Blazing Advani enters semis

Blazing Advani enters semis

Defending champion and favourite Pankaj Advani demolished long-time rival Alok Kumar in lightning quick time to coast into the semifinals of the National Billiards Championship here on Saturday.

Oozing class and confidence in a somewhat scrappy encounter, Advani produced the goods when it mattered most to wrap up an eventually commanding 4-0 (150 (129)-134 (86), 151 (104)-47, 151 (52)-110 (54), 153 (153)-0) win in 90 minutes to the applause of the small crowd at the KSBA hall. In the semifinal on Sunday, Advani will take on two-time world champion Rupesh Shah, who beat veteran Devendra Joshi 4-1.

Karnataka's main man and six-time runner-up B Bhaskar kept his hope of ending the jinx alive by outlasting Brijesh Damani 4-2 in a hard-fought quarterfinal while talented youngster Dhvaj Haria prevailed over seasoned Siddharth Parikh 4-2 in an engaging battle.

Advani, who hasn't dropped a frame at all in this tournament, has had some tetchy battles with the 49-year-old Alok. When Advani was an upcoming youngster, sweeping everything and everyone before him, Alok figured out that one way to stop him was disrupt his rhythm. Advani loves to play fast and Alok frustrated his fellow PSPB colleague by taking his own sweet time for his shots.

The time-delaying tactic hampered the flow of Advani who ended up making uncharacteristic errors out of frustration. While the 18-time world champion figured out the ploy and has dealt with it admirably over the years, Alok seemed to be bringing back the strategy from the deep freezer.

He played the opening frame at his own pace and jumped into a huge lead after a break of 86 points. And even when he lost position, he didn't allow Advani to run away with the frame by ensuring the three balls weren't in a good position. Advani played and missed a few, the frustrations clearly showing on his face. However, Alok fluffed the lines with the opening frame in sight and Advani made him pay dearly by slamming an unfinished break of 129 points.

The 32-year-old Advani then hit another century, a superb break of 104 points to jump into a 2-0 lead. Not the one to walk away from a fight, veteran Alok, who has won all national titles except 6-red snooker, then hit back in the third frame with a fine break of 54 points. Advani suddenly looked erratic, missing some regulation shots. Alok too struggled to get another decent break and the frame sat nicely poised. Advani then pounced on a chance to take a commanding 3-0 lead.

With the match almost in his pocket, Advani then came out firing all cylinders in the final frame, blasting a break of 153 points, finishing the final red pot with a blaze to seal another straightforward win.

Results: Quarterfinals: Pankaj Advani (PSPB) bt Alok Kumar (PSPB) 4-0 (150 (129)-134 (86), 151 (104)-47, 151 (52)-110 (54), 153 (153)-0); Dhvaj Haria (PSPB) bt Siddharth Parikh (Rlys) 4-2 (150-48, 60-151 (94), 152 (137)-61, 8-152 (98), 150 (96)-126 (77), 150 (141)-0); B Bhaskar (Kar) bt Brijesh Damani (PSPB) 4-2 (9-150 (60, 51), 150-147, 151 (64)-114, 100-150 (60), 150 (147)-90 (90), 151 (94, 57)-40); Rupesh Shah (PSPB) bt Devendra Joshi (PSPB) 41 (150 (117)-31, 150 (150)-0, 129 (110)-154 (100), 150 (89)-32, 150 (58, 66)-107 (67)).

Semifinal line-up (4 pm): Pankaj Advani vs Rupesh Shah; B Bhaskar vs Dhvaj Haria.

Pre-quarterfinals: P Advani bt K Venkatesham (Rlys) 3-0 (153 (73, 70)-42, 150 (124)-47, 150 (119)-16); Alok K bt Sundeep Gulati (Del) 3-0 (151 (99)-109, 150 (59)-112, 152 (55)-96); Rupesh S bt Rohan Jambu Saria (Mah) 3-0 (150 (91)-38, 150-64, 150 (94)-68); D Joshi bt Aditya Agarwal (Rlys) 3-1 (111 (60)-151, 152 (97)-44, 150 (50)-82, 151-102); B Bhaskar bt S Shrikrishna (TN) 3-1 (21-151 (77), 152 (86)-63, 150-44, 150 (93)-107 (57)); B Damani bt Manan Chandra (PSPB) 3-1 (151 (97)-67, 85-151, 152 (62)-110, 150-81); S Parikh bt Dhruv Sitwala (PSPB) 3-1 (152 (71)-25, 147-151, 150 (70)-126, 154 (128)-0); D Haria bt Sourav Kothari (PSPB) 3-1 (33-150 (125), 150 (150)-0, 151 (149)-2, 150 (79, 71)-136 (136)).

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