Un peu mieux, un peu mieux


Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on November 28, 2014

Bert van ManenThe first day of play has been completed, Marco Zanetti has just beaten Rene Hendriksen from Switzerland 40 – 33 in 44 (!) innings, and I hear one of those cynical know-it-all 3-cushion journalists say:  “We may not know who will win this tournament, but at least we know who will NOT win it.”

Oh wait. That was me.

Will this game of ours ever produce results we expect? Not any time soon. Not in beautiful Lausanne. And not as long as Marco Zanetti is around. He arrives in Switzerland with only a day to recover from jetlag after a trip to Colombia. Looking tired and unhappy with himself, he plays poorly against Hendriksen and again against Sung Won Choi. The Korean has a big lead, but fails to capitalize on it, and MZ escapes. He then loses to Horn, but makes 37 in 24 against solid defense, and knows he is still in with a chance. A very good win over Jaspers in 20 innings is the shot in the arm he needs. Against all odds, he is in the semi-finals. Horn joins him, and rightly so. He earns that spot more than Jaspers or Choi, who never show their best.

In the other group meanwhile, it’s all throttle and no brakes, a 3-cushion extravaganza. Where group A has averages ranging from 1.3 (MZ) to 1.8 (MH), group B sees Bury average 2.0, Blomdahl 2.2, Caudron 2.2 and the undefeated Sanchez 2.3. A run of 21 (Sanchez), two 13-inning matches and a 10-inning match all come from this flight. The “decider” between Blomdahl and Caudron is a thing of beauty: TB is at a disadvantage after his painful 39-40 loss to Bury, needing to win and keep Fred under 26 points to make up the difference in average. He starts with 2-2-2-9-9-4, finishes in 15 innings, gives the Belgian world champion nothing but shit to work with, and it still is not good enough. Caudron does extremely well to make 33 points, and it earns him a place in the semi’s. Bury comes up short despite good play, and Blomdahl records the highest tournament average (2.177) but does not reach the last four.

The semi between Horn and Caudron is a quality match, in which Frédéric is unable to get rid of the stubborn German. Horn gets across the finish line first (40-37 in 22), and it’s a very deserved win. He has to work hard for his points, the balls are unkind but he keeps solving problems and is rewarded. It’s not the match that will stick in people’s memories though. The other table, that is where the real drama is.

Zanetti – Sanchez is 32-31, when Marco is lining up a shot with the wrong ball. Daniel tells him so. Zanetti walks over to Daniel’s chair, shakes his hand to say thank you, walks back to the table. There is precious little time left now. He goes down to shoot, this time with the correct ball, and the clock says 3,2,1. Then, three things happen almost at once, but I can assure you they happened in THIS order: 1) the scoreboard announces FOUL. 2) the referee announces FOUL. 3) Marco shouts. He says later that he shouted “time-out”, but to me and to others I have spoken to, it was just a shout. But even if it had been a clearly audible “time-out”, it still would have been too late.

Then it gets ugly. The referee – inexplicably – gives Marco his time-out. He makes the point, and another one. He lines up the third, then stands up, walks around, looks at the ceiling. He taps his cue ball with the cue, from the top, hardly moving it, and walks to the chair. He will later tell Frits Bakker: “I had such an easy position for my third, but I could not win the match from there, after Daniel made that gesture. It just did not feel right.” Zanetti wins the match anyway, in the midst of controversy: 40 – 38 in 19. Daniel is furious, but he directs the brunt of his anger towards Marco, when, in my opinion at least, the referee also deserved a portion.

The final could go either way. Horn and Zanetti are neck and neck until it’s 36-35 to the German. A missed twice-around bank shot (difficult) and a missed long-short-long (very makeable) seal his fate, and Zanetti becomes a very surprising winner of the Lausanne Billard Masters, retaining his 2013 title. Horn demonstrates he is still a force to be reckoned with. Diane Wild can be proud of her hard work: she once again produced a high-quality event, well organized and exciting.

The Italian veteran wins it with a general average of 1.481, a few sea miles behind his competitors, and without facing Blomdahl or Caudron. How lucky can you get? It has to be said though, he played a bit better every day, and in his last three matches he was mentally strong, defensively strong, and he produced the points. “Un peu mieux, un peu mieux chaque jour”, he said in the winner’s speech.

Back to “the incident”. A referee can make a mistake, as this obviously was. How should it have been resolved? In some countries, the rules say you can’t call time-out in the final 5 seconds. No such rule here. There would not have been any problem, if Marco had instantly found the fair play inside him, that he came up with two points later. Had he realized there was no point in calling time-out once the scoreboard already showed “FOUL”, and sat down, the audience would have applauded both him and Daniel for superb behavior. It all happened in a second, but I think he would handle it that way, if he could do it over.