Immonen Enters Finals

Mika Immonen

2001 World Pool Champion Mika Immonen came back from a 7-4 defeat at the hands of 1999 winner Efren "Bata" Reyes late Friday to whip Warren Kiamco 11-7 in the first semi final yesterday and watched on the sidelines as Reyes battled Ralf "The Kaiser" Souquet, hoping that Reyes would win and give him a chance to avenge his earlier loss.

The Reyes ­ Souquet race-to-eleven was being played at press time before a large hometown crowd at the ABS-CBN studios in Quezon City where the Philippines-Europe tournament is being held. Europe, handsome winners of the prestigious Mosconi Cup over the fancied US team is represented in the battle against the Philippine quartet of Reyes, Francisco "Django" Bustamante, Kiamco and Antonio Lining by Immonen, Souquet, the Netherlands Niels Feijen and Sweden's Marcus Chamat. In his clash with Reyes, the hitherto unbeaten Immonen, the Finnish star who has made Manila his second home, quickly jumped to a 2-0 lead. But Reyes, cool and confident as ever soon found the rhythm of his game and playing near flawless pool allowed Immonen only two more racks while racking up seven of his own in the alternate break, race to seven format.

Bustamante who was bothered by illness and played below his best because of it, was tied with Kiamco at two wins each after beating Souquet 7-5 but the soft-spoken Kiamco who was runner-up to Reyes in the final leg of the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Championship clinched the No.2 slot on the Philippine side after beating Feijen 7-3 and emerging with a superior quotient having won more racks than Bustamante in the elimination round.

In the semi finals Kiamco was helpless against Immonen whose solid break and precision pocketing gave him a 3-1 lead and although Kiamco clawed back to come within one rack at 5-4 when Immonen overcut a shot on the 5-ball allowing Kiamco to run out, the Finnish star soon steadied himself. The soft-spoken Kiamco hit a fantastic shot to pocket the 6 and Immonen fouled enabling the Filipino to string two racks together to make it 10-7 but Immonen quickly re-asserted his supremacy to win 11-7.

In a post-match interview Immonen said "for the sake of the crowd it would be better to play Efren" but personally he said "I really don't care who I play in the finals." Immonen said however, "I definitely want to play Efren because I think he wants to play me because I beat him last time in a big championship in Manila" which was the LG Collins "Battle of the Masters" last December staged by Viva Sports at Casino Filipino, Paranaque before a huge crowd of some four thousand. He said "I am sure Efren still wants to settle that score. Besides the fans are crazy about him."

The victory of Immonen brought Europe to within one point in the epic battle for the team trophy where the Philippines led 9-8 going into the Reyes-Souquet semi final. The winner in today's individual final will take home $15,000 with $10,000 going to the runner up.

Photo courtesy of Matchroom Sport