Mehta`s World Games gold, Indian Open high point for cuesport
New Delhi: Snooker stars from around the world descending on the capital to battle it out in the first ever Indian Open provided the watershed moment for Indian cuesport as the country`s players rounded off a successful year with titles coming their way at the international level.
India`s number one snooker player, Aditya Mehta, was the cynosure of all eyes courtesy his gold medal-winning feat in the World Games in Cali, Columbia and his runner-up finish in the USD 3,00,000 Indian Open in October as the old war horses of the Indian green baize continued chasing their sporting dreams globally.
If Mehta and eight-time world champion Pankaj Advani rewrote history in major ranking snooker events, Rupesh Shah, Brijesh Damani, Alok Kumar and Manan Chandra tasted success at the Asian Billiards and Snooker Championships.
The leading pair of Vidya Pillai and Arantxa Sanchis clinched the Team Championship gold in the IBSF World 6-red Snooker Championship at Carlow, Ireland in October.
Globally, however, cuesport found itself mired in a damaging match-fixing controversy when former world number five Stephen Lee was handed a 12-year ban and fined 40,000 pounds after being found guilty of seven match-fixing charges by an independent tribunal in the UK.
The Englishman was charged following an investigation into eight matches -- four at the Malta Cup in 2008, two at the UK Championship 2008, and one each at the China Open in 2009 and the World Championship the same year.
Indian cuesport too endured its fair share of controversy when former World Billiards champion and Padma Bhushan awardee Michael Ferreira was summoned by the Mumbai Economic Offences wing for his alleged role in the Rs 450 crore Qnet scam, which reportedly duped over 12 lakh investors in the country by using a banned pyramid scheme.
Coming back to the success stories of Indian cueists, Mehta, undoubtedly, emerged as the best professional in the business.
Mehta made the whole country proud when he became the first Indian to win the World Games title after comfortably defeating his higher-ranked Chinese opponent and tournament favourite, Liang Wenbo, in the summit clash of the quadrennial event in July.
This was also India`s first medal since badminton star Prakash Padukone`s bronze in the inaugural edition of the World Games in 1981 and only the second for the country in the history of the Games.
Mehta touched another high in his pro career when he reached the final of the Indian open, a major ranking event, only to lose to Chinese prodigy Ding Junhui 0-5.
Though it was a crushing defeat, Mehta`s feat of reaching the final was nothing less than exceptional, given that the competition featured the creme da la creme of international snooker.
The 27-year-old Mumbaikar had scalped world champions Peter Ebdon and Mark Williams, and other worthy opponents Advani and Stephen Maguire en route the final.
He turned pro five years ago and Mehta came through the ranks with an outstanding show at the ranking event which showed that he has matured with time.
Advani also made his presence felt on the pro circuit when he reached the quarter-finals of the prestigious BetVictor Welsh Open Series at Newport, Wales. Advani lost to Scotland`s Graeme Dott 1-4.
The Bangalore-based cueist had also made the quarter-final of the Indian Open where his countrymate Mehta defeated him in more than a four-hour long tussle.
Advani consistently made the third round or pre-quarters of the pro circuit and IBSF tournaments but title success eluded him in 2013.
Reigning world champion Rupesh Shah added another feather to his cap by clinching the 12th Asian Billiards championship with win over compatriot Alok Kumar in April in Indore.
This was India`s 10th Asian Billiards title and Rupesh followed into the footsteps of previous champions Geet Sethi, Ashok Shandilya, Devendra Joshi, Pankaj Advani and Alok Kumar.
The Indian trio of Brijesh Damani, Alok Kumar and Manan Chandra brought gold medal glory to the nation when they triumphed 3-0 over Iran in the inaugural Asian Team Snooker Championship in the Qatari capital of Doha in May.
Veteran Alok Kumar failed to add the World Billiards trophy to his cabinet as he lost 1-6 in the final to David Causier to settle for the silver medal in October in Leeds.
In the `Long up` format in the World Billiards, it was a case of so near yet so far for Alok and Ashok Shandilya as they fell just before the last hurdle to settle for a bronze each.
In the women`s world, Pillai and Sanchis clinched the team title in the IBSF World 6-red Snooker Championship after defeating Hong Kong in the final at Carlow, Ireland.
India also won two bronze medals through Chitra Magimairajan and and Varshaa Sanjeev in the women`s team event and Shivam Arora in the men`s individual section.
In the IBSF World 15-Red snooker in Daugapils, Latvia, Chitra Magimairajan settled for a bronze after losing to Wendy Jans 1-4 in the semi-finals.
In the Nationals, Alok won the billiards title while Manan Chandra secured the snooker crown.