Mumbai: A veil of gloom and anxiety has descended on the Indian Open World ranking snooker tournament as the 300,000 pounds event entered its second day here on Wednesday.
Pankaj Advani's stunning 3-4 loss to an unheralded young Scot, Rhys Clark, late on Tuesday night has taken some gloss off the competition from an Indian perspective. And the attention will be totally on Aditya Mehta, the last of home challengers left in the draw.
The opening day saw the exit of all the six Indian wild card entries, including Advani, as none of them was able to adjust to the table conditions that demanded softer touch which in turn put a premium on cue-ball control.
Mehta, ranked 50, is scheduled to play his first round match at 9 pm on Wednesday against No.33 Mark King, a player he has never beaten in four meetings.
Obviously, the home fingers are crossed with the hope that the 29-year old Mehta, the only Indian on the professional tour and playing on home turf, will go deep into the tournament like he did in the 2013 edition. He reached the final in New Delhi before losing to Chinese star and current No.4 Ding Junhui.
Playing in home town and in front of family and friends will certainly heighten the expectations and also the pressure to perform. But Mehta struck a positive note while pointing out that he has had a good start to the current year after recovering from back and neck injuries besides hiring a new coach.
"I didn't have a great season because of injuries to my back and shoulder which are pretty common for a snooker player. I recovered fully in December, and in January, I shifted my base from Sheffield to London besides getting a new coach in Mukesh Parmar.
"We have a great setup in London where I practice with Anthony Hamilton and Alfie Burden. The shift was basically to give myself a new environment and motivation.
"The move has certainly helped my game. I beat (Barry) Hawkins (World No.5) at the Welsh Open in February when reaching the round of 32. So, I am in a very positive frame of mind.
"As for playing in my hometown, it will be great to have the crowd support, but I am not really thinking about all that. In 2013 Indian Open, I played in front of my family and friends in Delhi. So, I will focus on the match," said Mehta.
Mehta is also too aware of his win-loss record against King, but took heart from the fact that he ran the 40-year old Englishman pretty close when the two met last in China Open last year.
"Yes, I have played King a few times in the past, but like I said, I have had a good start to the year. My target is to get into top 32 and then 16, and I am working towards that," said Mehta who turned professional in 2008, but still in search of sponsors to support his stay in England.
"It is tough financially when you are spending almost the entire year in England besides travelling to tournaments. I am still looking for sponsors, but am hopeful of finding some backers," said Mehta.