Reyes in Magical Win in Jakarta

Efren Reyes

Efren 'Bata' Reyes replaced his escape artist act with unadulterated pool magic in the finals of the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour before a turn-away crowd at the Hanggar Billiard and Recreation Center in the Indonesian capital Jakarta yesterday. Reyes defeated Chinese-Taipei's celebrated 'Son of Pool' Ching-Shun Yang 11-6 and pocketed the top prize of $10,000 and gave a huge contingent of flag-waving Filipinos something to cheer about.

Reyes who survived two close calls on the opening day of the tournament and then scored pulsating come-from-behind victories in dramatic fashion in the quarter finals and semi finals, reserved his best pool for last and spoiled the birthday celebration of Yang who turned 27 yesterday.

In the semi finals Reyes triumphed in what TV commentator and pool authority Bob Guerreo had described as a 'mouthwatering showdown' against 16 year old Taiwanese sensation Wu Chia Ching whose potential had long been spotted by the Philippines 'Godfather' of pool, businessman-sportsman Aristeo 'Putch' Puyat who convinced organizers to include the teenager in this year's San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour. Down 7-10 in the race to eleven, alternate break format, Reyes was given up for lost but his luck held out as Wu scratched on the break and the experience of Reyes eventually prevailed 12-10. Wu had predicted that experience would be the key in a pre-match interview saying 'I have to be really stable and play good defense against him because he is far more experienced than I am.'

The finals was an entirely different story as Reyes came back from a 1-3 deficit with a variety of exquisite shots to move ahead from a 6-6 deadlock to string up five racks in a row and score his fifth triumph on the prestigious tour which has become an eagerly awaited fixture on the Asian circuit. With his victory Reyes increased his 2005 winnings to $56,919. He was last year's top money winner with a total of $124,150.

Yang won the lag and quickly ran out to jump to a 1-0 lead, showing the excellent form that enabled him to whip Japan's Satoshi Kawabata 11-6 in the semi finals. Reyes evened the count after a great safety on the 6-ball forced Yang to foul, enabling Reyes to run out to make it 1-1. Yang with what the TV commentators described as 'a finely crafted rack' went ahead 2-1 and then eased in front 3-1 with a fantastic shot on the 3-ball and a near impossible jump shot. However, a dry break on the next rack enabled Reyes to work his way back into contention with an incredible shot on the 1-ball where he weaved his way into position for a shot on the 2-ball and finished with an absolutely magical shot to make it 2-3.

The 50 year old veteran, now in full flow, finished a good break with a 3-9 combination to make it 3-3 but Yang just as quickly broke and ran out to go ahead 4-3. Both players held their breaks to make it 6-6 and the crowd began to anticipate an epic struggle. But Reyes dowsed their hopes with a 3-9 combination to ease in front for the first time 7-6 and with another sensational shot and a repeat 3-9 combo which was much harder than in looked, took his biggest lead 8-6. Disaster struck Yang on the very next rack when he scratched on the break and Reyes simplified matters to lead 9-6.

His adrenalin pumping Reyes buried three balls on the break and then played a safety that put Yang in a real nasty position from which he failed to extricate himself enabling Reyes to get to the hill 10-6. Yang then fell apart when he pocketed the 9-ball on the break but watched agonizingly as the cue ball gently rolled into the corner pocket. With ball-in-hand, Reyes, acknowledged as the greatest pool player of all-time deftly cleaned up and threw his arms in the air as he sank the 9-ball after a moment of hesitation to the thunderous cheers of pool fans who adore Reyes as a genuine Philippine sports hero whose soft-spoken manner and genuine humility have endeared him to both international pool enthusiasts and players on the circuit.