Indian women gear up for tougher test in World Snooker

Hyderabad, Nov 16 ( Vidya Pillai, Chitra Magimairajan and Neena Praveen of India warmed up nicely for the stiffer competition ahead by recording their second win in the women’s preliminary league of the 35th ONGC-IBSF World snooker championship, here Monday.

Barring Vidya, both Chitra and Neena had to grind it out against opponents who were on the slower side, but the trio is certain to make it to the knockout stage if the current form and flow can be sustained.

India No.2 Vidya outclassed Cladia Weber of Switzerland 3-0 with the help of a couple of 30-plus breaks and looked in good touch. “I think, I am gradually getting used to the table conditions and hopefully, will continue to improve,” said the Chennai-based Vidya.

Chitra, on the other hand, was kept at the table for almost all of the three hours of the afternoon session before coming through 3-1 against compatriot Suniti Damani who thus suffered her second defeat in as many outings.

“My opponent, unfortunately, was rather too slow today and that I had to struggle to keep my calm,” said the Bangalorean who last year won the Australian Open, referring to the stoppage when Suniti requested for a half-butt with an extension that brought in the chief referee.

In fact, a majority of the women’s matches were a crawl and one of the matches saw a frame lasting nearly an hour. The tournament’s Head Referee Tiang Cheng Seah of Singapore expressed helplessness when queried about slow players or players resorting to deliberate slow tactics.

“There is not much anyone can do since it is not a breach of rule if a player takes his or her time to play a shot,” he said, but admitted that such slow pace could affect viewership.

Neena handed a 4-1 drubbing to National champion Meenal Thakur for her second victory in the group. Meenal, playing rather poorly, thus tasted her second consecutive defeat.

In sharp contrast, Indian men’s champion Pankaj Advani wasted little time in brushing aside Moosa Saleem of Mauritius 4-0 with breaks of 54, 58 and 62 clearance in the second, third and fourth frames.

“My hand has begun to move better, this being my second match. Not that I played extraordinarily well today as I missed a few shots. Also, my opponent was not at his best and he told me after the first frame that he was feeling unwell with a headache. I was particularly happy with the 62 clearance as I was down on points when I started the break,” said the 24-year old reigning World billiards champion from Bangalore.

Later, former Asian and National champion Yasin Merchant came up with a brilliant fightback for a 4-3 win against Mario Fernandez of Ireland. The Irishman fluffed a 3-1 lead as Merchant came roaring back on breaks of 88 in the fifth and 71 in the sixth before clinching the final frame on small but useful runs for his second victory. Merchant had begun the proceedings with a 82 break in the first before yielding ground.

On another table, Manan Chandra, a title hopeful who had lost his opening league fixture last night, put his campaign back on track by defeating Khalid B Mohd of Libya 4-1 despite playing with a new cue tip.

This morning, the 1987 champion Darren Morgan of Wales, now playing in the Masters category, slammed a 103 break as he routed Japan’s Naoki Matsuzaki 4-0 for his second win in the league.

Also chalking up a second victory was India’s Geet Sethi, winner of eight World titles, but the 48-year old from Ahmedabad struggled for his 3-2 verdict against Malta’s Simon Zammit in a match that saw an unscheduled and rather longish break.