Michael Holt hopes that he can collect further silverware when play resumes on the World Snooker Tour, following his maiden ranking triumph at the BetVictor Shoot Out in February.
The Hitman ended a 24-year wait for his first ranking crown as a professional, defeating Zhou Yuelong in the final to pick up the £50,000 top prize in Watford.
The single-frame event encourages a unique atmosphere. Time constraints limit matches to ten minutes, with a shot clock in operation. The fast paced nature of the games means that, of course, fortune can play a big factor. However, Holt boasts a magnificent record over the last two trips to Watford, he was also runner-up to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 12 months ago. He hopes that he can take confidence from this year’s title winning experience and convert it into more titles.
Holt said: “I’ve been having doubts for 15 years about whether I would win anything, maybe longer than that. I still want to win a standard format event, that is something I am striving for and it is something I’ve got a lot of hopes that I will do at some point. Hopefully I can draw a bit of confidence from this.
“I know that I can pot match ball now and I am looking forward to starting playing again. I feel like I have been playing quite well for a while. It didn’t surprise me that I got a result of some kind. I’m really excited for what the future holds.
“I didn’t have much time to think about it after the event, because I was back playing two days later at the Players Championship. Obviously now with what is happening in the world, we have had time to reflect on things and winning that is such a big thing to happen for me. It has been especially important with the current situation, as it was massive financially as well. It was great for some of my family to be there, it was amazing.”
Having now reached consecutive finals at the Shoot Out, Holt is clearly well versed in handling the pressure cooker conditions the event produces. The Nottingham potter says that he relishes the tournament and is aided by the shot clock cutting out any potential indecision.
“I am no shrinking violet and that sort of atmosphere is fine with me,” said 41-year-old Holt. “The format helps me because I have always out-thought myself. I have the ability to play all of the shots easily, but mentally I have struggled. The time constraint makes me focussed on what I am doing, it forces me to focus on nothing else.
“It isn’t that I need to try to play quicker as such. It is that focus. The reason I can be slow at times isn’t because I’m a slow player. I don’t trust my instincts. When I first see the shot I should play it. However, I’ll look at something else and think about playing that instead. All of a sudden I’ve taken four or five seconds more than I should have done.”
There has been double cause for celebration for Holt this year, with the birth of his second child, a girl called Sadie. The current nationwide lockdown in the UK has caused many difficulties for people around the country. However, there has been a positive side-effect for Holt, who has taken advantage of his break from professional sporting life to spend time with wife Amy, son Jude and newborn Sadie.
Holt admitted: “That is a good thing that I can take from the situation. I’m not going anywhere, I’m not allowed to leave the house. Amy is delighted and loving life. I’m spending time with my family which is great, although I can’t see my dad which is painful. Obviously to be with these three is time that I never thought I would have. I’m trying to enjoy it all and when this is over I can get back practising and hopefully do alright. I would be in China now if I’d qualified. There again is an example of me going away for a week or so, then I’d come back and have the world qualifiers straight away.
“I don’t have a table at home, so I can’t play at the moment. I do miss the game. It hasn’t been too long yet and we have been so busy. As I get into more of a routine during this lockdown, I will start to miss it. If somebody said I could play tomorrow, then I definitely would. I do miss it, but at the end of the day because it is out of my hands it isn’t worth thinking about. I can’t do anything about it, so I have to just crack on. Hopefully we will have a bit of time to put the hours in before the World Championship when things calm down. I’ll be ready for it when it comes around.”