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‘Share healthy rivalry with Pankaj’

Calcutta: Snooker sensation Aditya Mehta revealed on Wednesday that he wanted to quit the game at least four times between 2009-11.

“There was this feeling of giving it up. I wasn’t doing well and I was very down. But, thanks to my family, I came back with a bang. Also those failures egged me on to do better,” Aditya said after winning the ProAm event of the Kolkata Open National Invitation Championship, partnering Ravi Goenka.

Now provisionally ranked world No. 63 in professional snooker, Aditya said he would be targeting a mid-50 end when the season ends in April. “That’s my target… Somewhere in 54-55. I have taken a three-week break from the professional circuit and head back to England in late January to participate in the Shootout at Blackpool, which begins on January 24,” the Sheffield-based snooker player said.

Aditya said snooker is a more viable sporting career than billiards. “I never tried billiards. Prize-money wise also snooker is miles ahead. If in snooker you get £2,50,000 for winning a professional tournament, in billiards you may end up getting a meagre £600. That also makes snooker more competitive since the best of the best compete there,” the 2012 Indian Open runner-up said.

The 28-year-old Aditya said snooker has a very bright future in India. “Look, it’s no denying the fact that Europe, England and China are miles ahead of us in terms of popularity of the game. But India, being a vast country, always has the potential. We just have to work hard to make the game more popular. India, in the next five years, will be a key point on the world snooker map.”

Aditya’s eyes lit up the moment the name Pankaj Advani cropped up during the conversation. “Oh, he is a phenomenon. One of the few who is equally at ease with both billiards and snooker. I share a very healthy rivalry with Pankaj. It’s always nice to have someone like him as a competitor. It helps me to go that extra mile… to give that extra bit,” he said.

Aditya rued lack of sponsor for the snooker players. “It’s sad. Funding is a big problem after you turn a pro. I can manage since I have my family’s backing… But many talented players do not have the courage to turn pro because of lack of funds.”

Talking about the ongoing snooker meet in the city, where he is defending champion, Aditya said he would like to walk away with the winner’s purse. “I like Calcutta. It’s an amazing city and there is a cuesports culture here. Last year was the first time I played here and I fell for the city.”