Amit was surrounded by a sea of adoring fans after she kept the world title from leaving the country. (Photo by Ted Lerner)
THE AMIT magic continued straight into Sunday's first race-to-9 semifinal against Kajatani, played in front of yet another packed crowd on the TV table, smack dab in the center of one of the busiest malls in the metropolis. The Filipina dropped the first two games, only to fight back to grab a 4-3 lead. The match was tight and tense the rest of the way, but it was Amit who did exactly what champions always seem to do - keep things simple, stay patient and, most importantly, bury your opponent when they make mistakes. When Kajatani bobbled the 7 ball in two important racks, Amit cleared. When Kajatani ran out of position on the 4 ball, Amit cleared. A solid safety by Amit led to a runout. Convincingly, Amit won, 9-6.
"It's all heart," she said as she exited the arena surrounded by a mob of adoring fans. "I'm nervous, but it's good to be nervous."
The second semifinal pitted Austria's Ouschan against Liu of Taiwan. Ouschan clearly wanted the title badly, and her play early in the match reflected her determination as she built a 4-2 lead. But when a few rolls went against her, Ouschan looked as if her steely demeanor was conspiring against her. She relinquished the lead at 6-5 and her fortunes continued downhill as Liu took advantage. After Ouschan scratched on the break in rack 14, down 7-6, the Taiwanese legend ran the table. A missed cut on the 5 ball gave Liu the table in the next rack, and she cleared to book her spot in the final, as a visibly distraught Ouschan sat slumped over, head in hands, in her chair.
Playing in front of her countrymen, with the likes of Francisco Bustamante sitting in the front row, Amit shouldered an immense amount of pressure in the race-to-10 final. Indeed, in the very first rack, a bad miss on the 2 ball and an easy clear by Liu seemed to indicate her charmed ride would quickly come to an end. Instead, like she had for the last two days, Amit settled down, played solid pool and took advantage of every mistake, along with a slew of fortunate rolls.
In the second rack, Amit cleared after a dry break by Liu. In the next two racks, Amit ran out after early misses by her opponent. Then after Liu got one back, a dry break in the subsequent rack left an easy 4-10 combo for Amit. She then broke and ran the next rack for an impressive 5-2 lead.
From there, Liu kept the pressure up, but it was clear that the magic of Amit was real and it was going to take her all the way to the world title. She never failed to pounce on Liu's errors, and even when she found herself out of position, the Filipina recovered nicely to take the rack. And like a true champion, Amit firmly closed the door in crunch time. Leading 6-4, she won the last four racks, including a break and run to close the deal.
As the final 10 ball dropped, Amit collapsed to one knee in disbelief, as the confetti fell and fans roared for their new sporting legend. For the conquering hero, the unlikely dream had been achieved.
Not only was she now a world champion, she had just written pool history and took her place among the greats.
"It's really flattering," Amit said when asked what it felt like to be mentioned alongside the great Efren Reyes as having won a world championship. Clearly, though, the new champion is too humble to compare herself to Reyes or any one else. She only wanted to bask in the satisfaction of accomplishment. "I just want to be remembered as a person who went for her goal and achieved it."
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