Aditya Mehta and Pankaj Advani have both made it through to the final round of qualifying for the International Championship after two contrasting wins today in Sheffield.
The Indian pair, who contested the Asian Snooker Championship final earlier this year, have both emerged as genuine contenders during this campaign, helping to put India firmly on the snooker map in the process.
The duo met two veterans of the game in the penultimate round, with Advani enjoying back-to-back centuries in his 6-3 victory over former Masters champion Alan McManus.
Mehta, on the hand, was to made to work a lot harder for his triumph over People’s Champion Jimmy White, coming from 5-3 down in a low-quality affair to edge the ‘Whirlwind’ 6-5.
In a scrappy encounter, 26 year-old Mehta looked to be heading for the exit door when his opponent needed to only clear the colours in the tenth frame to clinch the tie but White, clearly fatigued over the rare best-of-11 format, botched a straight-forward blue and Mehta took his opportunity in the decider with a cool 70 break.
The former Asian Indoor Games gold medallist has been in stellar form in the ranking events this summer.
Despite having to start from the opening qualifying round, Mehta has now reached the final stage in three of the opening four ranking events and will be hoping to go one further tomorrow, when he meets Jamie Cope, to reach his maiden venue.
Advani, only one year Mehta’s senior, is also a former gold medallist from the Asian Games but is known predominantly back home for his exploits in another cue sport – billiards.
Despite being a superstar in the sport, Advani took the difficult decision this year to try his hand properly in snooker and so far it has been a successful switch.
After enjoying a run to the fourth round of UKPTC2 in July, Advani is now also one match away from his first ever appearance at a ranking event main stage with Michael Holt the last man standing in his way.
Either way, it has been a remarkable couple of months for the Indian duo and their progress will do wonders for the state of the game back on their native soil.
It has been speculated in recent years that India could be the new China in terms of the sport’s growth and these results will do nothing to harm any potential tournaments held in the country.
Speaking of China, it was a good day for their contingent as well as Liu Chuang, Liang Wenbo, and Cao Yupeng all booked their places in the last round of qualifying with the only exception being Yu Delu, who was defeated by Jamie Burnett. Countryman Xiao Guodong led Barry Pinches 5-4 at the time of writing.
Nigel Bond whitewashed Anthony McGill 6-0 while fellow Englishmen David Gilbert, Mark King, Anthony Hamilton and Paul Davison all enjoyed relatively comfortable 6-3 triumphs.
Comeback of the day, though, went to Alfie Burden, who returned from the mid-session interval against Gerard Greene trailing 4-0 but managed to retrieve the situation and emerge an unlikely 6-5 victor.
Finally, Welsh young hopeful Michael White saw off Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 6-2 while Kurt Maflin recorded a similar score line in a surprisingly one-sided affair with the inconsistent Jack Lisowski.
The full draw and list of results can be viewed by clicking here.