Xintong cruises, Advani struggles

Xintong cruises, Advani struggles

Chinese sensation Zhao Xintong dished out an authoritative performance while Indian ace Pankaj Advani yet again struggled to impose himself at the IBSF World Snooker Championship here on Saturday.

After bouncing back with a gritty victory on Friday, 17-year-old Xintong, the runner-up last year in Latvia, swatted aside Poland’s Mateusz Baranowski 4-1 (68-56, 66-15, 56-64, 127 (79)-0, 92-47) at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium as his campaign slowly is gathering wind.

Advani, who appeared to have entered into his zone on Friday, struggled to cope with the conditions for the third time in four days, pulling off a scratchy 4-2 (44-74 (53), 60-32, 12-60, 98 (57)-0, 80 (52)-3, 72 (68)-21) win over Lucky Vatnani.
Kamal Chawla, a dangerous floater, once again oozed plenty of confidence in his 4-1 (99-0,  29-72, 67-28,  92 (84)-7, 121 (79)-6) defeat of Russian Mikhail Terekhov while wild card Manan Chandra showed traces of his old form with a 4-0 (72-1, 59-26,  98 (82)-12,  76-42) destruction of Paul Bason.

Having registered their respective fourth straight win of the group campaign so far, both Advani and Chawla appear all but through to make the last-64 knock-out stage.

Brijesh Damani and Sourav Kothari, the evening campaigners, also notched up easy victories. While Damani, celebrating his 33rd birthday, defeated Farhan Mirza 4-2, Kothari eased past Henrikas Strolis 4-1.

There was good news on the women’s front too with Chitra Magimairaj romping into the last-24 stage after downing Meenal Thakur 3-1 (51-39, 61-71, 52-42, 53-24) and priming herself to top her group and gain the all-important seeding for the knock-outs.

Fast-rising Amee Kamani and Vidya Pillai notched up contrasting victories to maintain their undefeated run and stay on course to make the next phase.

Advani, unusually, has somehow struggled to find his ‘A’ game that one is used to seeing from the 12-time champion. On Friday he showed his class with a 45-minute destruction of Paul Schopf but that’s the amount of time he was taken to by Vatnani in the opening frame itself.

Realising the challenge at his hands, Vatnani controlled the pace of the game very well, hardly allowing Advani an opening. Conjuring two sizeable mini breaks to stay ahead, he clinched the opening frame by potting the brown after Advani suffered an in-off while attempting the same colour.

Advani hit back in the second, although not in a commanding way. While he didn’t commit much errors, his performance in that frame mirrored that of the whole match. Every time he appeared to set himself for a big break, he kept losing position, either hitting the cue ball way too hard or way too softly.

In the second, fourth, fifth and sixth frames, the moment he tried to split the red balls at the top table, the cue ball would unluckily get stuck with the bunch, leaving him extremely frustrated. He, however, didn’t allow that to get the better of himself, playing a more cautious game to seal his fourth victory. Xintong rarely appeared in any trouble whatsoever against the dangerous Baranowski, displaying the brand of aggressive snooker that has been missing by and large in this tournament. Although he didn’t post any century breaks, his speed and accuracy were simply too good for a teenager.

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