Aditya Mehta is one of those few Snooker professional players who exude a certain sense of calmness around them. He is the only Indian player currently active on the professional tour and has had many great results over the past years. He won the Gold Medal at the World Games 2013, defeating the likes of Joe Perry and Liang Wenbo. He is the first Indian player ever to make a maximum break (147) in professional snooker. Many experts agree that making a 147 in snooker is one of the hardest perfect scores to achieve in sports. In recognition of his outstanding achievements, Aditya Mehta was conferred with the Arjuna Award by the Government of India.
I was fortunate enough to connect with him recently, learn more about his journey and understand what drives him and what inspires him – in the form of an interview posted below.
Question – What inspired you to make a decision to become a professional snooker player? And in your words, how has the journey been so far?
Aditya Mehta – I always wanted to test myself at the highest level and on the biggest stage. I didn’t know a lot about the pro game in my younger days, as we didn’t get snooker on TV in India but my dad used to get video-cassettes from the UK of the World Championships at the Crucible. When I got to the Asian Championship Finals on Debut in 2008 and was offered the pro ticket, it was the best day of my career.
The journey has been hard but very rewarding. It has changed me as a person and forced me to confront my demons. I have achieved things no other Indian ever has and that makes me proud. The Indian Open final, the Max in Germany, Top 50 in the world, all great achievements in the context of Indian Snooker.
Q – Of the many wins and achievements under your belt, which one is dearest to you and why?
AM – It has to be the Indian Open final. Not only was I the first Indian in the final of a Professional Ranking event, It was in the first ever Ranking event on home soil and I had just won the World Games a few months before that as well. I was still only ranked around 70 in the world, so I suppose its was totally unexpected. Beating players like Mark Williams and Stephen Maguire on the way was also special. My parents came to watch me there and it was the first time they watched me live in a pro tournament.
Q – China has seen an influx of cueists who’ve joined the main tour whereas currently you are the only professional player from India. What, according to you, is missing and can be done to improve the current situation so that we get to see more Indian players do well on the main tour?
AM – India is very active in the amateur game but we don’t have the necessary foundation or support for players to turn pro. No sponsors, no government support, no financial support from the governing bodies. We also don’t have the coaching set up to identify young talent and groom them. If all these factors are looked into, I think we will have players coming through.
Q – The World Snooker Championship is a few months away. How is your preparation coming along?
AM – It’s still too far away to start thinking about yet. The season is long and you must take it a day at a time and just do your best every day in training and every match. Saying that, I’m in a much better state physically than I have been for the last 4 years so I look forward to giving it a good shot.
Playing at the Crucible is every young snooker players’ dream and I will leave no stone unturned in trying to get there. Having lived in Sheffield for 6 years, I still have never set foot in the Crucible even as a spectator. I can’t wait to finally go in one day as a player. – Aditya Mehta
Q – Which of these would you rate as a bigger achievement, winning the World Snooker Championship or winning the Gold Medal at the Olympics (if Snooker is introduced)? And why?
AM – Since we really don’t know much about the Olympics yet in terms of what format it would be, I’d say the World Championship definitely. It is the ultimate test of the physical and the mental side of sport.
Q – Can you let us know about your pre-match routine?
AM – My routine is the same everyday, match or no match. I wake up with plenty of time to ease into the day, and do my warm up exercises, and some breathing exercises.
Q – Given the fact that Snooker demands complete mental concentration at every step of the game, how important is mental well-being for a pro player?
AM – Mental well-being is paramount to success in snooker and in any sport i think. I think sport at the highest level is 80% mental so i believe that you need a calm, composed and happy mind to be able to get the best out of yourself.
Q – During the recently concluded Kolkata Open, I observed your stance – your right leg was bent a bit and not straight. Were you experimenting or has your stance changed?
AM – I’ve been playing with both legs bent for 10 years now. My current stance is a result of my neck injury which forced me to completely change my cue action. I’ve experimented a lot ever since the problem started but I feel like I’ve found a system that works now.
Q – The Snooker World Cup 2015 was one of your best performances, for me, when India advanced till the semi-finals after seeing off many tough opponents. Do you still get nightmares of the missed pink in the deciding frame against Scotland?
AM – No nightmares anymore fortunately. I was proud of what I helped my country achieve and we got so close. It wasn’t meant to be and life goes on. I have made many mistakes in my life, but the key is to hang in there and never lose hope.
Q – What was going on in your mind as you approached the final color balls before making your first professional maximum break at the Paul Hunter Classic 2014? I bet making a 147 is a feeling you would cherish forever.
AM – I actually cant remember how I felt. I just remember the ecstasy when I potted the final black. The break was so perfect that I was never out of position, which made it easier to hold my nerve. I was 2-0 down in the third game of the day and at the time I was suffering quite badly with my neck injury. I remember telling myself before that frame, ‘just make a quick 60 and win one frame’, because I was in a lot of pain. Just shows how crazy life can be.
Q – A few players, including Judd Trump, have asked for adding a shot clock for some tournaments. Do you feel introducing the shot clock is the need of the hour?
AM – I think there are people who are in charge of the running the game and they know what they are doing. I just try to focus on doing my best.
Q – Who, according to you, is the greatest snooker player of all time?
AM – Ronnie.
Q – Whom do you look up to as your inspiration? And why?
AM – I don’t really have any one in person who I look up to. Inspiration comes in all forms. My family inspires me to be a better person, to never give up and their support means everything to me. I’m inspired by anyone who does something with all of his/her heart.
Q – According to you, which Indian cueist, apart from Pankaj Advani, has the most potential to do well on the main tour?
AM – I don’t think we have any player currently who can deal with the challenges of being a pro. But we have talent that’s waiting to be honed. They need the support to flourish.
Q – What advice would you give to amateur snooker players wanting to turn professional and join the main tour?
AM – There has never been a better time to be a snooker pro. So gear up, prepare yourself, keep your head down and work extremely hard. Patience is key. Focus on your physical and mental health as they will be challenged. And most of all, enjoy the game.
Q – On a final note, any New Year resolutions?
AM – Just to enjoy my snooker more and stress less about the future.
Here’s wishing Aditya Mehta the very best for all upcoming tournaments, including the World Championship 2018 Qualifiers.
Photos courtesy – Monique Limbos
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