After becoming the first Indian to reach the final of a major ranking event, it was a sad end to Aditya Mehta's winning streak at the Indian Open World Snooker Championship, as he went down tamely to China's Ding Junhui in the summit clash in Delhi on Friday night.
Mehta, who scalped World champions Peter Ebdon and Mark Williams en route the final in the 300,000-pound event, lost 0-5 to world No 4 Junhui in a lop-sided contest, which saw the 27-year-old Mumbai cueist struggling to find his feet in the best-of-nine-frames encounter, which lasted two hours.
The youngest player ever to win three ranking titles, and the only one other than John Higgins to do so before his 20th birthday, Junhui was at ease against world No 71 Indian, which is reflected in 76(52)-36, 87(81)-0,107-0, 93-1, 116(100)-1 scoreline.
This is Junhui's eighth Ranking tournament triumph on the Professional circuit after earlier title triumphs in the China Open (2005), UK Championship (2005, 2009), Northern Ireland Trophy (2006), Welsh Open (2012), PTC Grand Finals (2013) and Shanghai Open (2013).
Mehta, who came into the final just an hour after playing a long, intense semi-final against Scotland's Stephen Maguire earlier on Friday afternoon, suffered from fatigue; the class and safety play that he displayed against his other worthy opponents was missing from his game.
Junhui too played his semi-final against Scotland's Robbie Williams on Friday morning but his clash was neither as exhausting as that of Mehta nor did it take him three hours to send his opponent packing.
This means, Junhui got at least 5-6 hours to recover for the final.
However, there was no denying Junhui's precision and potting prowess, which saw the Chinese prodigy knock the daylights out of world No.1 Neil Robertson and world No.10 John Higgins earlier in the tournament.
Earlier in the day, Mehta stuttered after a rampaging start but survived to edge past Stephen Maguire of Scotland in the semi-finals.
The Mumbai cueist clinched a thrilling 4-3 victory after almost three hours.
Junhui easily beat England's Robbie Williams 4-1 in the other semi-final.
In the process, Mehta, who, on Thursday, had beaten compatriot Pankaj Advani 4-3 in one of the longest-played quarter-final matches on the professional circuit became the first Indian to reach the final of a ranking event.
Friday semi-final between Mehta and world No 5 Maguire appeared to be a one-sided affair after the Indian ace won the first three games 84-0, 137-0 and 132-0. But just when victory looked a formality, the Scot launched a fightback by pocketing the next three frames 72-0, 53-10 and 67-6 respectively.
The deciding seventh frame was a tense affair as scores ran neck and neck before Mehta prevailed 67-45, a break of 30 on his second visit proving vital.
"A couple of years ago, no-one would have imagined that an Indian player could win a ranking title, but now I'm only a match away," said Mehta.
"If I do win, I hope it will be a great thing for the sport in India," he added.
The highlight of the game was the final minutes of the deciding frame in which just three balls left on the table.
With scoreline in Mehta's favour at 61-35, the Indian committed a foul, which gave his opponent a five-point cushion. With 18 points left on the table and Mehta still comfortably positioned, Maguire resorted to tactical game that left the Indian frustrated.
Maguire decided to just touch the balls and not pot in order to induce Mehta into committing another foul.
Mehta, however, did not fall for the ploy and, after a while, potted blue and pink to seal the issue.
Mehta set the ball rolling with small breaks of 32 and 42 to pocket the first frame 84-0. He went on to win the next two frames 137-0 and 132-0 to take a commanding 3-0 lead.
The second frame saw the Mumbaikar set up a break of 81, while in the next he had a brilliant 132-clearance.
Just when it looked as if the semi-final was heading for an early finish, Maguire used all his experience on the professional circuit to bag the next three frames comfortably and leave the Indian stunned.
It wasn't that Maguire played brilliantly to make a sensational comeback into the game but Mehta had become too complacent with the margin of his scoreline.
Maguire fought his way back and breaks of 68 in the fourth and 61 in the sixth saw him drawing level.
Mehta opened a small but significant lead in the seventh and later took advantage of a mistake by Maguire, who left the yellow hanging in the mouth of the bottom right pocket when he was down by 16 points.
The Indian cleared the table to black in different visit and even survived a foul shot on the blue before sinking the pink to finish the match in style.
Earlier, Junhui proved too good for Williams with a dominating 4-1 win.
Junhui, who had on Thursday put out world No. 1 Neil Robertson 4-2, once again reigned supreme to send World No.73 Williams crashing out of the competition.
The winner of seven ranking events, including PTC Grand Finals and Shanghai Open titles this year, Junhui continued his great run, firing in breaks of 68, 59, 142 and 64 en route a comfortable semi-final win.
The highlight of the game was his astonishing break of 142 in the third frame, which proved Junhui's dominance on the professional circuit.
Image: Aditya Mehta