Close battles in the offing in National Billiards and Snooker

Close battles in the offing in National Billiards and Snooker

The rather long drawn-out tournament, sponsored by Hash 10 World SIM, concludes Aug 9 with the showpiece men’s snooker event that will feature the likes of defending champion Pankaj Advani, the holder of seven World titles, and the iconic Geet Sethi who made his mark in this city back in 1982 when he won the first of seven National billiards crowns, defeating maestro Michael Ferreira in the final.

Much has happened since those halcyon days. Sethi, who turned 50 in April, still looks half his age and as always suave, impeccably groomed and attired. He still retains the old-world charm, grace and elegance when at the table, and despite getting on in years, is always a sentimental favourite.

"I am not playing as well as before. I would say, about 70 per cent, but for me, National championship is a key event and I just don’t want to miss it," said nine times World champion Sethi while asserting that Chennai no more gets him sentimental.

"Yes, Chennai has a special place in my playing career. It all began there, but that was nearly 30 years ago and I don’t really get sentimental about playing in Chennai.

"In 2006, I played probably my worst match, losing in the pre-quarterfinals. But I hope to do well this time," said Sethi who will be again skipping the snooker event. "I am through with snooker," he declared.

Sethi has been a role model for Advani, who turns 26 on July 24, besides a generation of young players. Well honed in the art and skills of billiards and snooker at the Bangalore residence of another legend, Arvind Savur, Advani will be determined to not only retain the snooker crown, but also regain the title in billiards, his first love.

For all their achievements, the duo will be pressed hard from a clutch of seasoned and young cueists like veterans Alok Kumar and Yasin Merchant besides young guns Dhruv Sitwala, Sourav Kothari, Manan Chandra and Aditya Mehta.

However, it would be a while before Sethi and Advani set the balls rolling. The main draw for senior billiards will commence July 26 and the senior snooker August 4.

Prior to that, the competitions in other categories and qualifying rounds for the senior events will serve as appetisers before the main course.

The tournament, boasting of 830 entries and which serves as a qualifying event for Asian and World championships, opens with the National sub-junior, junior and ladies competitions in both billiards and snooker.

Of particular interest would be the ladies events where sisters Meenal Thakur and Anuja Chandra, local challenger and 2010 Australian Open champion Vidya Pillai, Uma Devi and 2007 World billiards champion Chitra Magimairaj have been dominant figures. The trend is likely to continue.

While five times winner and title holder Pillai looks to be in good touch to extend her reign as the snooker champion, Thakur and Chandra are among the favourites for the billiards crown.

In fact, Thakur defeated Chandra in the previous three National finals and there is not much to suggest it will be any different this time, although Magimairaj and Uma Devi have it in them to go all the way.

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