Rupesh Shah gave a gritty performance to beat the seasoned Alok Kumar 6-4 in the final and emerge the champion in the ONGC Asian billiards championship, at the Indore Tennis Club, in Indore on Sunday.
In a high-pressure best-of-11-frames battle, lasting four hours and ten minutes, Shah, a two-time World champion, banked on his mental toughness to bag his maiden Asian title.
Considering the class and rock solid temperament of the two finalists, the final was expected to be a keenly-fought affair. It turned out to be nerve-wracking contest with both giving their best.
Rupesh rode on his break of 52 to win the evenly-fought opening frame and seize the initiative. Following a long-drawn tussle between the two to deny each other an early advantage in the second frame, Alok got the breakthrough to make it 1-1. Leading 95-29, Alok missed a crucial in-off but was lucky that Rupesh could not utilise the chance.
Rupesh looked more focused in the next frame. Even after faltering at 86, he kept his cool and made some difficult in-offs to reach 97 and capped in a superb rebound to pot the red for three points.
Alok takes lead
The contest became even more interesting as Alok scored a century break to draw parity in quick time and got the lead in the next frame with some useful breaks, including two 31s. Rupesh accepted the challenge and showcased his delicate shots to keep the game under control and level the frames by scoring 100 points in one go.
The Ahmedabad-based player grew in confidence and increased the pace of his game to earn breaks of 95 and 100 to go 5-3 up in no time.
Fighting to stay in the match, Alok took the ninth frame with the aid of a 76. In nail-biting the 10th frame, Rupesh was amazingly focused as he gathered his final 36 points and raised his cue out of joy after playing the shot.
“In my first Asian final in 2008, I had lost to Pankaj Advani. This time I was determined to win it. At 3-3, I got back my confidence and told myself, ‘This is the time.’ While getting the last 36 points, I was too determined,” said Rupesh.
Thai cueist Noppon Saengkham rallied from two frames down to beat Pakistan's Muhammad Majid Ali in a thriller and claim the Asian under-21 snooker title.
The results (finals): Billiards: Rupesh Shah (Ind) bt Alok Kumar (Ind) 6-4 (102 (52)-50, 38-101, 100-16, 0-100 (100), 26-100, 101 (100)-5, 100 (95)-0, 100 (100)-0, 11-100 (76), 101-41).
Under-21 snooker: Noppon Saengkham (Tha) bt Muhammad Majid Ali (Pak) 6-5 (62-63 (39), 17-92 (66), 91 (58)-1, 76 (54)-63, 24-73, 64-48, 37-85, 74-8, 112 (66)-15, 24-77 (32), 63-46).