Francisco Bustamante in. Efren Reyes out.
In a sudden twist of fate, this was what transpired yesterday in the exciting, action-packed and unpredictable quarterfinal round of the San Miguel Beer Asian 9-Ball Tour’s fifth and final leg at the jampacked Octagon Hall of the Robinson’s Galleria.
Bustamante, always an early loser in this year’s tour, made it to the semis this time by beating Warren Kiamco, 9-8, while Reyes, a three-time winner in the first four legs, bowed to Lee Van Corteza, 8-9, in a pair of all-Filipino matches that were truly worth watching.
"It’s my first time to reach semis in this year’s tour so we’ll see what happens next," said Bustamante who faces 15-year-old Taiwanese Wu Chia Ching in the semis of the $50,000 leg sponsored by San Miguel Beer and organized by ESPN STAR Sports Management Group.
Wu made it to the semis by beating Korean Park Shin Young, 9-4, and looked forward to playing the 40-year-old Bustamante. Wu will give up a lot of experience against the Filipino cue expert whom he said is a year older than his father who runs a pool parlor back home.
Corteza, the clear underdog against Reyes, will be pitted against Korean Jeong Young Hwa in the semis which will be played this afternoon. The finals is set in the evening with the winner taking home $10,000 and the runner-up settling for half. Jeong defeated Vietnam’s Nguyen Thanh Nam, 9-7, in the quarters.
Corteza, only 25, said he was just lucky to be in the semis, claiming that his victory against Reyes, the 1999 world champion, was hardly expected, adding that some balls he was aiming on the left pockets fell on the right pockets instead. But now that he’s in the semis, then he might as well win it all.
"I couldn’t believe it myself. You can call it a fluke. I had so many bad shots and still won. I just hope this continues all the way to the semis and probably the finals. I’ll be praying for that," said Corteza, who led 4-1 then watched Reyes level the score at 8-8.
"That’s nine-ball. That’s how it goes. He won not because of those lucky shots but because of those I missed," said Reyes.
In their 17th and final rack, Bustamante stared defeat right in the eye when he failed to convert on his break, leaving the table wide open for Kiamco to take.
"It was my only break in the entire match where I failed to sink a ball. So I thought I lost the match right there," said Bustamante.
But Kiamco, who finished second to Reyes in the opening Singapore leg, just couldn’t finish it off, missing a long rail shot on the red three and giving the world’s top-ranked player one last chance.
Bustamante didn’t waste the opportunity and wrapped up the match, which lasted 90 minutes, with a short, soft carom on the seven and nine. As the nine ball dropped into left corner pocket, Bustamante yelled "Ayan na! (That’s it!)"
"I thought I had won the match when Django failed on his final break. But what can I do? I did my best to make that shot on the three," said Kiamco, who led early on, 2-0, before being dragged into an exciting see-saw battle until the 8-8 standoff.
It was the first time in this year’s $250,000 tour that Bustamante made it to the semis. His best finish so far was a quarterfinals stint in Vietnam and even had a forgettable first-round exit in the recent Taipei leg.