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Advani, Alok Kumar in final

Geet Sethi

Pune: Pankaj Advani will meet Punjab's Alok Kumar in the final of the 2010 National billiards championship. The two set up a title clash with the 25-year-old Advani edging out a fighting Dhruv Sitwala 4-2 whilst Alok Kumar came from 0-2 down to win four successive games for a remarkable 4-2 victory against B. Bhaskar here.

When Advani established an early 1-0 advantage, Sitwala appeared understandably tense considering he was playing against the former IBSF World champion and current world professional champion.

Advani's resilience had seen him shrug off a sluggish start in the round robin stage of the Nationals as he came back strongly in the knock-out stage with fluent victories against Venkatesham and Ashok Shandilya .

Digging in

Sitwala after a praiseworthy 3-2 victory against Devendra Joshi in the last 16 had struggled to find form and rhythm in the quarters against Geet Sethi who he defeated 4-2. However Sitwala dug deep into his reserves of dedicated and long practise hours and levelled scores at 1-1.

This was a crucial game that he won because it not only gave his own confidence a boost but also sowed the first seed of doubt into Advani's mind.

Mental strength

The young and competent cueist however, once again revealed his mental strength by not allowing himself to be intimidated at least at such an early stage of the contest and against a player who had never beaten him in the Nationals.

By winning the third Advani once again enjoyed the psychological advantage but Sitwala with his spirited response, levelled scores at 2-2.

However, Advani raised his game when it mattered the most and in cruised to a convincing 4-2 victory. Advani stumbled only once in the last game when he missed on 117 requiring only five points for 150 but reached the finishing line courtesy Sitwala's inability to capitalize.

Bhaskar is recognized as a great practice player with a deep knowledge of the floating white technique of top table play.

That he has been unable to reproduce his practice game in the match arena is well documented. That he managed to finally overcome his own demons in the opening two games speaks well for this tall extremely fit cueist from Bangalore.

However, to outclass a seasoned gritty and ferocious competitor like Kumar he needed to exhibit immense calmness, a quality which seemed to desert him as Kumar won four successive games without any big contribution.

The best-of-nine final will be an interesting contrast between the fluency of youth versus the deep conviction and tactical superiority of experience.

The results: semifinals: Pankaj Advani bt Dhruv Sitwala 4-2 (150(145)-121, 79-151(95), 152(116)-82, 09-151(132), 151(149)-71, 151(117)-44); Alok Kumar bt B. Bhaskar: 4-2 (48-153(115), 87-152(119), 150-112, 151(75)-19, 151-51, 150-25) .

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