A strong field of 64 professionals, headed by World No.1 Neil Robertson, besides top two Indians Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta, promises a rich feast of snooker in the Indian Open to be held in New Delhi from Oct 14 to 18.
As luck would have it, Advani and Mehta were drawn in the same half of the draw with a possible quarter-final meeting, according to the draw released here Sunday by Billiards and Snooker Federation of India president P.V.K. Mohan.
The only two Indians on the professional circuit, Advani and Mehta, made it to the main draw from a qualifying competition in England. Joining the duo were six compatriots who won wild card entries after coming through qualifying competitions held in New Delhi and Bangalore.
The Bangalore-based Advani, who has had some strong results this season, will come up against World No.29 Marcus Campell in the first round while Mumbai’s Mehta, gold medallist at the recent World Games, begins his campaign with a match-up against 2002 World champion Peter Ebdon.
The field for the tournament is one of the strongest assembled in India. Robertson leads the pack of professionals among whom is four times World champion John Higgins, apart from a few Chinese stars like World No.12 Ding Junhui.
Capt P.V.K. Mohan said the preparations for the tournament were in full swing and on schedule with guidance from World Snooker officials who have been visiting New Delhi to ensure that the arrangements met the high professional standards.
“The BSFI has signed a three-year contract with World Snooker and we are hopeful that the first event next month will be a success. In the subsequent years, we have plans to hold the event in other cities,” Mohan told a media conference here Sunday.
Advani, who was present at the conference, opined that the tournament was wide open and winner-picking was a hazardous job with all matches, including the semi-finals to be decided on best-of-seven frames basis while the final will be played over nine frames.
“The best-of-7 frames format throws the tournament wide open. Anyone can win on his day. As for me, I will be playing Campbell for the first time. I am quite excited to be playing at home,” said the 26-year old Advani who has six World billiards titles besides the IBSF World snooker crown to his credit.
On the chances of the six Indian wild card qualifiers, all of who go up against English professionals, Advani felt that the home players faced a challenging task of adjusting to the conditions, especially the professional tables that are vastly different from those available in India.
“It took me nearly six months to get used to these tables that demand a light touch. The balls used are very light and sensitive while the pockets call for precision. Indian players do not get to play in such conditions and they will have to practice a lot.
“Only Manan Chandra (one of the six Indian wild card qualifiers) has some experience of playing on the professional circuit and he has a good chance to win his opening match,” said Advani.
Elaborating on the arrangements, Capt Mohan said: “I am happy to inform you that the arrangements for the tournament are in place. We have had visits by World Snooker team and we are implementing their suggestions.
“As for the sponsors, we already have on board the Union Tourism Ministry, Bank of Baroda, State Bank of India and Bank of Hyderabad, while we are in advanced stage of discussions with ONGC. Further, Neo Sports will be telecasting the matches while Doordarshan might also be taking the feed."