Kumar Becomes the First Indian Semi-finalist

February 28, 2004, Singapore . . . The Singapore leg of the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour 2004 started at Pool Haven in Clarke Quay with series of surprising results in the early rounds. All the action in Singapore will air LIVE on STAR Sports at 16:30, February 29 (Singapore/Hong Kong time).

The biggest surprise came from the second round when current world number one Francisco Bustamante lost 8-9 to Alok Kumar, the former national snooker champion from India who started 9-ball three years ago. Kumar then created another shock of today as he beat 2000 world champion Fong-Pang Chao of Chinese Taipei. Chao did not face much resistance in the early rounds in beating Lee Van Corteza of the Philippines and William Ang of Singapore.

Chao took the first rack in the quarter-final but Kumar then took the lead and once again led by 5-3. Then Chao regained his lead with three racks in a row. Kumar refused to give up and both players tied at 6-6, 7-7 and 8-8. In the decisive 17th rack, Chao failed to pocket any ball in his break and let Kumar sweep the table. It is only Kumar's fifth 9-ball tournament but it will definitely be memorable and he becomes the first Indian player in the semi-final of the Tour.

Shin-Young Park, semi-finalist in the Philippines leg last year, suffered a big upset in the first round. The Korean lost 3-9 to Huang Wu Chen of Chinese Taipei. Chen, who made his debut appearance in the Tour, continued his winning streak and thrashed Alan Tan of Malaysia 9-1 in the second round.

Defending champion Ching Shun Yang also had thrillers in first two rounds. At first round he met Antonio Gabica from the Philippines. The world number 7 player came back from 0-3 and 6-8 to win. Then he trailed Siauw Wieto of Indonesia throughout his second round game but he still managed to win by 9-8 and clinched a seat in the final eight to stage an all-Chinese Taipei quarter-final against Chen Huang Wu tomorrow.

Frennie Reyes also failed to catch up with his father Efren as he was ousted by Siauw Wieto of Indonesia in the first round by 2-9. Reyes the senior did not have much trouble to earn a berth in the quarter-final by beating Lin Didi of China and local boy Bernard Tey respectively.

Reyes was then challenged by Satoshi Kawabata in the quarter-final. The left-handed Japanese beat Bata in the Japan Open before but he was clearly affected by the TV table environment. He scored his first rack after being left 0-4 down. But his number 9 ball miss in the sixth rack was fatal and was finally eliminated by 3-9. Reyes can then make his first semi-final appearance in Singapore leg tomorrow.

The last quarter-final will feature Warren Kiamco Vs Young-Hwa Jeong. Kiamco, who was the first runner-up in both legs in 2003 last year, maintained his consistency in the Tour. But he will face tough challenge from the world number nine Korean tomorrow.

The Tour provides opportunity for the 32 participating players to garner qualifying points towards the World Pool Championships in July. The Tour is the only ranking tour in Asia for players to qualify to the World Pool Championships. Competition will start at 11:30 tomorrow.

For all information on the Tour, please check out www.asian9-balltour.com. For the latest schedules and program information on ESPN STAR Sports, catch us on the net at www.espnstar.com.

San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour, Singapore 2004- LIVE on STAR Sports
Feb 29 16:30 (L) 18:00 (R) Mar 2 Semi-finals
Feb 29 20:00 (L) 23:00 (R) Mar 3 Final
Hong Kong/ Singapore Time. Schedule subject to change.

Sanctioned by the Asian Pocket Billiard Union, the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour is organized by ESPN STAR Sports' Event Management Group (EMG). San Miguel Beer is the title sponsor for the Tour. Iwan Simonis and Aramith supply the official tablecloth and official balls respectively. STAR Sports is the official broadcaster. The 2004 Tour have five legs in Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Taipei and Manila. Besides total prize money of US$250,000, top 10 on the Tour Order of Merit every year will directly qualify into the World Pool Championships. San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour in 2004 travels around Singapore (February 28-29), Ho Chi Minh City (March 13-14), Hong Kong (April 17-18), Taipei (May 7-9) and Manila (May 29-30). The main draw includes 32 top Asian players from over 10 countries/ regions.