Updated: December 22, 2021 1:05:18 pm
India’s ace cueist Pankaj Advani successfully defended his National Billiards title in Bhopal, part of a sweet story of how two friends played against each other in the title contest.
Advani defeated his ‘close friend’ Dhruv Sitwala 5-2 in a high-quality best-of-nine-frames final.
After losing the first frame, Advani responded with breaks of 56 & 46 to restore parity. Sitwala displayed excellent in-offs, pots and cannons again to pocket the third frame with a sizeable break of 84. He was on course to even wrest the fourth after a wonderful effort of 101. But a costly lapse gave a chance to Pankaj, who chalked up a break of 127 to draw level once again.
Thereafter, Pankaj struck a purple patch, cajoling and nursing the balls at the top of the table to craft two unfinished breaks of 150 in the fifth and sixth frames to take a 4-2 lead. Despite a break of 134, Sitwala could not hold Advani back as the latter compiled an unfinished break of 148 to take the title.
NATIONAL BILLARDS CHAMPIONSHIP🎱@PankajAdvani247 defends his National title,wins it for 11th time!
Defeated his best friend & PSPB mate Dhruv Sitwala 5-2 in the finals.24-time World Champion Pankaj was 1-2 down but came back from there to clinch the title👏 pic.twitter.com/lSVJYC3HnF
— SPORTS ARENA🇮🇳 (@SportsArena1234) December 21, 2021
After the match, Advani admitted that it was not easy to play against one’s ‘best friend’ in the final of a major event. “It is very difficult facing your buddy in a big final. Dhruv is an excellent player and an even better human being. We keep it real even before facing off in a match! Our results have never come in the way of our close friendship,” Pankaj told indianexpress.com after claiming his 35th title.
“I remember losing to Dhruv in the Asian Billiards Championship final in 2015. That was his first big win and I’m sure he’ll have a lot more success on the world stage,” he added.
National Billiards Champion🏆😄
Never easy to play against your best friend in a big match.Dhruv Sitwala was exceptional throughout the tournament.Thrilled to win this title after 2 disappointing snooker events. Looking forward to some time off the green baize and chill a little pic.twitter.com/5bbxwVUOD3
— Pankaj Advani (@PankajAdvani247) December 21, 2021
Advani, however, faced a shock exit from the National Snooker competition, getting knocked out in the last 16 of the Men’s 6-Red snooker event. The Billiards title a few weeks later comes as redemption for the 36-year- old cueist.
“Every loss puts a dent in your confidence, you begin to doubt yourself and question your own ability. At the same time, you want to come back stronger, shed the baggage quickly, dust yourself off and move on. The snooker disappointment made me even more hungry for the National Billiards Title,” he said.
The veteran is now back in Bangalore with his family. “Time to unwind and celebrate the festive season with my loved ones. Looking forward to some time off the green baize for now,” he said, with the next big event, the World Snooker Championship 2022, now in doubt due to the pandemic.
“2021 has been amazing for me as I have won a few national-level events and two international titles in Doha, which was unexpected! I’m thrilled to end it on a high note by lifting the National Billiards trophy,” Advani added.