MUNDUKA, Spain – Kelly Slater is just one heat win away from claiming his ninth world surfing title after making a successful start to the Billabong Pro Mundaka in Spain.
Slater progressed straight to round three after posting a 16.33-point ride to account for fellow American Taylor Knox (6.16) and Reubyn Ash, from Britain, (3.50) in his opening heat.
Slater's heat total was the second-highest of the day, and he can now be denied another crown only if he fails to advance past round three and world No.2 Taj Burrow, from Australia, wins the event.
Slater went extremely close to clinching the title in France last week, when he lost the final to Adrian Buchan, from Australia, and the American admitted the tension was taking its toll.
"I just want to try to win one more heat and get it done," he said.
While Slater seems squarely focused on the next heat, Burrow has his eyes on the Billabong Pro Mundaka title.
Burrow recorded the top heat score with 16.34 points.
"I just want to win an event and this one would be great," Burrow said.
"It seems like there is a lack of motivation from everyone on tour. People are going home, they're over it.
"It just feels like it is over with Kelly wrapping up the title. I'm just trying to capitalise on that and win these things."