Ace Indian cueist Pankaj Advani won the Asian Billiards Championship 2022 on Saturday taking his Asian Billiards titles tally to eight. What makes the victory all the more special for the 24-time World Champion is the fact that he was diagnosed with COVID-19 in January but managed recover and went on to win the title.
"This win is very special because after being diagnosed with COVID your health deteriorates. It is not just during COVID times you are having a weakness. Cold and cough you also go through its effects for the next few weeks and months and because of that your preparation remains incomplete. After all these things you have to perform as well. The international schedule got changed to this time. We are not given three back-to-back tournaments which I had to play and because of that my Snooker performance was not that great. But last time I had won both Asian Snooker and World Snooker in Doha. You win some and lose some, " said Pankaj Advani in an exclusive interview to ANI.
The 36-year-old cueist has achieved almost everything a cueist can dream of and yet the hunger to play and perform persists. He went to Doha with the same attitude and won the Asian Billiards title.
"I am very happy because this is my eighth Asian Billiards title and 12th overall Asian title. I have won my 41st international gold medal. This tournament is never easy because the 100 points format in Billiards is very unpredictable and it is very fast-paced. So, you can't predict who is going to win. My semi-final match was against Myanmar's player Pauk Sa was very tough and I managed to do well under pressure. So, I am very happy as when you win such matches under pressure then the win becomes very special. Yes I am a little sad that I beat my best friend Dhruv Sitawala in the final but I am really happy that India won both gold and silver medals, " said Pankaj Advani while speaking to ANI.
Pankaj Advani started out in the early 2000s and now after almost two decades, he is now one of the top cueists in the world.
"Absolutely it has been a roller coaster ride. You are never ever guaranteed of a win and I remember that the first time I won Asian Billiards was in 2005, that time I was the underdog and today I am in a very different role I am expected to win as the top seed and this is such an unpredictable format for those who understand the game 100 points is nothing. It is very difficult to predict who the winner is going to be and that is why we have had different winners over the years. So, I am just proud obviously that I have been able to get this back for India after a gap of four years and had some tough matches on the way. The semi-final was extremely tough. So, I am really glad to win my 12th Asian title overall," said Pankaj Advani.
In the Asian Snooker Championship Pankaj Advani topped group A by winning all three matches and qualified for the knockout stages beating his Pakistani opponent Ahsan Ramzan 4-1. However, for the ace Indian cueist it doesn't matter where his opponents come from.
"I think playing against a Pakistani player, yes, evokes an emotion of patriotism and you sort of want to obviously get on a better side but not the point of view if you are playing a rival in the later stages of the game that has much more impact I mean I won the last World Cup in September 2021 in Doha I played Pakistani player Babur, I think that was more high profile than a lot more because the final was at stake. Playing any player in the initial round whether it is a Pakistani or an Indian player whoever I just feel like it is all the same for us, " said Pankaj Advani.
Pankaj Advani's sport requires a lot of focus and precision and hence while playing a tournament he stays away from any distraction. But before and after a tournament he loves to connect with his fans and well-wishers on social media.
"In this day and age of technology, you know in the 2000s when I started my career social media was not such a big thing but today there are various platforms through which sportspersons, celebrities, politicians and people from different walks of life can connect with fans at times and show them more personal side and you know to show them that they are human. I feel like they have a great way to connect with fans is through social media platforms like Koo which is a new app that has come up and it gives you chance to write about your game and talk about recent topics of sports. Share some of your travel pictures or discuss sport or any other topic in general and reveal your personal side I just feel like social media is very important but I am not a huge fan of it while I am competing because I know my priorities are totally different and that is why I tell my team whoever manages social media that listen to let's not post too much because I am here for a job. I am here for a mission that is to win for my country, " said Pankaj Advani. (ANI)