Advani faces tough competition at World Snooker C`ship
Bangalore: Seven-time world champion Pankaj Advani may be the biggest name among the 11 Indians in fray at the IBSF World Snooker Championship here, but it would not be easy for him given his dismal form and the presence of tough challengers such as Yasin Merchant and Alok Kumar.
Advani has been going through the worst phase of his career and has not won a single international title this year.
Advani hopes to erase this statistic with an advantage of playing at his backyard -- the Karnataka State Billiards and Snooker Association (KSBA) where he honed his skills before he attained stardom.
It has been a lucky venue for Advani as he was the runner-up in the Asian Billiards in 2002 and won the IBSF Billiards crown here in 2008.
Even if Advani finds his touch, as he did in 2003, when he won the last edition of the World Snooker Championship in Syria, Merchant would give him a run for his money as he is playing his last tournament and wants to sign off in style.
Merchant, who is competing on a wild card which was handed out to him by the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India, has been a two-time Asian Snooker champion.
Merchant, who has been focusing more on his business and family these days, has devoted limited time on the green blaize. Nevertheless, with his experience and lack of power players in the tournament, he may spring a surprise and give tough fight to the opponents.
Advani may have to negotiate with the emergence of Alok Kumar, who has been a record-breaking spree in the last 12 months.
Last November, he became the first Indian to win a pool (8-ball bronze) medal at the Asian Games and in March became the first to annex all the national titles when he lifted the 8-ball pool crown.
The players have been divided into 16 groups and three will qualify from each group for the next stage.