PANKAJ Advani was just 18 when he won his first world snooker title at Jiangmen, China, in 2003. Thirteen years down the line, he is undoubtedly the king of green baize with 15 world titles including 11 in billiards.
The 31-year-old has many firsts to his credit including being the holder of International Billiards and Snooker Federations’ (IBSF) both world titles.
He is also the only player to win world titles in both formats of snooker (15-red, 6-red) and billiards (time and points).
The ace Indian cueist is no stranger to Doha. In 2006, he won the Asian Games gold in the city where a year later he was crowned the Asian billiards champion.
Advani is back in Doha to defend his title at the World Snooker Championships, which began at the Al Sadd Indoor Hall last week.
He began his campaign in style, notching up 4-0 wins over Brazil’s Victor Sarkis and Latvia’s Maris Volajs. The win against Volajs included three breaks of 50-plus.
“It’s my second visit to Doha this year after the Asian 15-reds Championship in April. It feels nice to be back,” said Advani.
About his roaring start, Advani said, “There’re some days when you play well and there’re occasions when you struggle to find rhythm. I just want to enjoy the game as of now.”
At the Asian Championship, Advani had to be content with a bronze medal after losing to Thailand’s eventual champion Kritsanut Lertsattayathorn in the semifinal.
But a month later in Abu Dhabi, he beat Malaysia’s top seed Keen Hoh Moh to clinch the Asian 6-reds title.
“Having missed out on the 15-reds title, the 6-reds was a mission for me to accomplish,” Advani recalled about the triumph in Abu Dhabi.
Advani would be keen to annex a Gulf double, and going by his form, it looks a probability, but he remained modest.
“There’re many talented players in the draw. The tables are lovely, but tricky at the same time. This tournament is all about playing well on your day. You’ve to be sharp and solid,” added Advani, who turned a snooker pro in 2007.
Coming from a country which is often known as the ‘home of billiards, Advani has done well in snooker with four of his world titles having come in the discipline.
“I don’t intend to make a choice. I enjoy playing both,” said Advani, when asked to pick between the two.