Name: Pankaj Advani
DOB: 24th July 1985
Turned Pro: 2012
Highest Ranking: #66 (2012)
Highest Break: 134 (2013 Indian Open)
Career Highlights: 2013 Welsh Open and Indian Open quarter-finalist, 2012 International Championship last 32, 2012/13 ET1 semi-finalist, 2003 IBSF World Snooker champion, Five Time Asian Billiards champion
A highly decorated billiards player, India’s Pankaj Advani earned a two-year tour card on the professional snooker circuit in 2012 with a run to the final of that year’s Asian Championship, where he lost out to the already qualified Aditya Mehta.
Pankaj told the Times of India:
“I feel that there is a time and place for everything in life, and I feel that this is the right time to give this a shot.”
“At the age of 18, when I was really keen to go and play the pro league I didn’t get an entry, and after 8 years, the desire has rekindled. It will be exciting to see what follows next.”
“My focus is to become a better and stronger player by participating in the Pro Tour, while continuing to actively participate in international Billiards events.”
“Being part of a new environment is exciting and challenging at the same time and I look forward to it.”
After a solid start to his first professional season, Pankaj hit the headlines by qualifying for the venue stages of the inaugural International Championship event, defeating Craig Steadman, Steve Davis, Alan McManus and Michael Holt to do so.
Unfortunately however, Pankaj took the difficult decision not to take his place in Chengdu, following a clash of dates with the 2012 World Billiards Championship in Leeds, which prevented him from participating in both. As Pankaj explained at the time:
“It was a choice between two events, not between billiards and snooker as such,”
“I know how hard I have worked to qualify for the China tournament.
“I know how tough it’s been coming back from crunch situations against the top players and actually winning four matches in a row to qualify for the event. Obviously, it’s with a lot of pain that I have to let go of it. But again, the world billiards is an event I have thoroughly enjoyed playing,”
“Obviously, I am losing out on a chance to make more ranking points but my points for the stage I have reached and the prize money for that stage is secure.”
Ultimately, Pankaj’s decision would prove to be justified, as he defeated Mike Russell to capture his seventh world billiards title at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds.
Back on the snooker circuit meanwhile, Pankaj continued his winning streak to reach the semi-finals of the ET1 event in Germany, defeating the likes of Ryan Day and John Higgins, before losing out 4-2 to world number one Mark Selby. Pankaj also won two matches at the UK Championship qualifiers, before losing to Steve Davis in a deciding frame.
The second half of Pankaj’s season was to be highlighted by a career-best run to the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open, where he defeated Shaun Murphy and Graeme Dott, before losing out to third seed Judd Trump 5-2.
His début campaign was to come to an end at the World Championship qualifiers, with a narrow 10-8 defeat to Northern Ireland’s Joe Swail at the EIS.
Following a relatively slow start to his second professional season, Pankaj’s campaign was to come to life at the Doncaster Dome in August 2013, as he won three matches to reach the last 16 stage of the European Tour Event 3, as well as defeating Matt Selt 4-0 to qualify for his home tournament, the Indian Open.
Once at the venue in October, Pankaj was able to defeat Marcus Campbell, Mark Allen and Stuart Bingham to set up a dream quarter-final with compatriot Aditya Mehta, unfortunately losing out in an understandably tense match 4-3.
Though he was to suffer a disappointing 6-1 defeat to Tian Pengfei at the UK Championship in November, he had done enough to establish himself comfortably inside the world’s top 64 at the season’s halfway point.
Having been torn between snooker and billiards since 2012, Pankaj took the decision to focus on the sport from which he has made his name in India and told sportskeeda.com:
“It was a constant dilemma, having to decide between billiards and snooker, with tournament dates clashing and I finally reached the decision to let go of my pro tour card.
“It has always been my goal to attain excellence in both billiards and snooker. To this end, I am happy that my two years on the pro snooker tour has made me a better player.
“Also, when on the pro tour, I was missing billiards. Now that I am out of the pro circuit, it gives me more opportunities to represent my country and win medals. This means a lot to me.
“The other main reason for my quitting pro tour was that I was missing my family and frankly, I was not enjoying spending so much time away from home.
“I discussed with my family and close friends besides my coach Arvind Savury who initially felt I should continue, but later understood when I explained the reasons and supported my decision to quit pro tour.”
Pankaj did compete in the 2015 Indian Open as a wildcard however, losing out to Rhys Clark, while he also reached the semi-finals of the Asian Championship event in April 2015.