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Pankaj: Federer is an inspiration

Pankaj Advani, on Monday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: Eight-time world billiards champion Pankaj Advani has drawn inspiration from Roger Federer and Sachin Tendulkar during his long career. A self-confessed tennis fan, Advani said Federer’s grace and poise has always motivated him.

“It’s Roger Federer who has always inspired me. His style, grace, poise... The way he handles his fans, the media and his popularity...

“That to me is an example of a true role model. His performance is declining over the years as he’s showing signs of ageing and is not so strong ... But he will remain an inspiration forever. There’s so much in him to look up to,” said Advani at the Kolkata Open National Invitation Snooker Championship, on Monday.

He is in town to play the Pro-Am event of the tournament at the Hindusthan Club.

Not just Federer, Advani has also looked up to some of the Indian legends too.

“There’s Tendulkar, Leander Paes, Viswanathan Anand, Geet Sethi... They have raised the bar of their respective games and taken them to unimaginable levels. That’s what legends are… They became the definition of the sport itself,” said Advani.

“As a child, I was a big fan of Tendulkar. I used to watch cricket only because of him… I used to switch off the television once he got out,” said Advani.

He feels Sachin decided to retire at the right time. “He (Tendulkar) knew it was the right time for him to call it quits. It must have been very tough for him. It’s a huge loss…”

One of the few players to be adept at playing both billiards and snooker, Advani said he wants continue his relationship with both his “wife and mistress” — billiards and snooker, respectively.

“I want to take up the challenge of playing both snooker and billiards at the highest level simultaneously. I don’t want to give up one sport for the other…

“I still maintain that billiards is my first love and is like wife whereas snooker has distracted me like a mistress… Billiards is my identity, something that has given me so much…

“The challenge lies in the ability of the player to play both the games at the highest levels.

“There may be a time when I may quit snooker and play only billiards or may concentrate only on snooker and see where it takes me... But, as of now, I am enjoying both the games,” explained Advani.

He feels lack of TV coverage has been the bane for the game’s miniscule following in India and a shorter format of cue sports on the lines of the IPL may popularise the game in the country.

“Spectators now increasingly prefer watching points formats over the traditional format of the game. The shorter formats offer unpredictability and excitement and that may be the way forward… But I’m not sure…

“May be a tournament like the IPL having pool, snooker and billiards put into a short format might generate excitement. In China people are hooked onto the game because it is widely televised,” said Advani.

He was all praise for Aditya Mehta, who lost in the Indian Open Snooker Championship final recently.

“He’s very talented. We never expected him to be so successful so early. He has achieved a lot in last five-six years. He did well at the Indian Open.”