Rodolfo Rocks the PICC

UNSUNG Rodolfo Luat, for so long one of the battle-hardened band of Filipino pool stars, is the first home player through to the quarter-finals of the 2006 Philippines World Pool Championship as he edged past Spain 's David Alcaide in a 11-10 thriller on the main table at the PICC in Manila .

Often in the shadow of his more illustrious countrymen, Luat showed tremendous fortitude under immense pressure and he will surely enjoy his spell in the lime light.

Luat entered into the WPC following some impressive showings on the Asian 9 Ball Tour and made his way into the knock-out stages, winning Group 21 with three wins from three and then dumped out American Jeremy Jon es in the last 64.

Yesterday he beat unknown Indonesian Roy Apancho to set up a mouth-watering clash with the in-form David Alcaide for a place in the quarter-finals.

Any notions that home interest in the championship may have diminished with yesterday's Reyes exit, were quickly dispelled as the arena filled to bursting with the most enthusiastic crowd of the week.

With the alternate break format, it was always going to be a close run thing and at 6-6, the ball was in anyone's court.

Alcaide, 28, took the 13th game to take the lead but a bad miss on the5 ball in the next put Luat right under the cosh as Alcaide dished up to put some space between them as he lead 8-6.

With the break Luat, was forced to play safe in the next and he left Alcaide in a tight snooker. The Spaniard escaped and to knock the 2 ball safe. Luat though was too loose trying to lay another snooker but Alcaide could not capitalize with a failed bank shot.

Both players were feeling the heat as the safety battle dragged on. It was Alcaide who cracked first as he left the 2 on for Luat. He made it and with an open table he cleared to get to 8-7.

Alcaide though fought back in the next to maintain his two rack lead as he completed a trick y run out to get to 9-7.

Luat took the next with his break to stay on the Spaniards heels and it was a failed kick shot on the 2 ball that gave the Filipino the chance to run out and square the match at 9-9.

The atmosphere in the arena was palpable as Luat lost control of the cue ball in the next and nearly scratched. Both players then had shots on the 1 ball as the tension really started to show. Alcaide jumped out of a snooker but left a slight chance on for Luat but he left the yellow 1 hanging in the jaws of the pocket.

It was the opportunity Alcaide was looking for and he cleared the table to get to the hill at 10-9.

The Spaniard had a half chance on the bank shot but missed as the balls rolled seemingly safe. Luat though pulled out a stunner to pot the 1 with the tightest of cuts and get perfect on the 2 ball.

Cueing as confidently as a man could under the circumstances, Luat ran the table to take the match to hill-hill.

The sell-out crowd was going wild at this stage and when Luat made a ball on the break and gained shape on the 1 ball, a roar went up.

However, he badly missed the 1 ball and left a simple cross table bank for Alcaide. He made it but lost position going from 4 to 5 and failed to roll the 5 into the middle pocket.

The balls looked to have gone safe but the Filipino played a majestic shot to gently swerve the cueball around the 7 and nudge the 5 ball in. He then composed himself to clear the table as the arena jumped to their feet in sheer joy.

“I missed the 1 ball when the score was 5-3 and everything changed. If I had made that I would have gone away with the game, said Luat at the post-match press conference.

“I hope I go to the final – there's a lot of pressure and you have more pressure here as this is my home country. But it was a nice match and good for television,” he added.

It will be Luat's second quarter-final appearance – he reached this same stage in 2000 – he can look forward to a match against Steve Davis or Wu Che-wei.

Alcaide said, “I'm very proud to have played so well throughout this tournament and to play in the cradle of pool – the Philippines – against one of the best players in the world. Of course I'm disappointed to lose but on the day the best man won.”