From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL. 25 :: NO. 25 :: Jun. 22 - 28, 2002
POTTING IT RIGHT -- Geet Sethi Column
Russell crowns himself with glory
BY capturing the 2002 World Billiards Professional Championship with a 2251-1273 victory over defending champion Peter Gilchrist, Mike Russell has crowned himself with glory. This was his fifth world professional title, a record unparalleled in the modern history of the game. The victory also ensures that he will remain unthreatened at the top of the world rankings, a position he has occupied for the last six years, for yet another year.
Performing with his characteristic fluency, Russell cruised to victory over defending champion Peter Gilchrist in the six-hour final staged at the Centurion Hotel, in Midsomer Norton, a town that is about 25 miles from Bath in the county of Somerset. Russell collected the glistening trophy and a cheque for £13500 including the £1000 cheque for the highest break (581) he recorded in the semi-final against David Causier.
Throughout the tournament, Russell had exhibited superior skill, copybook technique and a burning desire to win. Having arrived into the final without being stretched at any stage of the tournament, he ensured that he imposed his superiority early in the first session against Gilchrist. The class difference between him and the rest of the players on the circuit has by now been clearly and inarguably defined. Except for the final, in which he outclassed Gilchrist by less than 1000 points, his margin of victory in all other matches in the tournament has been well over 1000 points. Against Dhruv Sitwala, his first round opponent, he won by a margin of 1007 points; he then crushed Manoj Kothari in the quarter-final by 1765 points and then against Causier, the world No. 3, he uncorked that immaculate 581 to score a 1362-point victory.
In comparison, his billiards in the final lacked the sustained concentration with which he approached all his previous matches. Perhaps drained after a week of constant billiards or perhaps just sure that he would win the title, Russell was not as sharp. However, he was still good enough to commence the contest with breaks of 114, 189 & 223 at his second, third and fifth visits. By the time he concluded the opening two-hour session, he had added further efforts of 104 & 168 to enjoy a comforting first session advantage of 818-183.
In a lacklustre second session, both cueists struggled. Russell just seemed relieved to have established a match-winning lead and Gilchrist was only too aware that if he did not perform at this crucial stage of the contest, he would have no hope of a recovery in the last session. Gilchrist failed completely under the weight of that pressure and Russell consolidated his position further with a 376 unfinished towards the concluding stages of the second session. Russell had stretched his first session lead to over 1000 points including the 376 unfinished and virtually sealed the match in his favour.
What mattered in the final session was how many more points he could add to that unfinished break of 376. On resumption, Russell extended the break to 421 but broke down with a sudden and unexpected lack of concentration. Gilchrist was playing only for pride of performance. With the realisation that he had no chance, he relaxed and responded with breaks of 224, 198 and 106 to end the third session with an average of 46.9. In the six-hour final, dominated by the world No. 1, Gilchrist made amends by outscoring his opponent in the third and final two-hour session.
The most surprising result was the unexpected and early departure of Chris Shutt from the £45,000 event. Falling prey to his own inconsistency the former World Open champion crashed out losing to Peter Sheehan by a mere 17 points.
There were six Indians, who featured in the main draw of 16 players. The top-eight ranked cueists were guaranteed of a direct entry into the last 16 and eight qualifiers joined them after qualifying in India and the UK. This meant that Nalin Patel, the world No. 8 and Geet Sethi, ranked four did not have to play the qualifying matches which were staged at the Bombay Gymkhana.
Ashok Shandilya, the National billiards champion, made it to the main event thanks to a 645-551 victory over Pankaj Advani, the immensely talented and promising 17-year-old from Bangalore. However Shandilya lost in his opening match 1475-939 at Midsomer Norton to yours truly.
Manoj Kothari qualified by virtue of an uninspiring 459-429 victory over Sushrut Pandya and was lucky enough to reach the quarter-final thanks to a walk over from Roxton Chapman, while Dhruv Sitwala outclassed Arun Agrawal 647-287 to set up a clash against the imperious Russell. Sitwala played with great application and conviction against Russell and displayed rare qualities of a champion despite a 1702-695 defeat at the hands of his illustrious opponent.
Devendra Joshi, the India No. 3 reached the UK with a well-deserved 858-394 win over Punjab's Alok Kumar, runner-up in the Nationals in January this year. Joshi instilled confidence and hope from the Indian perspective through a gutsy and convincing display in his match against David Causier, the world No. 3. Unfortunately, unlike Dhruv, who was completely outclassed by a player far superior in technique, experience and mental strength, Joshi's narrow 131-point reversal stung the Indian in a manner, which is so typical and representative of competitive sport.
In a surprising result, Thailand's Rom Surin crashed out of the £45,000 event losing 681-188 to Paul Bennett. Incredibly, Surin, a former world amateur snooker champion, who gallantly led his country to a silver medal in the doubles billiards event in the Asian Games in Bangkok, failed to compile any notable breaks in the two-hour contest. The statistics tell the sorry tale of a cueist who just failed to live up to his own standards. His highest break was 49 and he had only seven two-digit breaks in the two-hour match. The match was part of a qualifying event to get into the main draw.
With the forthcoming Asian Games only a few months away, Surin will need to get back to rediscovering his touch if he needs to help Thailand to win any medals at Pusan, Korea.
Final (six hours): Mike Russell 2251 (114, 189, 223, 104, 168, 421, 196) beat Peter Gilchrist 1273 (224, 198, 106).
Semi-finals (five hours): Peter Gilchrist 1767 (104, 217, 135, 110, 113, 90, 87, 74, 98, 133, 194) beat Geet Sethi 851 (98, 139, 163, 108); Mike Russell 2456 (581, 133, 201, 287, 210, 121, 216, 275, 244) beat David Causier 1094 (83, 88, 162, 89, 89, 224).
Quarter-finals (four hours): David Causier 1024 (96, 107, 114, 103) beat Robby Foldvari 656 (124, 96, 151); Peter Gilchrist 1403 (118, 90, 70, 100, 95, 117, 110, 205, 102) beat Nalin Patel 768 (75, 78, 112); Mike Russell 2167 (98, 97, 162, 100, 285, 149, 149, 79, 102, 92, 151, 106) beat Manoj Kothari 402; Geet Sethi 1091 (171, 152, 73) beat Peter Sheehan 911 (140, 107, 148, 82).
Round of 16 (four hours): Robby Foldvari 783 (148) beat Paul Bennett 513 (187); Mike Russell 1702 (225, 89, 91, 79, 149, 83, 134, 186, 83, 197, 288) beat Dhruv Sitwala 695 (98, 82, 94, 75, 103); David Causier 1291 (213, 109, 93, 115, 89) beat Devendra Joshi 1168 (75, 93, 94, 99, 95, 150, 117, 115); Nalin Patel 762 beat Ian Williamson 638; Peter Gilchrist 1298 (235) beat Lee Lagan 770; Peter Sheehan 1163 (84, 76) beat Chris Shutt 1146 (120, 91, 78); Geet Sethi 1475 (78, 82, 106, 85, 75, 87, 119, 105, 295) beat Ashok Shandilya 939 (74, 95, 90, 141, 95, 141); Manoj Kotharti w.o. Roxton Chapman.
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