Sports

Hoàng waves the flag for Việt Nam’s billiards

Dương Quốc Hoàng is now in the same pool with many globally well-known players as he has become the first Vietnamese cueist to join the World Professional Nineball Tour Corporation (WNT).

Billiards

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Dương Quốc Hoàng is one of the best Vietnamese billiard players. He has made Việt Nam a nine-ball highlight in the world. Photo of Matchroom Pool

Thanh Hà

When Dương Quốc Hoàng signed his name on the contract, he opened a new chapter in his career and the history of billiards in Việt Nam, and became the first Vietnamese cueist to join the World Professional Nineball Tour Corporation (WNT).

Only cueists in the world’s top 128 can sign contracts. After becoming a WNT member, they can take part in Invitational Events such as the Mosconi Cup, Reyes Cup, PLP and Master Series, which deliver huge bonuses to high-ranking players.

At the same time, the WNT Pro players also receive byes to the final rounds of Opens and many other prestigious events, including the World Pool Championship, US Open, Hanoi Open and World Cup of Pool.

To mark the milestone, Hoàng posted his photo collage of the contract and simply wrote: ‘Let just go!!!’

The 36-year-old is now in the same pool with many globally well-known players such as Ko Ping-Chung, Ko Pin-Yi, Joshua Filler, Jayson Shaw, Shane van Boening, Francisco Sanchez Ruiz, and Fedor Gorst.

Billiard talent

Born and raised in Quảng Ninh Province, Hoàng moved to HCM City when he was 20 to find a new life, although he did not have any idea of what he was going to do.

The youngster became an employee of a billiards club, where the boss agreed to arrange his accommodation.

Working 12 hours per day, Hoàng took charge of racking the pool tables, serving food and drinks, and doing some other work. In the remaining time, he practised billiards, simply because he liked coloured balls.

The boss recognised Hoàng’s talents, and he became the first coach of the player, who was later well-known all over the world as Hoàng ‘The Martian’.

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Dương Quốc Hoàng is announced the first official Vietnamese WNT pro for 2024 by Matchroom Pool. Photo of Matchroom Pool

When ‘coach’ Lưu Minh Phúc, a member of HCM City Billiards Team, asked if Hoàng wanted to be a professional, he said that at first he just wanted to play for fun.

“I think it was destiny. It was billiards that chose me. I had never thought of being a pro who could play at the world level,” said Hoàng.

However, the more he practised, the better he was and the more he loved the sport, and he became addicted to the cue and balls.

“I was lucky and I had opportunities. After more than 10 years of hard-working and practising, my effort paid off,” said Hoàng.

Hoàng is still deeply grateful every time he talks about how Phúc changed his life.

“He is my brother and trainer who has helped me a lot in life. He created conditions for me to play and even go abroad to attend international tournaments,” said Hoàng.

“Truly, I am so lucky to have met a benefactor who helped me voluntarily, so I can be who I am today.”

In his first national championship in 2011, Hoàng was stopped in the second round. However, he made remarkable progress with a gold in the National Sports Games and a bronze in the national championship in 2014.

Three years later, he became a national champion and secured silver at the 29 SEA Games.

“Wearing the national jersey at the SEA Games was the pride of my family and me. I played well and only lost to a Filipino rival in the final. A SEA Games silver pushed me to the decision of being a pro player,” said Hoàng. “I only live once, and I have to follow my passion.”

Hoàng not only dominated domestic tournaments but also made his mark internationally.

World level

In 2019, the world No 37 Hoàng made a big bang at the Beijing Open when he defeated No 2 Shane Van Boening of the US in the first round.

Four years later, he proved his ability by beating the defending 9-ball champion twice, at the World Pool Championship 2023 and Las Vegas Open.

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Dương Quốc Hoàng in action at the UK Open 2023. — Photo of Matchroom Pool

Other losers against Hoàng were former No 1 Chris Melling, former world champion Ko Pin-yi, the world 10-ball champion Wojciech Szewczyk, and WPA World Blackball Champion Jayson Shaw.

His achievement of getting into the world’s top eight in 2023 was a milestone for Việt Nam’s nine-ball history.

“I took part in the tournament without a high-ranking target because my performance was not great at that time while it was a world championship, a colossal event with many powerful competitors,” said Hoàng.

“It’s a bit stressful, but I still tried to play smart, and think about winning or losing. I also had luck standing by my side so that I could beat such strong players.”

Speaking about his countryman, Nguyễn Anh Tuấn, Việt Nam’s second WNT player, said: “In Việt Nam’s billiard community, Hoàng is one level above all the others in terms of international achievement.”

“He has high stability in playing style. He calculates carefully on every shot, and his strong mind is one of the factors that bring him to the top place of national billiards. He has become one of the most highly rated players in tournaments locally and internationally.”

Theo Vietnamnews