It was always a case of so near yet so far for ace Indian cueist Aditya Mehta in his nearly a decade-long career and the seasoned journeyman said he surprised himself as he graduated from bronze to gold at the World Games in Cali, recently.
'I am just over the moon. This trip to Colombia was probably the best moment in my life. The format was tricky being a best of five and knockout. Even the table conditions were very different from what we are used to. I was surprised at how well I adapted to them. I just focused on the basics and tried to keep it simple,' Mehta told PTI in an e-mail interview.
Mehta, the undisputed king of the Indian snooker, has often found himself finishing second-best in major tournaments but the 27-year-old Mumbaikar has finally been able to break the shackles and silence his critics with a gold medal-winning performance at the World Games.
'It’s just been such a long journey. My entire career has been about slow and steady improvement. I have learnt many lessons along the way. And to progress from the bronzes and silvers to gold medal was a matter of self-belief. I am really happy with this achievement,' Mehta said.
By Mehta’s own admission, he is living the best moment of his life after putting India on the global snooker map with his stupendous show.
'The quarterfinal victory gave me a lot of confidence coming from 2-1 down and 50 points behind in the fourth frame. After that I think I played some of my best snooker till the end. It’s easily the biggest moment of my career. It’s a massive stage and I am proud that I could put India on the global snooker map,' he added.
Mehta became the first Indian to win the World Games title after comfortably defeating his higher-ranked Chinese opponent and pre-tournament favourite, Liang Wenbo, in the summit clash of the quadrennial event on Tuesday.
This was India’s first medal since badminton star Prakash Padukone’s bronze in the inaugural edition of the World Games in 1981 and only the second for the country in the history of the Games.
Mehta said the title triumph will hold him in good stead in the second season of the tough Professional Circuit.
'It will be a good confidence booster for me. I had a tough end to last season but I worked hard and started the new season well. Even though, I don’t have the wins to show for it yet, I can feel the difference in my game.
'I just need to stay focused and keep working the way I have. It’s a very competitive circuit and it’s not going to be any easier. But I have my goals and targets and let’s see how it works out,' he said.
The Mumbai cueist, who won silver and bronze medals at the 2010 Asian Games, was in top form throughout the five-day tournament and easily defeated his opponent in the final.
'The final was probably the three best frames I have played in a long time. The start was crucial because in a best of five you can’t afford to go too far behind. It was the perfect start with an 84 break to take the opener. In the second, Liang had a lead of 20 with 2 reds left.'
'I had a tough choice of whether to play safe or go for an aggressive pot. I decided to go for it and cleared up with 40 to go 2-0. That was a very crucial moment in the match. In the decider, he left me a half chance early on with a tricky red in the green pocket. I potted it and made 117. My positional play was very solid in the final and I never really put myself in trouble. All in all, I couldn’t have dreamt of a better performance,' he said.
However, Mehta conceded that the quarterfinal match against pre-tournament favourite and World No 19 Joe Perry was the toughest of the lot.
'The game against Joe Perry was definitely the toughest. The way I won that match gave me a lot of confidence and belief that I can go all the way,' he signed off.