Maiden national snooker title for Aditya Mehta
Chennai: Mumbai's Aditya Mehta got his script spot on as he vanquished the seasoned Alok Kumar, his Petroleum Sports Promotion Board team-mate, 6-2 in the final to clinch his maiden National Snooker title on Tuesday.
It was not so much a spectacular climax to the 25-year-old Mehta's campaign as a fitting return to his consistency that marked his progress through the tournament despite not being at his very best. He showcased his amazing potting skills.
For Alok Kumar, the defeat topped a disappointing outing in the championship where he lost his billiards crown and then went down in the snooker final that he would have surely won on another day given the chances he had in the three-hour final on Tuesday.
"I have been dreaming of this day for many years now. I came close to realizing it in 2008, but lost to Pankaj Advani in the final. This time, I was determined to win the one title. Right now, I don't know what to say or how to react. I guess, it hasn't quite sunk in," said Mehta, the only Indian currently on the professional circuit.
Mehta was even more thrilled that his mother witnessed his triumph. "I hardly get to see my mother because of my snooker commitments and it was special that she was here to watch me win," said Mehta.
Despite the wide margin of victory, virtually every frame was touch-and-go as neither player was on top of his game. While the 42-year-old Alok, winner of the 2007 title, continued to struggle, Mehta played it smart, trying to make every visit to the table count.
"It was one of those days when things were not really going my way, or for that matter, Alok's. So, I decided to take what was on offer rather than try anything spectacular," Mehta said.
"I think, the turning point came in the early frames when Alok had a chance to go 3-1 up, but instead it was I who took a two-frame lead. And when I went 4-1, I knew that the final was done and dusted with," said Mehta, who took the third frame on a re-spotted black, the fourth on a yellow-to-pink clearance and the next on the back of a 40 clearance.
Alok, ever the sportsman, heaped praise on Mehta. "He is one of my favourite players. He played better and I am very happy for him. I was struggling throughout as I had not put in enough time to practice, busy as I was playing pool."
Earlier in the day, two first-timers in the semi-finals, IH Manudev (Karnataka) and Neeraj Kumar (Bihar) allowed the occasion to get the better of them, losing 0-5 and 3-5 to Mehta and Alok, respectively.
Neither match distinguished itself as worthy of the occasion. If Mehta was in a league of his own though not at his peak, his opponent Manudev was cramped, unsure and woefully short on confidence.
"I was more focused on consistency and scoring points at every opportunity. I did not play all that well, but I am happy that I made the final for the second time since 2008 when I lost to Pankaj Advani," said Mehta
The 36-year-old Manudev, on his part, offered poor challenge and barely got going, missing sitters and being guilty of playing loose safety shots.
"I never got going today. It was not that I was nervous playing my first ever semi-final in the championship, but Aditya played better snooker today," said the Bangalorean.
Alok and the 31-year old Neeraj were involved in a scrappy contest that was more about mistakes than quality snooker with the player committing fewer errors emerging winner.
Neeraj had his chances, but let Alok off the hook at crucial moments, especially in the eighth frame that he lost when he fluffed a pink that the Punjab star sank, followed by the black to wrap up the match.