New Delhi: India`s No 1 snooker player, Aditya Mehta has compared his entry into the world`s richest pro-snooker tournament `International Championship` to making the cut for a Grand Slam such as Wimbledon.
Reigning Asian champion, Aditya became the second Indian after compatriot Pankaj Advani to qualify last week for the USD 950,000 prize money `Venue Stages` event, a top pro-circuit meet, to be held in October this year in Chengdu, China.
"We can compare the International Championship to Grand Slams. Like you have four Grand Slams, there are four biggest snooker events in a year. For us, we have World Championship, UK Championship, International Championship which is this tournament and World Open. These are the four Majors,"
"It`s like me and Pankaj getting into the last-32 of Wimbledon. It`s a big deal. In tennis, you only need to win two rounds to get into the top-32. Here, in our sport, we need to win four rounds to get there in the major ranking event. It`s one of the Grand Slams of snooker. It`s massive," he said.
It has been a long and eventful journey for Aditya since making his India debut in 2002 and the Mumbai cueist knows that he has taken the next step in his career.
"Until now, all of our performances in the snooker were at the amateur level. Even there we had good performances, I won the Asian title and Pankaj the World. We never had anything to brag about when it came to professional snooker.
"For me, after getting to the Venue Stages, our country
can finally stand up and take notice because this is a big deal. This is a moment of pride not just for me but also for my country back home. This is the first time India is playing the Venue Stages and it gives me immense pleasure to be a part of it," he said.
The reigning national snooker champion, Aditya exuded hope that India might open up to the professional snooker with both the cueists qualifying for the championship.
"I wouldn`t be surprised if the next year, we have a major ranking event in India. There`s already talks going on between the World Snooker body and the Indian federation. This will really help in raising the profile of the game," he said.
Aditya, who has been chosen for the prestigious Arjuna award this year, knows that stakes would be considerably high with the cr?me de la cr?me of cue sport on the pro-circuit competing against each other.
"Competition would be very tough from the very first round. Winning four rounds and quyalify for the event is itself not a small joke. Even the first round, the matches would be extremely tough. It`s like playing the best players in the world. It`s a different level of snooker. The experience would be unbelievable.
"In the main Venue, we have to first play a Chinese wildcard. Me and Pankaj have to beat the Chinese wildcard to play one of the top-16 players. In every major ranking event in China, they want their local players to have the taste of playing in the tournament. Before I can get my hand on any of the top-16 players, I have to go through the wildcard round," informed Aditya.
On a possible meeting with Pankaj, he said, "I don`t think we can clash in the Pro. I am not exactly sure where we are placed in the draw but unless we get into the final, it`s something unlikely."
Before embarking on one of the toughest assignments of his career, Aditya will be participating in another tournament in China in September.