to be dependent on tournaments. It's hard. It's not fun traveling like this when you're 40 and have kids and family. In the last four weeks I've been to the U.K., from the U.K. to Virginia, back home for one day, then to New Orleans and then here. And I go from here to Dubai and Hanoi. The travel makes you think about those things.”

At this moment, however, the hours have taken their toll and Gorst is ready for a short rest. With that, he curls up with his newly earned World Pool Championship trophy and closes his eyes.

Assessing the World Pool Championship

Matchroom Multi Sport CEO Emily Frazer weighs in on the “Crown Jewel of the World Nineball Tour.”

What's your impression of the WPC?

It's been phenomenal. Players are all tagging us with messages, “Best setup.” We really transformed this arena into the best stage for any championship ever.

And you can see that there's a lot of money on the line. Even reaching the quarterfinals and semifinals is like title-winning money in a lot of events. There's so much more pressure to reach those spots. More at stake. It's so tense for the players but they seem to be enjoying themselves.

While the venue was sensational, the crowds were sparse. What can be done in the future to change that?

It's the start of a new event here. We had 4.1 million views on live stream this week (before the final). We really tried hard this week to get this event shown in more and more territories. We had decent crowd Friday night and for the final, and the atmosphere was great. Atmosphere changes everything, as we know from Mosconi Cup. In a perfect world, all your sessions would be evening sessions. It's just a case of us being in a new territory and learning things like what times work and what times don't work, where the market is. It's about creating awareness in a new area. It's different. For a first event, I think this has been amazing. We learn from what we do and push on for the next time. I do think there's a demand here.

Going forward, Matchroom's Frazer (right) would like to see more feature table action and shot clocks at every table.

Looking ahead at 2025, what kind of improvements or changes do you envision?

For one, the dynamic of the tournament changes when you get down to using just the final three tables. I'd like to have more time with that setup. It all changes. We'd love a few more days of this. I'm not sure we can do that, but it would be fun.

Also, some parts of the format didn't work in regards to the shot clocks. Everything was running too long. We've used the shot clock on the TV tables throughout during this tournament. Personally, I think it's partly unfair and we should either use it on all tables or none in the rounds before the final 16. But we're also fighting for viewers and when players take too long on the streamed matches, people are just going to turn off their TV. We asked the top 16 about using the clock on the TV tables from the start. They agreed that it might be unfair but understood the reason for doing it on the TV tables.

I believe that the shot clock should be on all tables at all times. To be honest, I'm not sure we can do that. That would require a referee and shot clock person at every table, but it's the world championship and there is so much at stake. The players should have that level of officiating there. The magnitude of this event this year made us realize how important that is going forward. We'll try to focus on that.

But there's already concern about the level of referees available.

There's a hole in that element in pool. There is no referee academy. I'd like to think we can grab that bull by the horns and level up for the World Pool Championship. We're developing. We want to use local referees and the good thing is that we are here for 10 years, so we can build the level of referee.