'I am just one of the contenders'

'I am just one of the contenders'

Every tournament that Pankaj Advani enters, he starts as one of the favourites for the title.

More often than not, the 10-time world champion has delivered to firmly establish himself as the leading cueist in the country now.

Things won’t be any different when the IBSF World Snooker Championship kicks off on Wednesday here where he will be the cynosure of all eyes. Despite his incredible achievements, the 29-year-old said his main objective is to play good snooker and he’ll take whatever comes along.

Excerpts…

On leading the charge: I think there are many other guys capable of winning the title and I think I’m just one of the contenders. I don’t think I’m a clear cut favourite. Many cueists from the around the world are here for the biggest snooker event IBSF hosts every year.

I have a chance to play at home and shine. That’s what I’m thinking about.

Biggest challengers: I think the Chinese, the English, including the Scots, Irish and the Welsh, the Thais and UAE are all strong competitors. Some of the European countries have also made good improvements in the recent years and I feel the competition will be good.

On his preparations: I’m glad that I went to the academy in Sheffield. It brought back all the memories when I was there as a professional. I’m glad I went there immediately after the World Billiards. I intended to take a break soon after but with this event happening in Bengaluru – my home – I wanted to give it my best shot. To be honest, I’ve not thought about winning. I just wanted to prepare myself thoroughly. I’m happy with my homework.

On the switch from billiards to snooker: I’m ready now. It doesn’t take too long for me. I’ve made a decision to specialize in two sports while most cueists opt to specialize themselves in either snooker or billiards. That’s the challenge I’ve chosen to take and I really enjoy it. It’s quite a challenge to play the world snooker just three weeks after the world billiards but that’s what I’m looking forward to.

On handling pressure of being favourite: There are two ways of looking at it. The momentum is with me and I want to capitalize on it. The confidence winning gives you, I don’t think anything else can. At the same time there are lot of expectations. One thing I’ve learned is that you need to be prepared to lose but every tournament I enter, I believe I’m a winner. I may not put pressure on myself that I have to win, but I want to send a message to my opponents that I’m here to win and can.

Faces to follow

Pankaj Advani (India): The 2003 champion has been in stellar form this season, winning three individual and one team world championship titles. He has warmed up for this event with a small training stint at Sheffield where he smashed the maximum 147 break. High on confidence, Advani will be the man to beat.

Zhao Xintong (Chinese): The 17-year-old will be determined to make for the disappointment of losing to his compatriot Zhou Yuelong in the final last year. With the nation emerging as a rising force in world snooker, thanks to Ding Junhui’s exploits on the pro tour, Zhao appears Advani’s biggest threat.

Thor Chuan Leong (Malaysia): Commonly referred to as Rory Thor, he achieved his breakthrough win this year when he triumphed in the Asian Snooker Championship this May. Having secured a pro ticket with that victory which he intends to use at the turn of the year, Thor will be keen to unleash his talent.

Yan Bingtao (China): Just 14 years old, Yan is probably the youngest competitor to hold the cue at this event. High on his mind will be to surpass Zhou Yuelong, who at 15 years became the youngest ever to win the championship last year. Very raw still, Yan has the potential to spring a surprise in this event.

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