August 8, 2010

Sajjad makes history of sorts in Thailand


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Mohammad Sajjad made Pakistan proud by creating history of sorts when he became the first Asian wildcard to capture a Thai ranking title, winning the SangSom Korat Cup 2010 on August 7.

Pakistan’s premier cueist was crowned as the champion at Klang Plaza Jomsurang in Nakhon Ratchasima city with a thrilling 5-4 victory over local favourite, Passakorn Suwannawat, in the final with the frame scores being 83-7, 0-98, 86-7, 71-40, 0-96, 18-68, 69-41, 14-78, 64-31. As expected it turned out be a close battle having kept the crowd on tenterhooks most of the time.

The victory earned Sajjad a handsome purse of 100,000 baht, while Passakorn had to be content with a cash prize of 50,000 baht for having ended as the runner-up but there was consolation for him in the shape of another 15,000 baht for scoring the highest break of the tournament, a total clearance of 142 points recorded in the quarter-finals.

"This was my toughest match of the tournament. I have been stretched to the limit before in the event but then I was not facing a rival of Passakorn's class,” the triumphant Sajjad remarked after outwitting the fancied rival in the final.

"I played very well in the beginning and remained positive about my chances of winning throughout the match. I gave him an opportunity at a wrong juncture and that helped him recover tremendously," he added.

Passakorn, who had entered the final as the obvious favourite after his consistent performance in the earlier games, was not short of praise for the new champion either.

"Sajjad is a very good player. I expected a good fight from him and he did give me one. I missed a number of chances that I should have taken towards the end of the match and that cost me the match," he complimented.

Sajjad, the 2010 Asian Championship runner-up, had created a sensation by toppling the reigning Thailand number one and former world champion Noppadon Noppachorn 4-2 in the semifinals with the scores of 18-57, 65-21, 121-10, 105-9, 17-70, 74-8. It has not been since 2005, when Moh Keen Ho of Malaysia had entered the final, that an Asian wildcard has earned a crack on a Thai ranking event title.

Sajjad was delighted to have overpowered Thailand’s top cueist. "I am so happy to have won today. He is one of the Thai Asian Games team players and it is a good morale booster for me in preparations for the Games in China later this year,” he was quoted as saying.

"I had not been playing as well as I wanted to and it was the 70-plus break in the third frame that got me going,” he reckoned.

The Korat Cup 2010 had commenced on August 2 with India’s number three Kamal Chawla and Bahrain's top cueist Habib Sabah being the other wild card entrants besides Sajjad, the eventual winner.

Sajjad had started his campaign by edging out Thai veteran Somporn Kunthawung 4-3 before registering another lucky 4-3 victory win over Thailand’s number 14 Pisit Chansri in the quarter-finals.


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