Mehta proves a cut above in a season of plenty for cue sports

Mehta proves a cut above in a season of plenty for cue sports

The supporting cast delivered riveting performances while protagonist Aditya Mehta stole the show as Indian cue sports enjoyed a fabulous 2013 where even the administrators -- the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India -- can be proud of their contributions.

With success in almost every international event they participated in, the cueists made the country proud with the highlight of the year being the coming of age of Mehta, who simply has ventured into a different zone with his patience, perseverance and skill, firmly stepping out of the shadows of the all-conquering Pankaj Advani.

Mehta first warmed up by pairing up with Brijesh Damani to bag the snooker Team silver at the Asian Indoor Games in Incheon, South Korea, in early July before pocketing the individual snooker bronze at the same bash. A couple of weeks later, the 28-year-old Mumbaikar stunned everyone when he captured the snooker gold medal at the World Games in Cali, Colombia, becoming the first Indian to do so and the second after legendary shuttler Prakash Padukone (bronze) to win a medal at the quadrennial bash.

Things got a lot sweeter for Mehta when the country played host to the inaugural Indian Open -- a World Ranking Snooker Tournament. Cashing in on the home support, Mehta floored world champions Peter Ebdon and Mark Williams and downed compatriot Advani before finishing runner-up to Chinese star Ding Junhui -- the best performance by an Indian on the pro circuit.

While Mehta certainly deserves majority of the applause, there were others who rose to the occasion as well. Former world champion Rupesh Shah actually set the tone for the stupendous year by beating compatriot Alok Kumar for the Asian Billiards title at Indore in April.

Before the Asian Indoor success with Mehta, Damani had teamed up with Manan Chandra and Alok to bring home the Asian Team Snooker Championship gold at Doha in May.

Alok nearly had the chance to wrap up the year for India on a thumping note but faltered in the final of the World Billiards Championship (points format) at Leeds in October. A man who has won every national title and the Asian snooker and billiards as well, a World title still eludes him and the final loss to David Causier should hurt. Hitherto unknown, Shivam Arora too put his hand up, winning a bronze at the IBSF World 6-red Snooker Championship in Ireland.

Indian women too came up with brilliant performances with Chitra Magimairaj finally battling past her mental demons. She overcame a stomach illness to win the 6-red snooker bronze at the Asian Indoor Games, teamed up with promising teenager Varsha Sanjeev to win the Team bronze at IBSF World 6-red Snooker Championship in Ireland before capping a superb year by winning a bronze at the IBSF World 15-red Snooker Championship in Latvia.

In Ireland, the seasoned Vidya Pillai and Arantxa Sanchis won the team gold, thus showing the depth in talent in the country.

The only disappointment was the dry streak of golden boy Advani. Although he enjoyed considerable success on the pro tour, often reaching the third round or pre-quarters, he couldn’t lay his hands on a trophy unlike some of his lesser-known compatriots.

While individual accomplishments have been plenty, the federation too deserves a pat on its back for bringing a pro-ranking event to India which appears to further galvanise snooker. With the event here to stay -- at least for next two years -- and cueists continuing to sparkle, one can’t wait for 2014 to kickstart.


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