Pankaj Advani has positioned himself for a sixth National billiards title. The defending champion and the top seed took control of the semifinal against Sourav Kothari right from the first game and raced to a 4-0 win in under two hours in the Manisha National billiards & snooker championship at the PYC Hindu Gymkhana here on Thursday.
Advani will met Balachandra Bhaskar in the title match; a repeat of last year's final at Chennai. Bhaskar, trailing 2-3, beat Alok Kumar in a seven-game thriller, taking the last two games with as many century breaks.
It's the 26-year-old's eighth entry into the final. He was precise and consistent against an opponent who had entered the semifinal for the first time.
After an anxious quarterfinal against his PSPB teammate Rupesh Shah, the two-time gold medal winner at the Asian Games in Doha and Guangzhou, Advani carved out two half century breaks in the opening game, moved into top gear to notch a 114 in the second game and then proceeded to win the third and fourth with two half century breaks.
“The tables are quite fast. I have not played on these tables for some time. It's a challenge. It's difficult to control the balls when playing under pressure and against other seeded players.
“But this format (100 and 150 up format) is better; it makes a level playing field for all the players,'' said Advani.
After a mentally draining quarterfinal that he won 4-3, Kothari was looking forward to compete against a champion player. “He did not leave anything for me when he left the table,'' said Kothari.
The results: Billiards (semifinals): Pankaj Advani (PSPB) beat Sourav Kothari (PSPB) 4-0 [151 (53, 81)-31, 150 (114)-106 (92), 151 (56)-81, 151 (85)-34].
B. Bhaskar (Kar) bt Alok Kumar (PSPB) 4-3 [150 (123)-30, 121 (102)-150 (102), 9-152 (113), 19 -151 (124), 151 (114)-118 (82), 150 (108)-103 (85)].