For cueist Pankaj Advani, the gamble to skip the prestigious International Snooker Championship in order to compete in the World Billiards Championship has paid off.
And like any seasoned punter, Advani placed his bet based on sound logic — finish the final billiards tournament of the season on a high, then focus on snooker with a clear mind.
After winning his seventh world title in billiards on Sunday at Leeds, the 27-year-old is now at ease.
“Job done in billiards, now on to snooker,” Advani said in an email interaction with The Hindu.
His maiden season in the pro-snooker circuit in England bore immediate results — he defeated former world champions John Higgins and Steve Davis — which resulted in his qualification for the International Snooker Championship in Chengdu, China.
Clash of dates
A clash in dates between the two events forced Advani to pick billiards over a snooker tournament which offers the same ranking points as the Masters and World Championship, the sport’s two biggest events.
“I chose the World Billiards Championship because that's what my heart wanted me to do. I'm aware of the different reactions surrounding my decision, and letting go of a big event in pro-snooker makes this victory doubly sweet,” Advani said.
He remained unbeaten at Leeds in his march to victory in the timed format, sailing past countrymen Rupesh Shah — who brought double success for India by clinching the points format world title — and Dhruv Sitwala in the knockout rounds.
The Bangalorean’s toughest challenge, however, came in the final in the form of 11-time world champion Mike Russell. After securing an early lead in the summit clash with breaks of 147 and 298 in the first hour, the veteran Russell responded with a massive break of 397 of his own to get back on an even keel. Advani admits to feeling the pressure, but timely preparation before the big day carried him through, with a final score-line reading 1895-1216.
“Absolutely, I was worried. One can never take Mike lightly. But the day before the finals, I discussed key mental and tactical strategies with my brother Shree, a sport psychologist, over the phone. The plans went like clockwork,” he says.
Advani will now focus on snooker, playing the UK-PTC 4 in Gloucester, the European PTC in Bulgaria and a couple of other tournaments.
This is hardly the end of his billiards career, though, as he states that this win has only helped prove to himself that he can compete at the highest level in both billiards and snooker.
Advani’s Eight World titles: Unified (WPBSA and IBSF) World Billiards Championship, 2012; WPBSA World Billiards Championship, 2009; IBSF World Billiards Championship (Time Format) 2008, 2007 and 2005; IBSF World Billiards Championship (Points Format) 2008, and 2005; IBSF World Snooker Championship, 2003.