'It is special to sign off at home'

“Retirement has been on mind for some time now,” said the Mumbaikar who announced last month that he will pulling the plug on his international career after the Bangalore meet. “It is yet to sink in, maybe it will as the tournament progresses.

“I do not want to get emotional and make a big statement. If the tournament had been held in Bahrain as per schedule, I would not have played this and I could have finished at the Asian Games in Guangzhou last year. Just because it is happening in India, I thought why not give it a try. It is special to sign off at home. Hopefully, things will go good for me.”

Merchant, who is the only Indian to have finished within the top-64 ranking of the professional snooker and is a two-time Asian Snooker champion, felt time and changing priorities forced him to retire from international participation. “If you want to compete with the best in the world, you also have to be at your best. Obviously, I have not been able to maintain top standards in the recent past. The stamina, strength, hunger and drive has vanished.

“It’s primarily because family and business commitments have taken top priority. Earlier, snooker was the only thing for me. But now, whether I like it or not, snooker has taken the backseat. However, I still love the game and I will continue to play in a few local tournaments. I want to be a national coach, just that I will not be competing in ranking events anymore.”

Rating Pankaj Advani as one of the favourites to lift the title, Merchant felt the open field could provide interesting action. “Once again, Pankaj leads the Indian charge. He’s been playing at the top level for a long while now and has the experience and mental strength to pull it off. He knows what it takes to win. However, I would not want to count out Brijesh Damani and Alok Kumar. Manan Chandra is my dark horse.”

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