05/29/2017HO CHI MINH CITY – The podium at the end of the World Cup in Ho Chi Minh showed a complete European foursome. The Belgian Eddy Merckx was on top with the flower crown and took the trophy and the 8.000 euro prize. Therefore he showed in the Vietnamese million city that he is back on the main stage of the world’s billiards. Thanks to his victory in the final against Torbjörn Blomdahl (40-32 in 17 innings), Merckx saved his position on the ranking. The Belgian national anthem was finally played for one of the world's biggest stars in the professional billiard circuit. Fifteen months after his last World Cup victory in Luxor, Merckx again demonstrated his huge qualities in Ho Chi Minh: his technique, tactics, the perfect stroke and his killing instinct. ,,I've been rewarded two times for my fights’’, he said shortly before the final after he beat Marco Zanetti in a close finish in the semi-finals 40-39. But once he was in the mood, Merckx dealt also with Torbjörn Blomdahl after his two attacks (twice ten) in the final match and finished the job with winning runs of 7, 3, 8, 2 and 3 in the last seven innings. The final victory was well deserved. Merckx was also the best match winner (11 innings) and glittered with high runs. Torbjörn Blomdahl, happy with his World Cup performance, said afterwards: ,,I made too many technical mistakes, which made Merckx the worthwhile winner.’’ But, as the Swede concluded: what was Ho Chi Minh again a proof that three cushion has made such a huge development. And for sure it is admirable how the older stars like Blomdahl himself, Marco Zanetti, Eddy Merckx, Dick Jaspers, Frédéric Caudron and Dani Sánchez remain on stage in this flourishing era of their sport. Eddy Merckx paved the way for the final by victories over Trung Hau Do Nguyen (40-11 in 11), Nguyen Quoc Nguyen (40-39 in 30), Chi Yeon Cho (40-33 in 15), Marco Zanetti (40-39 in 31) and finally Torbjörn Blomdahl. The Swede crossed swords with Hoang Hung Ho (40-26 in 20), Jae Guen Kim (40-35 in 27), Nikos Polychronopoulos (40-28 in 15), Murat Naci Coklu (40-29 in 19) before he was stopped by Merckx on the way to gold. With his victory Merckx remained eleventh in the world ranking, which is led by Dick Jaspers ahead of Dani Sánchez and Frédéric Caudron The third World Cup in Ho Chi Minh City goes into history as the tournament with a record of high runs: 44 in total of ten and more: 26 Asian, 18 European. To compare, the World Cup in Bursa this year had 39 runs of ten and more, the World Cup in Luxor 32. Eddy Leppens shone with twenty (!) in the pre-tournament, Sung-Won Choi with a 19-start in the main draw, Eddy Merckx even with 18, 14, 11 and 10, Torbjörn Blomdahl with 16, 13 and twice 10. The European hegemony, with four players in the semi-finals, came into view after the multitude of outstanding and exciting matches. The strong Vietnamese and Koreans were part of the show in the Ho Chi Minh arena, with many fascinating fights. The match between Murat Naci Coklu and Minh Cam Ma was one of the highlights. The Turk and Vietnamese finished with a draw in the regular part. In the shoot-out, both players scored seven times, then Coklu won 2-0. The local hero, Nguyen Quoc Nguyen, ran into Eddy Merckx. The Belgian fighting machine came back from far (run 14) and defeated the eccentric Vietnamese 40-39. Nikos Polychronopoulos and Tayfun Tasdemir also excelled in a brilliant match. The Greek/Turkish collision was taken by Polychronpoulos after 40-40 (after Tasdemir's great sprint), Poly five from the spots, Tasdemir twice. The best match was from Eddy Merckx (40 in 11). The number one of the world and the world champion were thrown out in the first round of the tournament. Dick Jaspers lost to Dong-Koong Kang, Dani Sánchez was outplayed by Quyet Chien Tran. Jasper's position in the world rankings was in danger, but one round later, also Frédéric Caudron disappeared from the stage. Sung-Won Choi, with 19 from the break, Torbjörn Blomdahl, with 16 to the finish and Eddy Merckx with two masterful finishes to 40-39, certainly belonged to the big stars of the tournament. The semi-finals: Eddy Merckx-Marco Zanetti 40-39 (31) The Belgian was on his best in the last part of this match. As the Belgian also found his rhythm in the earlier match to beat Vietnamese Nguyen (run 14, 40-39 win), Merckx sprang to life in time against Marco Zanetti. He didn’t look far until then: a poor start (9-9 in 8), no positions, no high runs, no confidence. But on a 28-18 for Zanetti, the heat was on for Merckx. The 10-run closed the gap (31-31 in the 22nd), then an exciting battle came up with two players under high tension. Zanetti ran to 38 with a five and missed three times for his last ball. Merckx took the ultimate opportunity and finished four in the 31st inning. ,,We spoke shortly after Marco's last miss’’, Merckx said later. ,,He couldn’t understand how he could miss. But that’s billiards, I told him, you can only win when you make your last.’’ Torbjörn Blomdahl-Murat Naci Coklu 40-29 (19) The Swedish returned to a World Cup final after a short hiccup in his career. The victory over Murat Naci Coklu resigns in the second half of the match. Blomdahl runs 10 in the 8th inning to 21-13. Three innings later, Coklu returns to 22-21. The match is levelled at 28-28, from then Blomdahl prevails: 35-29 is the lead up to 40-29. ,,We played a difficult match, in which we both made beautiful points’’, Blomdahl commented. ,,At the end I was better than my opponent.’’ The incident with his (Molinari) cue when he needed an extension for one of his last points? ,,I was so nervous that I couldn’t screw the extension on my cue.’’ In the three World Cups in Ho Chi Minh City, Tayfun Tasdemir won the first in 2015, Frédéric Caudron the second in 2016. The main tournament averages were extremely high in those years: 1.776 in 2015, 1.672 in 2016. The final ranking in Ho Chi Minh: 1 Eddy Merckx 1.923-18 2 Torbjörn Blomdahl 1.959-16 3 Murat Naci Coklu 1.773-10 4 Marco Zanetti 1. 728-11 5 Myung-Woo Cho 1.966-15 6 Chi-Cheon Cho 1.915-15 7 Nikos Polychronopoulos 1.380-12 8 Jae-Ho Cho 1.480-11 9 Can Capak 2.051-13 10 Tayfun Tasdemir 2.051-12 11 Quyet Chien Tran 1.945-16 12 Sung-Won Choi 1.837-19 13 Dong-Koong Kang 1.756-7 14 Frédéric Caudron 1.717-8 15 Nguyen Quoc Nguyen 1.490-10 16 Jae Guen Kim 1.442-7. The new world ranking: 1 Dick Jaspers 404 2 Dani Sánchez 402 3 Frédéric Caudron 384 4 Marco Zanetti 359 5 Nikos Polychronopoulos 295 6 Torbjörn Blomdahl 290 7 Murat Naci Coklu 237 8 Haeng Jik Kim 229 9 Jérémy Bury 225 10 Sameh Sidhom 217 11 Eddy Merckx 212 12 Quyet Chien Tran 206 13 Jae-Ho Cho 201 14 Nguyen Quoc Nguyen 197 15 Jung-Han Heo 192 16 Sung Won Choi 186 17 Tayfun Tasdemir 175 18 Minh Cam M 161 19 Eddy Leppens 150 20 Semih Sayginer 147 The ranking of high runs: 1 Eddy Leppens 20 2 Sung-Won Choi 19 3 Eddy Merckx 18 4 Torbjörn Blomdahl 16 4 Quyet Chien Tran 16 6 Myung Woo Cho (2x 15) 6 Quang Hai Dinh 15 6 Chi Yeon Cho 15 6 Jung Ju Shin 15 10 Eddy Merckx 14.