May 2, 2012

Time for Mehta to clinch Asian crown


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Giant-killer Aditya Mehta proved third time lucky as he edged out fancied compatriot Pankaj Advani 7-5 in the all-India final to win the recently held 28th ACBS Asian Snooker Championship 2012 in Doha, Qatar.  

Mehta, who had earlier toppled the reigning world champion Hossein Vafaei Ayouri of Iran 6-3 in the semifinals and Afghanistan’s former world number two, Saleh Mohammad, in the quarter-finals, became only the third Indian ever to clinch the Asian snooker title.

Mehta, who missed out on the Asian title twice previously, proved to be third time lucky when he defeated Advani, a former world champion, 7-5 in an enthralling final which lasted no less than five hours and 50 minutes.

Advani had made it to the final after overpowering the dangerous Noppon Saengkham of Thailand 6-4 in the other semifinal. “It was good until 6-3. I played better in the semi-finals, earlier in the day. Eventually, it was just about getting over the line. It’s my first international title, so the pressure was there and I was faltering. And fortunately Pankaj gave it to me really. In the end it was so close,” Mehta remarked during the presentation ceremony.  

“Had the match gone to the last frame, Pankaj would have definitely been the favourite. At one stage, I thought I had lost it. Earlier, he was feeling the pressure with I taking a 3-0 lead but then, we both started making some mistakes,” he added.

“Playing two gruelling matches in a day was really crazy but I am used to playing several games in a day. Luckily, my semifinal match was little quicker than Pankaj’s. Physically, I was not tired at all but mentally yes, the pressure was there as I’ve lost in two finals before. This was going to be the biggest win of my career and I didn’t want to miss out on it,” Mehta felt.  

Advani, who won the Asian billiards title less than a month ago, was disappointed for not having been able to complete a grand double.

“It was a case of so close yet so far. This was my second final at the Asian Snooker Championship and Aditya’s third final. And it proved lucky for him. May be I have to wait for another final. I just had under 10 days to switch to snooker and then my old cue broke. I’ve been using the new one since the past one week. Considering all the circumstances, I think I had a fantastic event,” Advani stated.

Meanwhile Pakistan’s squad returned home empty-handed, with both the young cueists, Mohammad Asif and Sultan Mohammad, having failed to make it to the knock-out stage of the competition after indifferent form in the league matches.  

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