Alex Kazakis was in an old, familiar place at the conclusion of his match: reclining in his chair with the look of relief on his face after surviving yet another near-elimination experience.
Holding an 11-3 lead against Dennis Orcullo, the young Greek’s second straight appearance in World Pool Series final this year seemed like a foregone conclusion. However, a loss of focus nearly led to the loss of his lead, with Orcullo methodically clawing his way back into the match.
Much like the previous two nights, Kazakis was bailed out by a timely error from his opponent, as he took advantage of the mistake to close out his semifinal match, 13-10, and advance to the championship of the Rasson 10-Ball masters Championship Sunday night at Steinway Billiards in Astoria.
“I was once again lucky. But once again, everybody needs luck. Without luck, it’s tough to win,” he said after the match.
Kazakis now moves onto the 7 p.m. finals to face Germany’s Joshua Filler, who made quick work of Lee Vann Corteza in the first semifinals match, 13-5.
Kazakis went on a tear early after his opponent won two of the first three games, taking advantage of timely missed shots by Orcullo and mixing in a pair of breaks and runs to win eight consecutive racks to take a 9-2 lead. Orcullo tacked on another victory after Kazakis scratched on the break in the 12th game but the European would win the next two games to increase his lead to 11-3.
Around this point in the match Kazakis started to lose focus as he noticed Orcullo talking to people seated near him.
“I got a little bit out of focus because he started talking. It was my mistake,” Kazakis said.
After he missed a 5-ball in the 17th game that could have increased his lead to 12-5 the Greek not only lost focus but also confidence. Orcullo gutted out the 18th game to pull to within four games then won a safety battle on the 7-ball to narrow the margin to 11-8. The Filipino cut into the lead again in the next game when Kazakis missed a 6-ball in the corner pocket then pulled to within one game when his opponent left the 8-ball in the jaws of the corner pocket.
“Every game that I was playing it was tougher because I was feeling uncomfortable,” Kazakis said. “I was winning 11-3 and after two or three mistake I put him back in the match for no reason.”
With a chance to even the match, Orcullo changed his opening strategy and broke softly. After Kazakis missed a combination shot on the 10-ball and Orcullo banked in the 5-ball it appeared the breaking gamble could pay dividends. However, Orcullo missed the 6-ball – allowing Kazakis back to the table to get on the hill. The Greek, who was a runner up at April’s Aramith 9-Ball Masters, used the challenging table-length cut shot on the 2-ball to close out the rack and the match.
Late luck is familiar territory for Kazakis, who used a timely miss by Lee Van Corteza Friday night to get on the hill and qualify for his victorious sudden death shootout. The Greek benefited from a timely 8-ball miss by James Aranas in the 23rd game of their quarterfinals match Saturday to avoid a shootout and earn a spot in Sunday’s final four.
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