Mehta and Pankaj Advani enjoyed a fine run at the World Cup
Aditya Mehta will draw on the memory of one of the best moments of his career when he heads to the Paul Hunter Classic this weekend.
Last year at the popular tournament in Fürth, Germany, Mehta became the first Indian player to make an official 147. His magical maximum came in the third frame of a 4-2 defeat against Stephen Maguire in the last 32.
“It’s something I’ll never forget,” said world number 50 Mehta. “I have never won a pro tournament so I would love to know how the buzz of that would compare to the feeling of making a 147. There was a good crowd there and I really enjoyed the moment.
“At the time I was struggling with pain in my neck and I wasn’t even sure I would be able to finish the match as it was the third match I had played that day. So I was just trying to play as fast as I could and get a frame on the board. Once I got to 40 I went into the pack and the reds spread nicely so I knew the maximum was on. I was almost running around the table and hitting shots without thinking – it’s incredible what you can do when you just let it happen. I was in perfect position on almost every shot so that took the pressure off.”
Mehta’s appearance in the 2013 Indian Open final was his best moment on the pro tour
This time, Mehta faces Ian Glover on Saturday afternoon in his opening match of the Kreativ Dental Clinic European Tour event (click here for the match schedule). “I have always enjoyed playing in Fürth and usually manage to get through a few rounds there,” said the 29-year-old from Mumbai. “I’m looking forward to getting back there and hoping to kick start my season as I haven’t won many matches so far.”
Undoubtedly Mehta’s highlight of the current campaign came in a team event as he and Pankaj Advani performed brilliantly for India at the Nongfu Spring World Cup in China in June. After coming through the group phase, they beat Belgium 4-1 in the quarter-finals, before a narrow 4-3 defeat against Scotland in the semis – Mehta missing the last pink in the deciding frame against Maguire. “That defeat took a while to get over,” he admits. “Overall the World Cup was a great memory, but that result was tough to take because we were one ball away from the final.
“It was important for us to do well in the tournament and it was really appreciated back home in India. Both Pankaj and I have achieved a lot for Indian snooker in the past few years and the World Cup was another record as we had never got to the semis before. The prize money ($30,000) was also a boost as that gives me a bit more freedom this season.”
Mehta’s best career moment so far was his run to the final of the inaugural Indian Open in New Delhi in 2013. To the delight of his home fans, he knocked out the likes of Mark Williams, Peter Ebdon, Advani and Maguire to become the first Indian player to reach a ranking final, though he was eventually denied the title by Ding Junhui.
Last season, Mehta struggled to reproduce that form and failed to progress beyond the last 32 of a ranking event.
Mehta is nicknamed ‘Mr Snooker’ in his homeland and is popular among Indian media
“The neck problem was holding me back because I couldn’t practise as much as I wanted,” he reveals. “The strain is caused by the posture you need to adopt for snooker, especially as I’m one of the taller players and my cue action is perhaps more awkward than some others.
“Since last November I have worked with a chiropractor and a physiotherapist, as well as doing yoga and fitness work. It is a lot better now so I feel much more confident about my chances this season. I don’t have any targets other than to get some wins under my belt and climb the rankings.”
Mehta, the 2012 Asian Champion and 2013 World Games gold medallist, recently moved practice base from North London to the Winchester Snooker Club in Leicester in order to be closer to coach Mukesh Parmar.
“Leicester is a great city,” he said. “It’s cheaper than London and as I’m working with Mukesh it made sense for me to move here. After this weekend I’ll have time to get settled.”
Away from snooker, he’s a keen Manchester United fan and loves visiting Old Trafford. “Some friends of mine have a box there and I’ve been lucky to be invited to a few games,” he said. “It’s a really enjoyable experience. I don’t see United as contenders for the title this season but hopefully they will be within the next few years.”
Watch the Paul Hunter Classic on Eurosport – click here for the schedules. Or to buy tickets click here