Pankaj Advani to return to his first love billiards after pro season

New Delhi: Ever since Pankaj Advani ventured into the glitzy world of professional snooker, his first love billiards took a back seat, but the eight-time world champion has vowed to play more of the traditional format after the end of pro season in April.

"I am missing billiards. Like I have always said billiards is my wife and snooker a mistress. I would like to feature in some more billiards tournaments that I played in last one and a half years," Advani told PTI.

"I am happy that I am playing so much of snooker but I would like to return back to billiards. For a couple of years, it`s been only snooker for me, but now I would like to play billiards more. It would be like playing in selective, major tournaments and skipping a few," he said.

The news would surely come as music to the ears of Advani`s followers and former players of the game, who have always wished to see more of him in billiards.

The fact that Advani`s seven world titles out of eight have come in billiards speaks volume about his mastery over the traditional format.

Advani`s pressing professional engagements on the European circuit led to him missing the World Billiards Championship in Leeds last year, apart from skipping a few other billiards event.

His love for snooker led to murmurs that Advani`s priority has shifted from billiards.

But the 28-year-old would look to strike a balance between snooker and billiards after the end of pro season in April.

"I have seen enough of pro circuit. I myself experienced the lucrative world of pro snooker. I have done well for myself, played against the best of players and made a mark for myself. I am glad that I gave pro circuit a try and broke into the top-64 ranking. But, there are external factors also which make it tough for an outsider like me to survive there.

"You spend a lot of time away from home, it`s like flash Europe, flash China. The scheduling is tough. The food is also a big problem given I am a vegetarian. Another issue is lack of sponsorship. ONGC is kind enough to bear some of my expenses but lack of sponsors make it difficult for you to settle there. It`s tough and brutal over there," he added.

Advani might have got his first breakthrough in snooker when he won a major tournament in China in 2003, but the multiple-world champion has always maintained that billiards gave him identity.

The Bangalorean cueist has confirmed his availability for the Snooker Nationals in Lucknow from March 1 to 7.

It would be "happy homecoming" for Advani, who would be seen in action in nationals after a hiatus of two years.

"I am happy to come back to the Indian circuit. Last time I played the Nationals, it was in Pune in 2012. I missed the billiards nationals this time due to the Welsh Open. I am getting nostalgic and could not wait to enter the arena in Lucknow. I have grown up all my life playing the Nationals, Asian Championships, IBSF events in India. It`s been a couple of years since I have last participated in these events. So, I am happy to be back," he said.

Advani believes a good showing in the Snooker Nationals would hold him in good stead in the upcoming pro-circuit events - Haikou World Open from March 10-16 in Hainan, China Open from March 31-April 6 in Beijing and The Crucibles qualifiers from April 8 to 16.

"Chinese events carry a lot of ranking points. I would like to win a couple of rounds there and then look for the qualifiers for the UK Championships. It`s going to be non-stop snooker for me in the next two months. Snooker Nationals will help me prepare well for the coming pro circuit events," he said.

Advani also informed that he would be missing the Asian Grand Prix - World Ranking Billiards Championship to be held in Chadigarh from April 9 to 14 due to clash of dates with The Crucibles qualifiers.

Advani said he is confident of retaining the pro card for the next season as both he and Aditya Mehta are comfortably placed in the ranking chart (top 64).

"Both of us are comfortably placed, well within top-64. For me, it`s not about rankings, but improving myself as a person."