TO BORROW the most-used cliche in sports dictionary, it was a case of a David beating Goliath.
The final of the 33rd Asian Snooker Championship pitted 19-year-old Chinese Lyu Haotian against legendary Indian cueist Pankaj Advani.
Going into the match, Lyu had only one title in his kitty — the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) Under-21 crown which he won four years ago. His opponent Advani, on the other hand, is the holder of 16 IBSF world titles across all formats (12 in billiards and four in snooker).
But at the Qatar Billiards and Snooker Federation (QBSF) Hall last week, Lyu proved that history counts for nothing as he tamed Advani 6-3 in the best-of-11-frame final to be crowned the new king of Asian snooker.
The feeling took a while to sink in and the ‘boy wonder’ was speechless for a long time. Finally, as he spoke with the help of an interpreter, his joy was palpable.
“I’m delighted to have won the tournament after beating such a seasoned and champion opponent,” said Lyu, who became the first Chinese cueist in a decade to clinch the Asian title since Jin Long in 2008.
Lyu dominated right from the start of the four-and-a-half-hour battle. He took a 3-1 lead only to be blanked in the fourth frame.
But the Beijing native came back firing on all cylinders in the fifth frame, where he had an unfinished break of 102.
Though Advani rallied to win the next frame, Lyu held his nerve to clinch the next two and collect the winner’s cheque for $7,000.
Lyu had three big breaks — 102 (sixth), 65 (first) and 57 (fourth) as against Advani’s one — 58 (second).
The biggest applause for the Chinese prodigy came from none other than his ace Indian opponent himself.
Advani was just 19 when he won his first IBSF world billiards title in 2005 and he sees traces of himself in Lyu.
“Fair play to my opponent, I thought he played really well and got away with a lot of aggressive shots. He reminded me of my younger days. When you get a bit older, you understand the game more, tend to rationalise it a little more and try to be sensible. But I won’t say that Lyu (Haotian) didn’t play sensibly, but what would be aggressive for me wouldn’t be insensible for him,” said Advani.
For Lyu who picked up a cue stick as early as 10, the first Asian title since turning pro at 14 is surely is harbinger of things to come.
Lyu’s boyish charm and cool demeanour, even when he was trailing in the decisive ninth frame, helped him in his first major final.
“My potting was definitely far better in the final,” was all that he would say when asked about the secret behind his giant-killing act. Perhaps he wants to keep his emotions under check and let the cue stick do all the talking on the table and that should hold him in good stead in future.