Learning on the job can never go out of fashion, even at the highest level of professional sport. Proficiency is what allows one to rub shoulders with the best in the business, but that can mean a steep learning curve. Defeats sting but staying positive will make one wiser.
Aditya Mehta, along with Pankaj Advani, is looking to raise the profile of India, a billiards hub, as a snooker nation.
Having defeated former world champion Peter Ebdon in the first round, Mehta overcame Hammad Miah, an England rookie of Bangladeshi origin, 4-1 on Wednesday, gaining from all those mental notes made during tough moments in the past to storm back after losing the first of the best-of-seven frame affair.
It was double delight for India after Pankaj Advani caused a major upset in a night game, defeating world No 9, Mark Allen, 4-2.
The billiards great who turned a snooker pro a year ago rallied to lead 3-2 and then pounced on an uncharacteristic error in the sixth frame by Allen to seal the match
The 28-year-old Indian missed a crucial pink in the opening frame, leaving the balls nicely placed for Hammad to rattle off a winning break of 97. Mehta showed his emotions, he had plenty of opportunities to grimace as he looked tentative and didn’t seem too confident while setting up his shots.
Despite his nice touch, Hammad’s inexperience showed as he made quite a few mistakes to let Mehta off the hook, the Indian taking charge to finish it off in the end.
The Mumbai cueist, snooker pro for four years, acknowledged the tactical nous gained on the tour.
That meant staying patient, playing a solid defensive game to draw his rival into making mistakes. “I did play good safety (shots) and force him into errors. That was crucial today because he is a very good scorer.”
Mehta had routed Hammad 5-0 in the qualifiers for this year’s Shanghai Masters, but it was closer this time. Mehta said some of the bad losses on the uncompromising pro tour had taught him to play smart.
“Today I had control; I thought I could force him into mistakes. On the tour you get beaten quite often - tactical players will make a mockery of your game. So you don’t take as many risks.”
He runs into twice world champion, Mark Williams.
The 38-year-old Welshman upstaged world No 2, Mark Selby 4-1. “Playing him so early is the toughest, apart from (world No 1 Neil) Robertson. He didn’t want to play me either.”
His last world title came in 2003, but Williams, 38, declared: “I’m still a tough match for anyone.”