New Delhi: The in-form duo of Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta will shoulder the Indian hopes when 64 of the world`s leading professionals compete in the country`s richest and biggest major ranking snooker event -- the 300,000 pound Indian Open -- starting here from Monday.
The first of its kind wevent to be held in India, featuring five former world champions, will be payed out from October 14 to 18 at the Le Meridien hotel.
Advani and Mehta are expected to provide some cheer for the Indian fans. The two have had a good run this season on the pro tour with some eye-catching victories that won them the attention of the snooker connoisseurs.
The Bangalore-based Advani begins his campaign with a match against World No.29 Marcus Campell in the first round, while Mumbai`s Mehta, gold medallist at the Columbia World Games, will take on 2002 World champion Peter Ebdon in his opening round.
Advani, ranked 70, was a quarter-finalist at the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany where he beat the likes of Higgins and Ryan Day before losing to Selby.
The 27-year old Mehta, ranked 72 in his fourth season on the pro circuit, has had wins over legendary Jimmy White and Jamie Cope besides a gold medal at the World Games and also beat World No.8 Ricky Walden while qualifying for the International Championship.
The high quality field is headed by World No.1 and top ranked Neil Robertson, the 31-year old from Australia who is a winner of the 2010 world championship. Also in the fray are four other former World champions in John Higgins (1998, 2007, `09, `11), Mark Williams (2000, `03), Ken Doherty (1997) and Peter Ebdon (2002).
Considering that the ranking tournaments this season have produced different winners, the Indian Open has an open look despite the presence of Robertson, who is on a hot-streak having won the Wuxi Classic in China and then finishing runner-up in the Australian Goldfield Open besides reaching the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters.
Robertson, who hails from Melbourne but is based in Cambridge, starts off as favourite for the winner's cheque of 50,000 pounds and has sounded a warning to his opponents, saying that those looking to challenge him for the top honours will have to be at their absolute best.
As well as Robertson has been playing currently, the presence of China's 26-year old Ding Junhui, who has gained six spots to move from No.10 to four this season, cannot be ignored as also that of Hong Kong's Marco Fu, who is at No.9.
Junhui won the Shanghai Masters, defeating Robertson 5-2 in the quarter-finals and was runner-up to Mark Allen in the just-concluded Ruhr Open.
Fu, 36, stopped Robertson from winning back-to-back titles by defeating the Aussie 9-6 in the Goldfield Open final. The Hong Kong star was also a finalist in the Bluebell Wood Open on the European tour.
The depth of the professional field is reflected in the fact that the five European Tour events were won by as many different players.
Higgins kick-started the season by winning the Victoria Bulgarian Open, while Mark Williams, Ricky Walden, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Mark Allen topped in the other four Euro Tour tournaments.
The five-day event commences with a wild card round that will see six Indian qualifiers -- Manan Chandra, Kamal Chawla, Shivam Arora, Sandeep Gulati, Faisal Khan and Dharmender Lilly -- up against seasoned professionals with the winners qualifying for the main draw.
The main draw field will be without one of the most flamboyant characters of pro snooker, veteran Tony Drago from Malta, who along with China's Yu Delu, Allister Carter Anthony Hamilton, Kyren Wilson and David Gilbert pulled out of the tournament.
Due to the withdrawals of Carter and Wilson, Chawla should win his Wild Card round against Rod Lawler and move straight into the second round as also Chandra who goes up against Robbie Williams.
Sundeep Gulati takes on Jeff Cundy, Faisal Khan goes up against Paul S Davison, Shivam Arora will fight it out with Anthony McGill and Dharminder Lilly has to overcome Liam Highfield.
All matches upto and including the semi-finals will be decided on a best-of-seven frames format while the final will be played over nine frames.