Advani thumbs down to stint in pro circuit

Advani thumbs down to stint in pro circuit

I had to strike early against Russell in the final, says world champion

 Pankaj Advani greeted by his mother Kajal on arrival in Bangalore. DH photoThe newly-crowned world professional billiards champion arrived in the city at 3:13 am on Tuesday to be greeted by a small gathering of family, friends and Karnataka State Billiards Association officials but as soon as the champion cueist walked out of the terminal, the people who recognised him rushed to get a glimpse of the man in the spotlight.

Advani, who shied away from the cameras on arrival, was more forthcoming at the felicitation ceremony organised by the KSBA later in the afternoon. “It has been a long and tiring journey but I am enjoying every moment of it. This feeling has not sunk in yet but I have my time to realise that I am the world champion. I am really happy,” said Advani, who was given an honorary life membership of the KSBA.

Advani, who defeated nine-time champion Mike Russell of Qatar in a gruelling five-hour final on Sunday, said he had a basic strategy going into the match against the ‘human robot’ but Russell’s reputation and his chance of claiming the tenth title stayed at the back of his mind.

“I realised the best chance I had against him was if I struck before he warmed up. He takes his time before getting into the groove and that was my best chance. He has not played me before and that helped but that has little to do with the win. Ultimately I had to produce the goods and I did. The margin of the win does not matter so long as I enjoy the game,” said Advani.

“I was up by 600 points after the first session and I knew the finishing line was not far away but I also had a lot of things at the back of my mind. However, before the match Bhaskar (his fellow Karnataka cueist) told me to go out there and just play like I always do. His words of wisdom lifted my spirits a great deal,” he added.

Professional circuit

On playing in the professional circuit, the five-time amateur world billiards champion said: “This is the last time I will be saying this. I am not interested in spending nine months in England and play in the professional circuit. I hope people can respect my decision.”

With the likes of Geet Sethi and Dhruv Sitwala in his group, Advani’s climb to the top was not easy. And his loss to Sitwala in the group stage made matters that much harder for the Asian Games gold medallist. “The conditions in England are very different but I was in a the ‘group of death’ through the stages. I was facing the best in the business right from the word go! I was not in great touch coming into the group stages but after I scored a break of 394 against Geet and won, my confidence level went up.”

“I lost to Dhruv and that meant I had to win at any cost. I love playing under pressure and with the tournament chances on the line, it really does not get any better,” said Advani about his make-or-break game against Sethi.

This was the first time three of the four in the semifinals were Indians, with Sitwala and Rupesh Shah joining Advani.

“It is a refreshing change to see new faces. Dhruv and Rupesh have been performing wonderfully well and Geet has been there for long,” said Advani. “It is good for the state of cue sports in India. Hopefully there will be many more champions from here.”

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