2021 Pan American Snooker Championships A victory for Brazil!
After the successful completion of the 2021 Pan American Snooker Seniors, it was time for the exciting and much anticipated 2021 Pan American Snooker
Championships also at the Corner Bank, Toronto, Canada. With the lucrative prize of a two-year World Snooker Tour tour card on offer, the tournament was sure to be a delight and a showcase for the best talent of the pan-American region. Another strong field of Canadians was joined by players from the United States and Canada. After the cancellation of the 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the excitement from all players and spectators was clear to see.
The round-robin group stage consisted of eight groups of five with the top two in each group qualifying for the knockout stage. Matches in the group stage were best of five. Out of a field of 40 players, there were some fantastic matches to start with former professional Itaro Santos of Brazil taking on 2019 quarterfinalist Mike Collier of the United States, and Victor Sarkis of Brazil taking on the newly-crowned Pan American Snooker Seniors champion Ahmed Aly Elsayad. There was also a repeat of the 2019 quarterfinal in which Levi Meiller of Canada took on Renat Denkha of the United States.
With a lot of unknowns and a lot of tough groups, every match was hard to predict and made for a tough battle to qualify for the round of 16. Brazil’s Victor Sarkis started well and stamped his authority in the championships by beating Ahmed Aly Elsayad 3-0, and Itaro Santos started off slowly but came through to beat Mike Collier 3-1 after a strong opening frame from Collier. The talent of the pan-American region really shone through the group stages with Victor Sarkis making a 117 break and Renat Denkha’s break of 108.
With the group stage complete, the last 16 lineup included a strong field of twelve Canadians, three Americans, and one Brazilian. With this strong field of players competitive matches were guaranteed in the knockout rounds, which included Seniors Champion Ahmed Aly Elsayad taking on PABSA President Ajeya Prabhakar in the clash of the round. With the home support behind them, the Canadian players fought hard but many fell in the round of 16 and quarterfinals. Three out of the four semifinalists were non Canadians. This didn’t, however, prevent everyone (home players and home fans included) from getting behind all players still competing in the competition. With many big names out in the group stage and earlier rounds, the last 16 lineup saw Brazil’s Victor Sarkis take on Ahmed Aly Elsayad of the United States, and Renat Denkha of the United States take on the only remaining Canadian, Derrick Claus.
Flying the flag as the last remaining Brazilian, Victor Sarkis had a determined look in his eyes as his match with Ahmed Aly Elsayad went all the way to a deciding frame. In an impossible-to-call final frame, it was the Brazilian who had enough to get himself over the line into the final, winning 4-3. Elsayad, the newly-crowned Seniors Champion, gave it everything to try and make it to the final but couldn’t quite overcome the Brazilian’s energy in a passionate and determined match.
Renat Denkha and Derrick Claus also went all the way to the final frame. With Claus in control at 3-1 up, the match shifted and Denkha showed pure determination to complete a comeback win of 4-3 to reach the final. This was the second time Denkha has reached the final after he lost the 2019 Championships to Igor Figueiredo in Houston, United States. The last remaining Canadian had fallen, so it would be Brazil versus the United States in the final, with Sarkis taking on Denkha in a best-of-nine match.
In front of a packed evening crowd at The Corner Bank, the two players competed for the ultimate prize of a two-year WST tour card and the chance to play the best players in the world. With such a glorious prize on offer, the pressure and tension was clear for all to see, and both players made a tentative start at 1-1. Sarkis then took his determination onto the table and gained control of the match, heading to a 4-1 lead. Only one frame from victory, Sarkis lead convincingly in the sixth frame until he needed only a few more pots to secure a win. But, from the brink of defeat, Denkha produced a composed, tenacious 70 clearance to win the sixth frame on the black and keep his hopes alive. Denkha then took the next frame, really placing the pressure on
Victor to get over the winning line. Denkha was back in the match at 4-3. But Sarkis found what he needed to get himself over the line and win the match 5-3, stopping a potential comeback from Denkha.
There were jubilant celebrations from Sarkis and his Brazilian supporters for this fantastic achievement. With a victory for him, his family and friends, Brazil, and all of the Americas, Sarkis now claims his place on the WST for the 2022 season alongside the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, and current champion Mark Selby. Sarkis’s determination and fight took him to victory after some tough matches and passionate battles along the way. Sarkis’s tears of joy after winning show how much this title means to him and to his family and friends. Sarkis will now be the third Brazilian player to compete on the professional tour, after his fellow countrymen Igor Figueiredo and Itaro Santos. The trophies were presented by PABSA Director of Coaching and former world champion Cliff Thorburn.
The Pan American Billiards and Snooker Association would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made this tournament possible, including the
players who entered, the supporters, the staff at the Corner Bank, and the proprietors of the Corner Bank, John White and Jim Wyche. Snooker in the Americas is back and there will be much to look forward to in the future.