National cueist Ahmad Taufiq Murni (2nd R), national coach Lim Tat Hwe (3rd R), Brunei Darussalam Cue Sports Association president Awang Musa Awang Hj Bagol (3rd L) and the team's sponsors posing for a photo at Brunei International Airport in Berakas yesterday. Taufiq will be competing at the World 9-Ball China Open in Shanghai today. BT/Yee Chun Leong
Ahmad Taufiq Murni is ready to rub shoulders with the best cueists in the world.
The national cueist is set to face Mohammad Hassan Al Hosaini of United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the first round of the World 9-Ball China Open at the Shanghai Pudong Yuanshen Stadium today. The US$333,200 event has attracted the best in the world for both the men's and women's events.
The 64-player main draw has current World No 1 Thorsten Hohmann of Germany, the trio of Filipinos Lee Vann Corteza (No 2), Carlo Brado (No 3) - who is in the same bracket as Taufiq - and Dennis Orcollo (No 11).
Finland's Mika Immonen (No 5), Nick Ekonomopoulos of Greece (No 6), the duo of Darren Appleton (No 7) and Chris Melling (No 9) of Great Britain, Taiwanese Ko Pin Yi (No 8) and American Shane Van Boening (No 10) are also in the fray for the title.
Taufiq last competed at the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) event back in 2011 in Beijing where he finished in the last-32, a memorable outing for the Bruneian capped by the 9-3 win over former World No 1 Ralf Souquet in the round of 64.
Taufiq is in good form after winning the Miri City Mayfest International 9-Ball last month by defeating Rashid Samy of Sabah 10-6 in the final at the Krokop Snooker Centre in Miri. It may have been a while, but the 25-year-old still remembers the feeling of playing at the international level and is hoping to be able to produce the goods.
"I want to keep the momentum going from my last competition, but the level and standard is a lot tougher in China," said Taufiq at Brunei International Airport in Berakas yesterday. "I'm feeling really good now. It is going to be tough and all I can do is try my best.
"I've been working on my game ever since I returned from Miri by sparring against teammates in the national team," he added. Mohammad Hassan is no stranger to Taufiq as he beat the same opponent 9-6 at the 4th Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) in Incheon, Korea in July last year.
National cue sports coach Lim Tat Hwe is joining Taufiq in China and is hoping his charges will be able to better his performance from two years ago. "Training has been alright and I do hope that he will be able to better his performance from the last time that he competed there," said Lim.
"It doesn't matter who is on the name list. Most important is for him to perform to his capabilities, and he should be able to beat anyone," he added. Awang Musa Awang Hj Bagol, the president of the Brunei Darussalam Cue Sports Association (BCSA), was present at the airport to see the duo off.
"Taufiq will be able to gain more knowledge and experience from this trip. The world's top players will be competing and we know he can win matches," said Musa. "We want to thank the sponsors (Kien Sing (Tan) Auto Parts Co, Yuan Thong Enterprise and Sin Hing Auto Supply) for making it possible for us to participate in such an important event," he added.
The winner will take home US$40,000 while the runner-up half the amount.