Unheralded 30-year-old Greek Cypriot Anthony Brabin dealt Indian hopes a big blow when he knocked out National champion Pankaj Advani 5-3 en route to the pre-quarterfinals of the ONGC-IBSF World Snooker Championship here on Sunday.
However, bringing some cheer to the Indian camp were the Mumbai-based Yasin Merchant who overcame compatriot Alok Kumar 5-1 to advance to the round of 16. Local challenger Lucky Vatnani, who took out Girish Rajashekar 5-2, and Kamal Chawla, a 5-4 winner over Alex Borg of Malta, also reached the pre-quarters.
Meanwhile, China’s Tian Pengfei, despite notching two century breaks of 118 and 101, was beaten 4-5 by Thailand’s Supoj Saenia 4-5 while title favourite Alfie Burden of England struggled to beat Nader Khan Sultani of Afghanistan 5-3 in a scrappy encounter.
Playing fluently and to his strength, Brabin, an advertising executive from Cyprus, had Advani under pressure from the start when he took the first frame, in which he trailed by 59 points. Brabin went on to take a 4-1 advantage before Advani reduced the leeway to 3-4. However, Brabin effectively sealed the match with a 54 break in the eighth to eliminate the India No.1.
“I came into this tournament wanting to do well, but beating Pankaj is huge for me. Even when I led 4-1, I was careful and when he made it 3-4, I realised I had to go for my shots. The last time I met him in Holland (2004 World championship), I was leading 2-0 but he beat me 4-2,” said Brabin.
Brabin’s long distance potting came in for high praise from the discerning. “Yes, I put in a lot of practice on this shot, especially after I changed my cue a month back. I also corrected my alignment, bringing in the elbow that used to stick out. I guess, today, I got most of these shots right,” he said.
Advani better known for his billiards achievements that include six World titles apart from one in snooker, was on tenterhooks almost right through the match, missing sitters and with the run of the green also not favouring him, the defeat did not come as a huge surprise.
“All credit goes to Brabin. I have no excuses. Yes, it is disappointing, but I failed to finish off frames that I should have won, especially the first and fifth. I missed crucial balls and was not striking well today,” said Advani.
Joining Advani on the sidelines were Manan Chandra, who went down 3-5 to Anthony McGill of Scotland and Aditya Mehta who lost 3-5 to Gavin Pantall of Wales.