De Luna Gets Filipinos Off To Great Start

Young Jeffrey de Luna made his mark on the international stage with a confident 10-8 win over Dutch star Nick van den Berg, getting the twelve Filipinos who advanced to the knockout round of 64 in the 2006 Philippine World Pool Championships off to a great start at the Philippine International Convention Center yesterday.

But former world No.1 Francisco "Django" Bustamante who was picked as the man to beat by bosom buddy and top favorite Efren "Bata" Reyes lost to German ace Thomas Engert 10-7. In a see-saw battle that saw the momentum shift from one player to the other before Engert, with two massive breaks, eventually ousted the favored Filipino who was not at his best.

Bustamante's troubles were compounded when down 6-7 after capitalizing on a scratch on the break by Engert in the previous rack, a spectator's cell-phone rang as Bustamante was lining up his shot. It completely unsettled Bustamante and he completely missed the shot enabling Engert to go ahead 8-6 and coast to a big win by merely holding his break.

Earlier during the match between De Luna and Van den Berg on the adjoining TV table, an usher opened the entrance to Table 1 where the Bustamante-Engert match was set to begin causing a stampede of spectators just as the Dutchman was lining up a crucial shot.

The unethical behavior of some fans including the tendency to cheer a miss by a Filipino's opponent has drawn muted criticism from some of the players as well as media with match referees having to draw the attention of spectators to violations of basic competition rules and sportsmanship.

In a match on TV table 2, De Luna showed remarkable poise and a touch of one-upmanship when he took his time in sinking the last three balls on the final rack and studied the winning shot on the 9-ball for a lengthy period while Van den Berg agonized in his seat.

It was a victory that confirmed the early potential shown by the 22 year old lefty who will represent the Philippines in the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar this December.

The second Filipino to advance to the round of 32 was Jharome Pena who beat Australia's'Louis Condo 10-7 in what many considered an upset since Pena was the last qualifier to enter the classy field of 128 players in the world's most prestigious pool event.

Lanky Ronnie Alcano who sneaked in to grab the last spot in the round of 64 with an amazing 8-2 thrashing of the Netherlands Marcel Martens showed his real class with an awesome 10-1 thrashing of countryman Roberto Gomez who suffered his first defeat in the WPC after a 3-0 run in the elimination round and was ousted.. Alcano was in a three-way tie with Martens and Christian Reimering of Germany and edged Reimering by losing one rack less 18 to 19.