A few minutes into the deciding seventh frame of his first round match against the 2002 World Champion Peter Edbon,Aditya Mehta took a breather. Players rarely stop in the middle of a break,if it isnt to ponder a few angles or to choose between several hypothetical courses of action. Even then,the player rarely leaves the side of the table,instead whooshing the cue,striking imaginary balls pocket-wards,first from one angle,then another until the mind is made up. A few seconds before,Mehta had almost fouled up a customary pot,when the blue did a dramatic jig at the cusp of the side pocket before sinking in.
Mehta immediately stopped,gasped at the referee to give the misbehaving blue a scrub down,and rushed to his corner to have a sip of water. The frame scores were,of course,tied three apiece at this point. Mehta had already accumulated 30 points during his turn at the table,but there was an almost palpable sense of anxiety.
In a similar situation in the sixth frame (Mehta was on the brink of landing the final blow,leading 3-2 and into a 38-point break,with the frame score 38-0),the ambient lights had suddenly come on just as Mehta was about to strike the cue ball. He gestured impatiently as the lights were turned back off,and when all was normal,proceeded to miscue.
From there on,Ebdon staged a jaw-dropping comeback. At one point,with just three reds left on the board (for a maximum of 51 points),Ebdon had trailed 73-24 in the sixth frame. The 43-year old had to play an almost perfect game from there on to stay in the match and he did just that. Ebdon went for the points when he was sure the black (the most rewarding ball,worth seven points) was within reach,and hung back at the right moment,waiting behind perfectly constructed defence.
At a critical juncture,he wedged the cue ball behind a barrier of coloured balls,with the target red completely out of Mehtas reach. The Indian conceded foul after foul as Ebdon clawed back. When the position finally broke,Ebdon cleared the table,claiming the frame 85-73,and in the process levelled the match at three frames all.
It is difficult to imagine that the remarkable phase did not shock Mehta,or that he did not feel a sense of deja vu in those few seconds it took to compose himself in the seventh frame. However,Mehta was not about to let it happen again.
As it turned out,Ebdon would not get another turn at the table. Mehta went on to complete a mammoth 127-point break,the highest of the day,to blank the Englishman 132-0 in the decider and claim a famous win.
The century break was Mehtas second of the game he had gathered 122 points in his third turn at the table in the fourth frame and in the end,it was the ability to maintain his concentration and keep a run going that proved the difference.
Ebdon,nicknamed Mr Intensity for his legendary focus,looked an implacable force when he stitched together a break,each hit measured and the scatter aligned neatly to pave way for his next shot. But unfortunately,these displays were too infrequent to make a big dent in a frame.
As compared to Mehtas two century breaks,Ebdon could muster a maximum of just 41 (in frame two),and 40 (in frames three and five). It was Mehtas own inconsistencies that gave Ebdon the third,fifth and sixth frames.
Indian wildcards exit
Earlier,all five Indians who played the wildcard round were shown the exit,with Shivam Arora coming the closest to qualifying,losing 4-3 to 44th seed Anthony McGill. Kamal Chawla,Sudeep Gulati,Manan Chandra and Faisal Khan could just manage three frames between the four of them.
It was either a scheduling error or a canny move on the part of the organisers (there was a distinct possiblity that both Mehta and Pankaj Advani would be knocked out in the first round,considering they were both ranked below their opponents) to move Advanis game to Tuesday. The 28-year old 70th seed is to take on Marcus Campbell (27th seed) at 7 pm.