Roger Federer’s continued excellence great motivation: Pankaj Advani
He already has 21 world titles. And in September, it would be no surprise if the tally rises to 23. That’s the bar Pankaj Advani has set for himself over a decade-and-a-half. Every time he picks up the cue, he’s expected to win.
Hindustan Times caught up with the ace cueist before he leaves for Mandalay, Myanmar on September 7 to take part in the 150-up IBSF World Billiards Championships—a format akin to limited-overs cricket—and World 6-Red & Team Snooker Championships.
You have been winning titles for more than a decade. Where does the motivation come from?
It’s about two things—winning is obviously there but evolving as an athlete is what drives me. I’m constantly trying to reinvent myself and add a different dimension to my game. You look at so many top athletes across the world… I mean someone like a Roger Federer, perhaps really doesn’t need to play now because he’s probably past his peak, but he still feels he has a shot at winning. The point is he enjoys the game. It’s the same for me.
Your thoughts as you head to the World Championships?
I’m excited (playing billiards), and after that the Worlds 6-Red Snooker and team snooker as well. There are three events, back-to-back. It’s going to be a long trip; mentally prepared for it to take all my clothes… couple of extra suitcases maybe…
Does being defending champion create extra pressure?
When I won my first world title, the situation was different. The pressure of performing was different because you were not expected to win. At 18-19, when I started competing in international tournaments, I did win them but then the pressure started building up, whether I can maintain that position, win consistently… Now, it is more of proving it to myself, and I feel I’ve done a pretty good job of winning consistently. It’s not about calculating ‘Oh, if I win I’ll get this much, Oh, I’ll shut the critics up’. No! First, we are playing for ourselves. It’s about the joy and satisfaction while playing…
There’s also the billiards meet in Melbourne and then world snooker in Antalya. Does such tight schedule take a toll on body and mind?
That’s how the calendar is… I had a couple of months off. And suddenly there’s like a bunch of international events piled up. I’m used to it now… especially because I play both billiards and snooker. I think that’s the biggest challenge for me—to juggle between two sports and specialise in both. A lot of people ask me, what is your biggest achievement? I usually say it’s not winning world titles, Asian Games gold medal or something… it’s the fact that I have been able to successfully win and excel in two sports that are contrasting in nature.
It’s the Olympics next year. Does it hurt to that cue sports is missing?
It’s true it is the biggest in sports, but every sport has a top competition. For us it’s the World Championships. As players, we can do nothing about not being part of the Olympics. That’s something the sports ministry needs to look at. True, we haven’t won too many medals at the Olympics, but it’s not only about baize sports. There are a lot of disciplines that are not there in the Olympics but deserve equal encouragement. When we talk about equality in sports, this should be addressed as well.
How long do you think you can or want to carry on?
There are players who play even until 45-50, and manage to play well too. I’m just going to stick around as long as I enjoy the sport.
Do you think your legacy would be challenged?
Well, records are meant to be broken. When I started out, I never imagined I would ever reach nine (Geet Sethi’s world tally). But now I have 21. You could say it might not be broken immediately, but in the next 50 years or so… Who knows?