Takayama, Bustamante Gain 9-Ball Open Semifinals Berths

Mike Takayama

PARANAQUE CITY, PHILIPPINES---Mike Takayama barely had a year of pool experience when the San Miguel Philippine 9-Ball Open started in 2003.

He's a semifinalist in the event this year.

The 18-year-old stunned second seed Dennis Orcollo, 9-4, to assure himself of a P100,000 paycheck yesterday at the Casino Filipino Pagcor Theater in Paranaque City .

"I still cant believe that I can make it to the final four but thanks God," said Takayama, who learned to play pool four years ago. "I just play my very best."

Takayama, the youngest ever finalist in the event organized by Solar Sports and supported by San Miguel Beer, will face the winner between Marlon Manalo and Ronnie Alcano in the semifinals.

Manalo survived a shaky finish and beat Antonio "Nickoy" Lining, 9-8, while Alcano eliminated Efren "Bata" Reyes, 9-5, to keep their hopes alive.

Defending champion Francisco "Django" Bustamante, who sent Reyes to the loser's bracket Thursday, crushed Leonardo Didal, 9-4, to grab the other semifinal seat in the winner's bracket.

He will next face the winner of the matches between Carlo Biado and Orcollo in the knockout match. Takayama downed former Asian 9-Ball Tour leg winner Gandy Valle, 9-7, and former world champion Alex Pagulayan, 9-2, Thursday night. He earlier defeated top qualifier Yusuuke Kuruda of Japan , 9-5. Pagulayan became an instant fan.

After Takayama potted a tricky long shot off a series of safety shots, Pagulayan knelt and waved his hands like a voodoo master performing a ritual.

Moments later, Pagulayan waved the white flag with still two balls left on the table.

"Why there is a Japanese here i thought it's a Philippine Open," Pagulayan joked. "But he's good."

Manalo, meanwhile, dug deep on his bag if tricks to pull off an escape act against the fighting Lining.

The top Filipino finisher in last year's World Pool Championship got the better of their safety exchanges and ran out the final rack to secure the victory.

"After my error in the 16th rack i thought its hard to comeback," Manalo related.

But Lining's break on deciding frame failed to produce a clear shot on the one-ball forcing the pride of Oriental Mindoro to play safe.

"After Nickoy decided to placing the ball I said to my self its my destiny."

Manalo, who was relegated to the loser's bracket by unseeded Leonardo Didal Thursday night, looked headed to an easy victory at the onset.

He won the first three racks and four of the first five as Lining lost three straight on his break. Lining battled back to tie the score at 4-all and at 8-all after trailing by two late in the match. But his breaks failed him until the end.

"Its not my day," said Lining, who won three straight after dropping his opener to Reyes.