Mumbai: Coming back from an injury lay-off and with a new coach, India's top cueist Aditya Mehta is hoping that home support would inspire him to his maiden win over higher-ranked English rival Mark King in the first round of the Indian Open world ranking snooker tournament tomorrow.
"I don't think I have beaten him before. It will have to be a good performance from me. He's a higher ranked player but I will have the crowd support to count on to get a few extra points here and there," said the 29-year-old ahead of his opening game in the tournament carrying pound sterling 300,000 in prize money.
Mehta, who has recovered from a neck and back injury that put him off for four months from June, has a poor 0-4 record in professional snooker against the world no. 33.
The Indian, ranked 50th, has a new coach in Mukesh Parmar of Leicester. He had lost to King 4-5 in the first round of China Open last year and the win paved the way for his rival to reach the quarters.
"If I can get through the first match then it's a game on. In this level of snooker every match is difficult, it's all about confidence. I need to get that first win in the bag and then anything is possible. Last year I had an equally difficult first match against Peter Ebdon. I got through that and we all know what happened.
"Last year I thought it will be difficult. I fed off the crowd. Whether it's Delhi or Mumbai, It's all India. I will try and put snooker above all else in my home town," said the Mumbai-based Mehta ? India's lone card holder on the world pro snooker circuit.
"Personally I want to take it one match or even one frame at a time. God willing I will get through the first one," remarked Mehta who finished runner-up to China's current world no. 4 and tournament top seed Ding Junhui in the first edition in Delhi in October, 2013.
After his injury, change of base from Sheffield to London and hiring of a new coach, Mehta reached the third round of the Welsh Open in February, and feels that was a good show.
"That's one of the good starting points ever since we (he and Parmar) started working together. It was one of the first three tournaments. I beat the world no. 5, Barry Hawkins (of England). It was a big win for me in a big tournament and gives a good bit of confidence going into this tournament.
"But I still have a long way to go, especially with the new coach. I am not expecting any miracles," he added.
About his winless record in four meetings with the 40-year-old King, Mehta said the gap was closing between the two and tomorrow could be that day.
"It was a while ago, I think I played him a year ago. All
I remember is I have not beaten him yet. That's an important stat. I met him the first few times a few years ago. He was still a top 32 player, I was a lot weaker. Now I am moving up. I am around 50. The gap will get closer and closer and hopefully this time will be the first time I will beat him," said Mehta.
He conceded he had not experienced a great season and hoped for a good show the Indian Open and the subsequent World Championships at the Crucible in Sheffield, England, his old base, from April 18 to May 4 to finish the season on a better note.
"It (season) was not anything great. I was struggling with a a back and neck injury for four months -- since July to November. I lost lot of ground there. I could not play that much and could do minimum training. I recovered in December. It's a pretty common injury but can't say what triggered it off.
"I moved from Sheffield to London in July. Lot of new things has happened this season - new coach, new base, coming back from an injury. It's been a difficult season, hopefully it will end it well. Look forward to next year.
"I have a new coach (Parmar). I am working really hard and hopefully things would fall into place. I have two more tournaments before end of season, this and the World Championships," said Mehta.
"I have been there (Sheffield) for six years, and it was just a matter of needing to find some motivation. A new environment can do that to you. I am enjoying the new facility and have two great practice partners," he said.
Looking ahead, he said he was aiming to break into the top 32 a year and a half down the line and then into the top 16 in three years' time.
"The top 32 probably may be the next target for the next season-season and a half. Hopefully it will be a stepping stone to make a push for the top 16 which is the ultimate aim for a professional. But that's a long term one, may be in three years' time," he said.
He praised the venue for the Indian Open, the Grand Hyatt hotel in suburban Kalina, but said moisture in the air ? even inside a temperature controlled hall ? could make a difference to the way the table (cloth) behaved as well as the balls.
"It's a great venue, the table played well (during his exhibition game last night against Ken Doherty). The only thing that makes the difference is the weather. The moisture affects tables and balls. Otherwise tables will be playing at their best."