Jeffrey De Luna put up a masterful performance on the cue table, whitewashing Filipino-Canadian Alex Pagulayan, 11-0, early Thursday morning (Manila time) to stay in the hunt for a spot in the Round of 16 of the 2021 U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship in Atlantic City.
Of the three Filipinos still alive from the loser's side of the double-loss elimination tournament, De Luna might be the strongest bet as he looked outstanding against Pagulayan, the 2005 champion. He played so well that Pagulayan wasn't able to pocket a single ball in the entire match.
"I tried to give him a tough game. I played a lot of safety. I forced him to have to kick a lot," De Luna said in an exclusive interview with ESPN5. "I just want to make it to the Final 16 where it's going to be a knockout format. I placed third two years ago."
De Luna, semifinalist in the 2019 edition of the tournament, sank all 99 balls over the 11 racks and didn't allow Pagulayan to break a rack even once. He next faces former champion Ralf Souquet, with the loser getting eliminated.
Five other Filipinos are still in contention, with three having a direct shot and the others needing to thread the eye of the needle from the loser's bracket.
Dennis Orcollo, Johann Gonzales Chua, and Rodrigo "Edgie" Geronimo are all one win away from a spot in the next round as they have stayed undefeated so far in the tournament.
Orcollo defeated Miguel Angel Giron Mendieta (9-0), Paul Spaanstra (9-2), Corey Deuel (11-1), and Alex Kazakis (11-3) and is now scheduled to take on Oliver Szolnoki of Hungary.
Chua has looked dominant in the competitions, beating Steven Way (9-1), Kelson Juan (9-2), Christopher Lawson (11-5), and Pijus Labutis (11-6) ahead of his matchup opposite Poland's Mieszko Fortunski for a spot in the Last 16.
Geronimo has also looked good in his first four matches as he easily handled the challenge of James Conn (9-1), Hussein Al Sayyafi (9-5), and Toh Lian Han (11-2), but had to survive a hill-hill match against De Luna (11-10). He will be up against Austrian Max Lechner next.
The other Filipinos competing from the loser's bracket are Carlo Biado and Roland Garcia, who will both be facing tough opposition in Daniel Schneider and Niels Feijen, respectively.
Warren Kiamco, Jeffrey Ignacio, Roberto Gomez, Daniel Dagotgot, James Aranas, and Dan Segui have all lost two matches, leading to their elimination. Mika Immonen, Thorsten Hohmann, Kelly Fisher, Earl Strickland, and Pagulayan were also among the big names to fall out on Day 3.
De Luna is hopeful that the rest of the Philippine contingent continues to play well in the tournament.
"Dennis is playing very well. I'm hoping that a Filipino will win or at least reach the Finals," he said. "It's anybody's game here. Everyone's playing well, especially the bets from Europe. Joshua Filler, the defending champion is also on the loser's side so it's really wide open."