Asif crumbles under pressure in snooker final

Pakistan number one cueist goes down to Saengkham 5-2 at Dubai International Open.

Nabeel Hashmi November 10, 2012


Pakistan number one Muhammad Asif failed in his bid to win the Dubai International Open, going down to Thailand cueist Noppon Saengkham 5-2 in the best-of-nine final yesterday.

After Saengkham won the opening frame, Asif hit back in the second and, despite clinching the fifth, the Thai never seemed like he was losing his grip on the final. He won with frame scores of 60-10, 49-60, 60-40, 69-9. 31-63, 74-27 and 64-46 to shatter the Pakistani’s hopes.

Asif, who had a superb tournament in the run-up to the final, rued his costly mistakes in the final.

“I couldn’t play well in the most important match,” Asif told The Express Tribune. “I had done well in previous matches so to lose the final in this manner is really disappointing. I wanted to win the event to make my country proud but I think it wasn’t my day.

“Saengkham was always in control and he didn’t make any mistakes, which made it difficult for me to make a comeback after I won the second frame.”

Asif qualified for the final after thrashing Hong Kong’s Andy Lee in straight frames with scores of 52-38, 89-41, 119-0, 64-9 and 70-17. The cueist Asif was also involved in a nail-biting quarter-final against Syria’s Omar Alkojah which he won 5-4 with the scores of 95-7, 91-4, 65-25, 52-65, 24-65, 27-70, 45-70, 95-25 and 99-0.

Asif had emerged unblemished in the first round, winning all his three league matches, while Pakistan’s other cueist, Asjad Iqbal, had shocked former Asia number three Hong Kong’s Au Chi Wai on the opening day as he won two of his three matches to qualify to the knockouts.

However, Asjad’s journey was brought to a halt by Lee after a tense last-four clash which the Pakistani lost 5-4.

Meanwhile, Asif said that the experience provided much-needed practice ahead of other international events. However, Asif and Asjad’s participation at the IBSF World Snooker Championship still looks doubtful.

“For me and Asjad, the world championship means a lot as we’ve prepared for hours on a daily basis for the past several weeks. In addition, Iqbal attended a coaching clinic in Bangkok and all of this will go to waste if we don’t get to play in the event just because the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) has failed to release a small amount of Rs700,000 as a special grant.”

Manager Abdul Rasheed, who accompanied the team in Dubai, said he was thrilled at the performance of both cueists as they showed they can compete with the world’s top players.

Rasheed also remained optimistic that PSB would help the players in time to fulfil their dream.

“I’m hopeful that PSB will do something swiftly to help these players go to Bulgaria,” said Rasheed.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2012.


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