In the end, Aditya Mehta had to bow to a genius called Ding Junhui, the prodigy who put China on the world snooker map and triggered a revolution in that country. Still, it was a big victory for the Indian in defeat.
Ding, the world No 4, was at a different level as he crushed Mehta in the final of the Indian Open world ranking snooker tournament on Friday.
His 5-0 rout in the best-of-nine frame final, nudging the Indian into defensive errors that let him take over each time, saw Ding obliging the fans, whom he said “want to see scores, not safety play”.
The final result came as no real surprise – the 26-year-old Ding had swept aside three-time world champion John Higgins, world No 1 Neil Robertson and the in-form Robbie Williams. The final score of 76-36, 87-0, 107-0, 93-1 and 116-1, with two century breaks, summed it up.
A lesson learnt
Mehta, reduced to a spectator after the early safety play in each frame ended in Ding taking charge – barring the first to some extent – acknowledged it would be a lesson well learnt from his illustrious academy teammate. Both are attached to the Star Snooker Academy in Sheffield, England.
“That was a machine,” a visibly exhausted Mehta gushed. “I can’t even argue with the level of snooker he showed today. I learnt another level of the game.” Did Ding reserve his best for the final? “He does this everyday. I’ve marked for him, he goes on and on producing century breaks.”
But it will still be seen as a historic day for Indian snooker. Mehta, a professional for four years, has delighted experts and fans alike by the sensational run to the final, the first time by an Indian in a world ranking event. It has made sure snooker will be part of the discussions on Indian cue sports with billiards now on. First up, his modest ranking of 72 will get a decent jump.
After wearing down compatriot Pankaj Advani defensively on Thursday, it was an aggressive Mehta who upset Scotland’s world No 5 Stephen Maguire in the semifinal. Mehta led 3-0 in the best-of-seven affair, only for his safety play to dip, allowing the tactical mastery of Maguire to take over and level it 3-all.
The decider tilted in the Indian’s favour but he still had to extricate himself from repeated ‘snooks’, eventually clinching victory with a brilliant shot to pocket pink.
Mehta felt fatigue after the long-drawn semifinal prevented him to an extent from being at his sharpest in the final. But he had no hesitation in admitting that he had plenty to learn from Ding to move to the next level.
Ding produced the tournament’s best break of 142, just five short of the maximum, in defeating Englishman Williams in the semis.