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Muhammad Naseem Akhtar of Pakistan Claims Under-18 World Title

Pakistan’s Muhammad Naseem Akhtar has won the IBSF World Under-18 Championship in Beijing on Tuesday.

The 16 year-old fought back from 3-1 down in the final against China’s Peifan Lei to upset the home hopeful 5-3.

Akhtar’s highest break in the tournament was just 74 but he lost only two frames in his four knockout phase victories before the final.

That run included a 4-0 semi-final drubbing of Israeli Amir Nardeia, who compiled an event-high 119 century break and also dispatched of the defending champion Jackson Page in the last eight.

Snooker is extremely popular in Pakistan and the amateur game has been growing in the country over the last number of years.

Pakistan players have emerged triumphant in the IBSF World Championship before but this win marks the first at any underage level.

It was a disappointing tournament for the Irish teenagers involved, with only Noel Landers emerging from the round-robin stages before a last 24 defeat to Xuan Tu.

As has been the growing trend over the last number of years, these global international amateur events are becoming more and more dominated by Asian competitors, and this under-18 edition was no different.

Five out of the eight quarter-finalists were from the continent with a further seven Asian players featuring in the last 16 as well.

It’s very likely that the World Under-21 Championship will follow suit, with the prestigious junior title to get under way on Wednesday in the Chinese capital city, and where eight out of the last ten champions have hailed from Asia.

While Akhtar will likely not gain a Main Tour card for his exploits in the younger discipline, a two-year ticket will be awarded to the under-21 champion as has been the norm in recent years.

Akhtar will make a bid for an unlikely double but could potentially face a step up in class with several big hitters entering the fray.

From Ireland’s perspective, Landers will have another attempt at success and will be joined by Darragh Cusack, Aaron Holland, Shane Bates, and Ronan Whyte in the line-up.

Meanwhile, in an all-Thai battle Nutcharat Wongharuthai beat compatriot Siripaporn Nuanthakjamjan 3-2 in the final of the Women’s World Under-18 Open, gaining revenge for her defeat to the same opponent in last year’s showdown for the trophy.