Bata Reyes Wins 2006 SMB Asian 9-Ball Tour

Efren Reyes

FILIPINO billiards master Efren "Bata" Reyes went home richer US$10,000 yesterday after beating Li He Wen of China, 11-6, in the finals of 2006 the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour at the Nguyen Du Sports Hall in Ho-Chin-Minh City, Vietnam.

Known as the magician in the world of pool, Reyes proved to be the master, and Li the learner during the final match, witnessed by an appreciative crowd that packed the former Saigon City.

Longtime benefactor RP billiards patron Aristeo "Putch" Puyat had something to say to his ward " Efren (Reyes) thrilled the Vietnam crowd with his shotmaking, many bankshots and precise control of the white. Also in the crowd are many flag waving Filipinos who are delighted to see their idol play. The crowd clapped at every shot he made."

Puyat told INQUIRER SPORTS yesterday that Reyes magnificent performance in the international tour because the successful Lasik Refractive Surgery, performed by Doctors Jack Arroyo and Arnold Salud of American Eye Center, lasted only 20 minutes and gave the billiards ace "20/15" vision, a line better than the normal "20/20."

The Angeles City pride Reyes took a 4-1 commanding lead in the race-to-eleven, alternate break match. However, the Viet ace bounced back winning the four of five racks to tie the game at 5-5 count.

Inspired by the Filipino support and local fans, Reyes clustered five straight racks to control the game at 10-5, with Li taking the 16th frame to trimmed down at 10-6 count but Reyes finished the match at 11-6.

The 51-year-old Reyes nipped Vietname ace Nguyen Phuc Long, 11-5, to arranged a titular showdown with Li, winner over Wang Hung Hsiang, 11-4, in the other semifinal match of the event organized by ESPN STAR Sports.

" I am just lucky because the ball is in my side," said Reyes.

The semis match up:

The Angeles City pride Reyes took a 2-0 commanding lead in the race-to-eleven, alternate break match.

Nguyen, who turned 28 last Saturday, committed a scratch immediately after the opening break. But the Viet star managed to tie the game at 2-2 count when he scored a golden break in the third frame and ran out the table following Reyes' scratch off the break in the fourth frame. The Vietnamese had an opportunity to control the game, but he bungled his chance as the cue ball went straight into the side pocket after his break.

However, the lone Filipino semis survivor bounced back after taking the next three racks incuding a 3-9 combination shot in the fifth rack.

The 2003 Vietnam National Champion trimmed the count at 5-3, but a number of miscues allowed Reyes to claim the next five racks to sit on the hill. Nguyen, who eliminated 2004 World Pool titlist Alex Pagulayan and reigning Asian Tour champion Yang Chin Shun of Taiwan, seemed to buckle under pressure as he committed a scratch in the 9 th and missed point blanks shots on the blue two in the 11th and 13th.

Nguyen gave the Vietnamese audience a glimmer of hope as he ran out the table following Reyes' scratch in the 14 th rack and took the next rack to cut the deficit, 10 -5. However, Reyes took the16th rack to ecaped an 11-5 victory.

The Asian 9-Ball Tour is the only ranking tour in Asia for players to qualify to the World Pool Championship. The top ten finishers at the end of this year's Tour will automatically enter the World Pool Championships. Adding to the stakes will be a total tour prize money purse of $160,000 up for grabs in the four legs of the event

Other Filipino competed were Francisco "Django" Bustamante, Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan and Marlon "Marvelous" Manalo.

After the Ho-Chi-Minh leg, the tour will go to Bangkok, Thailand on June 2-4, 2006. The leg there will be held at the Central Bangna. The next stop will be staged in Kaohsiung, Chinese-Taipei on August 4-6, 2006. The last leg goes to Jakarta, Indonesia on Sept. 15-17, 2006 at the Mutiara Ballroom.