Geet Sethi

BILLIARDS / Mike Russell in ominous form

Russell has already compiled two five hundred plus breaks in the championship

Dhruv Sitwala eliminates Peter Gilchrist

LEEDS: Mike Russell entered the semifinals of the 2009 World Professional Billiards Championship with a fluent 1271-419 victory over B. Bhaskar aided with a majestic 528 on his penultimate visit.

He will be joined in the semifinals by Rupesh Shah, Dhruv Sitwala and Pankaj Advani, who won their respective last eight encounters over Martin Goodwill, Peter Gilchrist and David Casusier. For the first time in the history of this championship, three Indians will feature in the semifinals.

In fact with Sitwala and Advani playing against each other in one semifinal, an Indian finalist is confirmed as well. Only two Indians have ever reached the final of the championship.

Whilst I have reached the final seven times and won the event five times, Devendra Joshi had been a finalist in 1995.

Favourite

With the 528 on his 14th visit, Russell has already compiled two five hundred plus breaks, one over 400 and two breaks over 300 in this championship so far. His appetite for the big breaks, his delicate touch at the top of the table and his consistency over the years makes him an overwhelming favourite for his 10th world title.

His opponent in the last four stage is Shah, winner of the 2007 IBSF World Billiards Championship (point format) and a cueist whose methodical play helped him in edging out England’s Martin Goodwill 545-394. Shah constructed only one three figure break, a 103 on his 30th visit in the two and a half-hour contest.

Whilst he has exhibited grit and application under pressure in this tournament so far, to overcome Russell he will need to play at his best and still hope for lightning to strike Russell’s playing arm. Sitwala, who defeated both Advani and me in the league matches with consummate ease, once again exhibited a smooth rhythm and calm composure to eliminate Singapore’s Peter Gilchrist 872-399 with runs of 185, 90, 97 & a 100 unfinished. His higher ranked opponent was completely off colour scoring only 64 points to Sitwala’s 389 after 22 visits. Sitwala has once again provided sufficient proof that he is now a serious title contender for any tournament.

Match of the day

The match of the day however was the one between Advani and the inimitable David Causier. Advani eventually clinched the contest with a timely 196 on his 29th visit to reduce a 30 point deficit into an 896-782 victory. The match opened with Advani firing in the first break, a superb 245 in his second visit to lead 284-29.

However, the unorthodox Causier with his shifty and quick paced style responded in typical fashion with a 172 and then added efforts of 98, 52, 100 and 64 to lead 567-479.

On his 14th visit Advani, winner of the 2008 IBSF World Billiards Championship, constructed a break of 127 which once again took him into a slender lead and then playing some good tactical safety he launched into that match-winning 196. It was a break which reflected his state of mind, confidence, rhythm and of course his knowledge of the game. He played as if in a zone, without hesitation and without doubt.

Nothing much to choose

In defeating Causier, the 24-year-old Advani has reached the semifinals of the championship for the first time. Given his past record against Sitwala one would normally pick Advani the slight favourite in their four hour semifinal contest.

However, the consistent performance displayed by Sitwala in the tournament so far will ensure that the bookies will make both the cueists even money.

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