Mehta Hopes To Thrive On Home Turf

Aditya MehtaIt’s four years since Aditya Mehta reached the final of the inaugural Indian Open in New Delhi.

Though he was denied the title by Ding Junhui, the talented cueman from Mumbai hoped that brilliant run would be the springboard to bigger and better things on snooker’s pro tour.

Instead, those four years have been a struggle for Mehta as he has battled the effects of a neck injury and was forced to miss a series  of tournaments in 2016.

Now the world  number 76 believes the injury is under control and looks forward to making his way back up the rankings, starting at next week’s Indian Open in Vishakhapatnam. Mehta has been handed an intriguing first round draw against defending champion Anthony McGill, and hopes the magnitude of the occasion will bring out his best form. Click here for the Indian Open match schedule

Aditya Mehta

Mehta beat the likes of Mark Williams, Stephen Maguire and Pankaj Advani to reach the 2013 final

“The pressure will be on Anthony,” said 31-year-old Mehta, who remains the only Indian player to go beyond the quarter-finals of a ranking event and to make a 147. “I know it’s my home tournament but I have been to the final there so I know I can play well in front of my crowd. If I can get off to a good start then I can thrive on the adrenaline which comes with playing in India. I’m not a top 64 player so I expect to have a very difficult draw every first round.”

The Indian Open was staged in Mumbai in 2015, Hyderabad in 2016 and now moves to Vishakhapatnam for the first time. The city on the Bay of Bengal, known as the Jewel of the East Coast, will be new territory for snooker’s ever expanding global footprint and for Mehta himself.

“I’ve never been to that area so it will be new to me as well”, said the 2013 World Games gold medallist. “The tournament is about all of India and it’s great that it has moved to different locations each time. It’s impressive that we have found four great cities to host the tournament and I’m really pleased by the way the Federation has taken up that challenge. The quality of the event is going to be spectacular compared to what the fans in that area have seen before. I hope they will come and watch the tournament live, watch it on TV and help our sport grow in India.”

Mehta’s start to the current season has been mixed. He reached the last 64 of the China Championship and the Paul Hunter Classic, and in the former suffered an agonising 5-4 defeat against Ali Carter when he led 51-3 in the decider only for Carter to make a 62 clearance.

Mehta was handed the Arjuna award for sporting achievement in 2012

“I have lost a couple of really hard matches which I should have won,” said Mehta, who lives in North London and practises with the likes of Alfie Burden and Anthony Hamilton. “I’m happy with my game so you just have to turn up and give it your best at each tournament.”

As for his neck problem, he added: “These type of injuries never really go away, you just have to learn how to manage them. I can’t practise as many hours as I would like to. Every day I need to do stretching, strengthening and self-massage which takes about an hour and a half in total. That allows me to play snooker. Hopefully it will get better over time. Now I know the extent of the problem and how to treat it, I feel better than I did a couple of years ago. I feel confident now that I can continue playing.”

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