National champion Pankaj Advani, authoured yet another fairytale fightback as he overcame a 1—4 deficit and won 5—4 against Delhi’s Sandeep Gulati to enter the semi—finals of the Rs.5.2 lakh VIP Matrix All—India snooker tournament here on Wednesday.
Advani, the 24—year old Bangalorean will take on fellow—PSPB player Sourav Kothari, in a repeat of the 2009 National championship final, while J. Varun Kumar of Chennai meets Aditya Mehta of PSPB in the other semi—final scheduled at night.
The Kolkata-based Kothari put out local challenger Rafath Habib 5—2 while Mehta, the 25-year-old from Mumbai ousted veteran S.A. Saleem 5—1 and Varun Kumar upset Geet Sethi 5—1 in the quarter-final matches.
After losing the first frame, Gulati jumped to a 4—1 lead on breaks of 40, 53 and 88, and he looked certain to author a stunning upset. However, in the crucial sixth frame, Gulati went in—off after potting the green and Advani swiftly cleared the table to make it 2—4.
Thereafter, Advani, the 2003 IBSF World champion, dug in and bounced back in typical style like he had done so many times in the recent past to turn a certain defeat into victory.
Although he did not make any big breaks, Advani shrugged off the initial inconsistency and once he got into the flow, there was no stopping him. Small but useful breaks marked his progress as he also showcased his safety play to keep his opponent under pressure.
The day began with Varun, who came through the qualifying rounds, eliminating Sethi as he punctuated his progress with breaks of 69, 48 and 58 that kept his opponent off the table. Sethi looked a pale shadow of his former self while Varun played with confidence of a man who had nothing to lose.
Kothari, runner—up to Advani in the 2009 National championship final, proved far too good for Habib who besides winning two frames on the colours, wasted a couple of other opportunities for which he was punished.
Kothari marked his victory with runs of 47 and 56, but kept his nerves in tight situations to scramble through to the next round.
Mehta crafted a high break of 64 and came out a comfortable winner against Saleem who had some fine victories earlier in the tournament but could not reproduce the form.
The results (quarter—finals):
J. Varun Kumar (Tamil Nadu) bt Geet Sethi (Gujarat) 5—1; Aditya Mehta (PSPB) bt SA Saleem (Tamil Nadu) 5—1; Sourav Kothari (PSPB) bt Rafath Habib (Railways) 5—2; Pankaj Advani (PSPB) bt Sandeep Gulati (Delhi) 5—4.