Never thought this would happen in my lifetime: Aditya Mehta

Mumbai: Welcoming the opportunity to showcase his cue skills in a world class field at next month`s Indian Open in Delhi, reigning Asian snooker champion Aditya Mehta said it was a dream come true to play at home in a Professional tournament.

"I would be taking part in a professional snooker tournament for the first time in India. I never expected this to happen in my lifetime. It`s a dream come true," said the Mumbai-born Mehta, who won the gold medal at the World Games in Cali.
Mehta, who defeated China`s Xiao Guo Ding to qualify for the tournament, faces the stiffest of challenges as he has 2002 world champion Peter Ebdon as his first round opponent in the 300,000 pound sterling prize fund event.

"I am meeting a former world champion in the first round and am not looking too far ahead. But it`s a short format. It is like the 100m dash and puts pressure on the higher ranked players. A good start would do wonders," said Mehta at a media conference here on Sunday.

The other Indian in the world pro snooker circuit, Bangalore-based Pankaj Advani, was also keen to play at home for the first time in a pro event that has attracted World No.1 Neil Robertson, four-time world champion John Higgins and a clutch of Chinese players including last year`s semi finalist in the world championship - Ding Junhui.

"It`s a special feeling playing at home against the top players in the world. I am glad this is happening," said Advani about getting an entry after beating Briton Mathew Selt into the 64-player draw for the October 14-18 tournament at Le Meridien hotel.

Six other Indians - Manan Chandra, Kamal Chawla, Sandeep Gulati, Shivam Arora, Faisal Khan and Dharmender Lilly have been given wild cards and would earn a berth in the main draw by beating six foreign players.

The winner would take home 50,000 pound sterling and among the players who have made the cut are: Robertson, Nippon Saengkham, Allison Carter, Liang Wento, Ding Junhui John Higgins, Joe Perry, James Wattana, Ken Doherty, Anda Zhang, Tony Drago, Marco Fu, Michael Holt, Nigel Bond, Ebdon, Mark Williams, Yu De Lu and Mark Selby.

Advani, who won the IBSF world snooker title ten years ago, said light cue touch was needed to play well at the specially designed table with super fast cloth and consistency was very important to do well.

"I used to play one good shot earlier and then leave but have found out that I should play 20 such shots and be more aggressive. Consistency is also the key. The top 16 in the world are so consistent," said Advani, who turned professional a year and a half ago and trains with Mehta at the Star Snooker academy in Sheffield, UK.

All the matches upto the semi finals in the Indian Open would be best-of-seven frames while the final would be fought over nine frames.

On October 14 and 15, there would be two sessions of play commencing at 10 am and 7 pm while there would be an additional session at 1:30 pm over the last three days.

Neo Sports would be telecasting the event on the last three days of the matches, said Billiards and Snooker Federation of India`s vice president Rajan Khinvasara.

Former Asian champion and retired snooker ace Yasin Merchant, the first Indian to taste professional snooker, said that both these players "are right up there".

"The tournament is a great platform for all the other Indian wild cards too. But it`s important to follow it up with something matching (by the federation)," he said when asked how important was the tournament from an Indian perspective.

Khinvasara said that the federation has signed a three-year deal with world snooker authorities to hold the Indian Open.
"We have had visits by the world snooker team and we are implementing their suggestions. As for the sponsors we already have on board the Union Tourism Ministry, Bank of Baroda, State Bank of Hyderabad and National Insurance while we are in an advanced stage of discussion with ONGC."

He said the federation plans to have a seating spectator capacity of between 500 and 700 at the venue where the players also would be put up.

The matches would be played on four championship tables while three more would be made available to the players for practice.


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