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'Bittersweet' for Pankaj Advani to beat best friend and win 11th national billiards title

Pankaj Advani beat Dhruv Sitwal to win his 11th National Billiards Championship in Bhopal.

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Pankaj Advani with his best friend and runner-up after winning the National Billiards Championship on Monday evening (Pankaj Advani)


Dipankar Lahiri

Updated: 21 Dec 2021 1:10 PM GMT

The moment Pankaj Avani sealed the best-of-nine-games final 5-2 to win his 11th National Billiards Championship in Bhopal on Monday was not without a tinge of sorrow.

On the losing side was former Asia champion Dhruv Sitwal, his best friend, colleague and long-time competitor, who had been leading in the final for major chunks.

"It's a bittersweet feeling to win against Dhruv. He is a very close friend of mine, we confide in each other about everything in our lives," Advani told The Bridge.

"We have conversations about spirituality, we share rooms when on tours. People actually say we behave like a couple, we know our routines so well," he said.

Advani, who said the two best friends keep talking during their matches as normally as when hanging out together, said it could have been a whole different story had Dhruv wrested away the fourth game and taken a 3-1 lead.

But the 36-year-old Advani then went on a classy break of 127 to snatch the game and draw level at 2-2, before dominating the rest of the final.

"To be honest, it is never easy to play against your best friend in the finals of a major event like this," Advani said.

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"But he's also beaten me in big finals in 2003 through to 2015. We still have a healthy rivalry going. We keep pushing each other to be better on the table, but more than that we keep pushing each other to be better human beings," he added.

Speaking on defending his billiards title after a patch of indifferent form earlier in the year - when he relinquished his national snooker title - Advani said it is getting harder for him because of the newer generation of players coming up.

"This was my 11th national billiards title but my 35th national title overall. My age and my titles seem to go hand in hand. I'll need to win two out of three national titles next year to keep up," he said.

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