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Mehta Mounting Bid for Indian Glory

Aditya Mehta became the first Indian to reach the semi-finals of a ranking event yesterday when he overcame countryman Pankaj Advani in a marathon quarter-final affair at the Indian Open.

In a match that lasted almost four hours, the 27 year-old beat his compatriot in a decider to continue his hopes of a maiden professional title.

To do so anywhere in the world would be a great achievement, but if he was to emerge with the trophy from his home event tonight, in its inaugural year being staged, would be an incredible feat.

Indeed, both players have excelled on home soil in New Dehli and it is a credit to both that they were able to set up a groundbreaking all-Indian contest in the last 8.

Neither player performed all that well, perhaps feeling the nerves of an overwhelming occasion, but Mehta excelled more in the safety exchanges and in the end that was telling.

The World Games gold medalist had earlier knocked out two-time world champion Mark Williams 4-2 while Advani withstood a fightback from Stuart Bingham to prevail 4-3.

It is a great advert for the tournament that there is an Indian still involved and it should do wonders for a game that is already increasing in popularity across the nation.

It strikes resemblances to James Wattana, who almost single-handedly put Thailand on the snooker map with a succession of high-profile performances in the events staged in the far east country more than two decades ago.

India is still in its infancy in terms of snooker development but there is interest, and with a population of over one billion people it is important that this is nurtured.

Advani is a household name thanks to his dominance of the billiards scene – he is an eight-time world champion – and now Mehta’s name could be bandied about in similar regard should he complete the task on Friday.

Of course, it’s easier said than done and Mehta’s next opponent is another step up in class.

Stephen Maguire came from 3-1 down to Michael White, who made back-to-back centuries during the clash, to sneak past the Welshman 4-3.

The Scot has played well of late and this is successive semi-final appearances after he reached the last four of the Ruhr Open in Germany.

The five-time ranking event winner will definitely start his encounter against Mehta as the favourite but in a short best of seven frames format outcomes are less obvious.

Two other competitors who were in the semi-finals in Germany were Ding Junhui and Robbie Williams, and they too have repeated the trick in south Asia.

Englishman Williams is really producing the form of his career so far and has conceded only one frame en route to his debut at this stage of a ranker.

In contrast, Ding has been well tested this week having been pushed to a pair of deciders early on in the week before overcoming former world champions John Higgins and Neil Robertson 4-2 on Thursday.

Ding is on course to complete the rarity of collecting consecutive ranking event titles following his triumph at the Shanghai Masters last month.

Both semi-finals then feature experienced champions and exciting potentials.

The first Indian Open concludes today and so far, largely down to Mehta, it has been a success. Will there be the icing on the cake tonight?

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.



Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.