'Indian Open will give snooker a huge lift'

  It has been a dream for India’s top cueists Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta to compete against the best in the world at home. With India now staging its first world ranking snooker tournament, the two players are excited at the prospect and hope it will act as the catalyst for the sport in the country.

The Indian Open World Ranking Snooker Championship, a 300,000 pound event, would be held at capital’s Le Meridian Hotel from October 14-18 and would comprise a strong field of 64 players, headed by World No 1 Neil Robertson. In addition, six Indian players have all been handed wild cards for the event.

However, all eyes will be on Advani, an eight-time world champion, and Mehta, a gold medallist at the recently concluded World Games.  The two have been drawn in the same half and the anticipation of their quarterfinal clash has boosted the interest.

Advani, though, wouldn’t prefer to look that far, and pointed that best-of-seven frames format to be followed in the competition would make the event extremely competitive.

“It is so short a format that even the World No 1 or a player in great form cannot be sure of doing well. It can be anybody’s game. But it will be nice if both of us can reach the quarterfinals. It will definitely generate a lot of interest and ensure at least one of us will be through to the semifinals, which will be great,” Advani told reporters on Thursday.

“I am extremely excited at India hosting this tournament. As a professional I always dreamt of playing at home against the top players. It is now going to become a reality. It will be great for snooker in the county and inspire many players to go out and realise their potential.”

Advani is drawn to play World No 29 Marcus Campell in the first round while Mehta takes on 2002 World Champion Peter Ebdon.  “There will definitely be pressure and a lot of expectations. But there are moments when you feel low during a game and the support from the home crowed can really lift you up,” he said.

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