Immonen Beats Reyes in Cliffhanger in Manila

Mika Immonen came back from 10-6 down to win the event

Mika “The Iceman” Immonen lived up to his nickname with a cool, calculating performance to beat Efren “Bata” Reyes and break the hearts of millions of Filipinos with a nerve-wracking 13-12 conquest of “The Magician” in the Café Puro sponsored 1st Philippine Open and Invitational 9-Ball Championship at the Octagon Hall of Robinson's Galeria Shopping Mall in Metro Manila.

Immonen who has made Manila his second home pocketed the top prize of $20,000 for his feat which was his second triumph this year having beaten Ralf Souquet in the “On Cue ” tournament some months ago also at Robinson's Galeria. Reyes had to be satisfied with $10,000.

The victory was very special for the young Finnish star since he had earlier prevented a possible All-Filipino final by beating Francisco “Django” Bustamante in the semi finals 10-8 after Reyes whipped Leonardo “Dodong” Andam 11-7.

Reyes who last weekend won his third Japan Open Championship looked headed for a comfortable victory when he led 9-4 and then 10-6. But Immonen who played excellent pool to beat Bustamante began to find his rhythm as Reyes appeared to falter and pounced on every opportunity given him to come charging back and tie the count at 12-12.

Reyes clearly had the advantage in the alternate break format and as the crowd roared the hometown hero broke in the deciding 25th rack. After a series of safeties Reyes had what seemed to be a simple shot on the 3-ball but he cut it and missed enabling Immonen to capitalize on the mistake and clean up to the dismay of the fans.

However, they gave Immonen who is extremely popular especially because of his fine demeanor at the pool table and away from it, a well-deserved round of applause.

In a post-match interview with Viva Sports as he celebrated with close friends at one of the many fine bars in the metropolis Immonen said winning in Manila is “becoming a beautiful habit.” He said “I don't know how I beat Efren especially when he had a 10-6 lead but I guess this was destiny. Its pretty overwhelming.”

Immonen who won the World Pool Championship in Cardiff in 2001, two years after Reyes won the coveted event in 1999, said “I always play well in Manila.” In fact last December Immonen won the LG Collins “Challenge of the Masters” at Casino Filipino in Paranaque also beating Reyes in the event staged by Viva Sports in cooperation with billiard patron Aristeo “Putch” Puyat who teamed up with the giant broadcast network ABS-CBN for the Café Puro sponsored event which was beamed “live” on it's Global Network.

Puyat himself commended Immonen for his fine play in a tournament where the Filipinos dominated but still failed to win the top prize although the fans took consolation in the fact that Immonen is now regarded as an adopted son of the Philippines.

Report courtesy of Ronnie Nathanielsz. Photo courtesy of Raul Roa,