CHENNAI: Charming school boy Raunaq Vazirani from Gujarat became the first sub-junior National billiards champion after he swept aside Pushpinder Singh of Delhi 156-100 in a final noted for his ease and poise here on Tuesday.
Later in the women's final, cool and collected Meenal Thakur of Mumbai, made amends for her younger sister and reigning champion Anuja Thakur's downfall by bagging her first title, in her maiden entry into the final.
M. Chitra of Karnataka, who had conquered Anuj in a thrilling three-game semifinal, was Meena;'s victim. Not only did Meenal win 3-1, she also gave a lesson on clever use of the red ball, collecting sizeable breaks of 40 and 30 in the second and third games mainly through in-offs before polishing off the rival's challenge in the decider. Chitra looked a little out of sorts, even appearing blank at times. The way she fouled by cueing the wrong ball (white, when her's was yellow) once reflected her mind.
The newly introduced category in the ongoing National championship - sub-junior, signalled the arrival of another talent on the national scene from the legendary Geet Sethi's homeland. The 11th standard student of Tulip International in Ahmedabad, Raunaq is coached by Arvind Savur, the man who has shaped Pankaj Advani into a world-class performer. Not until the 30-minute clock stopped did this young lad show any emotion on his face. And when victory was assured he had to be coaxed by a friend to "smile at least now".
Preferring the yellow ball, Raunaq showed a pleasing felicity in potting and a touch of imagination in using the red and his opponent's white. He did miss the pocket occasionally but more than made up for that with some breathtaking long shots and canons.
The in-offs were cleverly effected and even if breaks did not go beyond the twenties, Raunaq, who had a busy day with matches in the junior billiards and sub-junior snooker, kept his focus and in the end that is what separated him from the Delhi sardar.
The day also saw the touches of brilliance from world champion Pankaj Advani as he collected double century (two) and century break (seven) to storm his way into the quarterfinals of the junior billiards event.
The results: Billiards: Sub-junior boys: Final: Raunaq Vazirani (Guj) bt Pushpinder Singh (Del) 156-100; (semifinals): Raunaq Vazirani bt Aditya Agarwal (Mah) 133-106; Pushpinder Singh bt Varun Madhan (Del) 117-90; (for third place): Aditya Agarwal bt Varun Madhan 105-72.
Women: Final: Meena Thakur (Mah) bt M. Chitra (Kar) 56-76, 75-29, 77-58, 77-47; (semifinals): Meenal Thakur bt Vidya Pillai (TN) 76-31, 75-14, 77-16; M. Chitra bt Anuja Thakur (PSPB) 75-53, 43-76, 37-77, 76-59, 77-36; (for third place): Anuja Thakur (PSPB) bt Vidya Pillai (TN) 59-9, 51-49.
Junior: Pre-quarterfinals: Manish Jain (WB) bt Vinay Chawla (Pun) 567-394; Karthik Ramaswamy (TN) bt Raunaq Vazirani (Guj) 513-443; Pankaj Advani (PSPB) bt Kunal Agarwal (Ors) 1289-225; Aditya Mehta (Mah) bt Hitesh Soni (Pun) 818-210; (second round): Aditya Mehta bt Simarjeet Singh (Raj) 932-162; Satish Kumar (Kar) bt Rishab Pandya (Mah) 441-437; Pankaj Advani bt Himanshu (Raj) 1353-184; Hitesh Soni (Pun) bt Balaji Reddy (Kar) 396-393; Khizar Rawoof (AP) bt Shyamlal Sharma (Bih) 497-370; Faizal Khan (Del) bt Chetan (Har) 591-417; Lucky Vatnani (Ap) bt Shravan Mohta (Mah) 541-423; (first round): Manish Jain bt Naman Agarwal (Mah) 566-366; Raunaq Vazirani bt Surjeet Singh (Del) 539-353; Shyamlal Sharma bt Pushpinder Singh (Del) 501-435; Rishab Pandyan (Mah) bt Vinay Kothari (TN) 419-399; Karthik Ramaswamy bt Rahul Aroran (UP) 509-363; Chetan Chabra (Har) bt Adithya Agarwal (Mah) 449-3.
Snooker: Sub-junior: First round: Amit Bhusan (Kar) bt Shiva (TN) 47-6, 67-40; Rovin D'Souza (mah) bt Alwyn Praveen Joseph (TN) 77-1, 58-5; Malkeet Singh (UP) bt Ankit Baid (TN) 51-62, 41-29, 57-8; Raunaq Vazirani (Guj) bt Shabaz Adil Khan (WB) 43-53, 80-32, 71-33.