It’s been an eventful few weeks for Leicester’s Louis Heathcote, who has gone from clinching his tour status in the most dramatic of circumstances to winning his first two matches as a professional.
Heathcote required snookers at 3-0 and 3-1 down in the final round of Q School event two, before coming back to defeat Chinese teenager Si Jiahui 4-3. Since then he has won his first two matches on the World Snooker Tour, beating Ryan Day and Noppon Saengkham to qualify for the Riga Masters and International Championship respectively.
We caught up with the 21-year-old to look forward to the season and discuss how he is feeling about turning professional…
Louis, how much confidence have you taken from those two very impressive qualifying victories over Ryan Day and Noppon Saengkham?
“It is all a bit surreal at the moment. To have come from being 3-0 down and needing snookers at Q School to being where I am now is quite a turnaround. If someone had offered me this back then, I’d have snapped their hands off.
“I think coming straight out of Q School helped me a lot in the qualifiers. I gained some real match sharpness and it was a big benefit to me. I was up against two experienced and tough players, so I’m very happy with those wins.”
With so much riding on Q School, is there even more pressure there than on the main professional circuit?
“Yeah 100%. It feels like it is life or death stuff when you are out there. Everyone is playing for their career and their livelihoods. Each match is so intense. You can feel it. Every shot is played under so much pressure. I was just happy to get through it.
“I took that into those matches at qualifying and saved my best moments for when it really mattered. I played my best frame of the match in a decider against Ryan and had really good frames to come from 4-3 down to beat Noppon 6-4. This last month has given me a lot of confidence and has shown I am capable of producing good snooker, even when I’m under the most pressure.”
Those victories saw you book trips to Latvia and China. Are you looking forward to the travelling element of being a professional player?
“I’m a bit nervous about going to China because it is such a long way away and I’ve never been there before. However, it is all part of being on tour and I am looking forward to it. I’ll get to see a lot of different places now and although I’m a bit wary of the trip, I’ve always wanted to see China and now I will be able to.”
There is a big contingent of players from Leicester, with Mark Selby, Ben Woollaston, Tom Ford, Joe O’Connor already being on the circuit. How much have those players helped you?
“Since Q School, I’ve played with Joe, Ben and Tom and Mark has been speaking to me about practising. They have been really helpful. I am especially close to Tom and Joe. They are both a really good laugh. Whenever I play with Tom he always gives me advice on shot selection and Joe has helped me out with getting used to the idea of being on tour.”
Joe was Rookie of the Year last season and reached the semi-finals of the Welsh Open. How much did that inspire and motivate you to try and emulate him?
“I’ve known Joe since I was a 10-year-old and it was fantastic to see him do so well last season. I was also a bit envious. What he achieved last year has really motivated me to up my game and put in more hours. We have grown up together, so I want to be able to reach the levels he has. Seeing what he has done in such a short amount of time has really spurred me on.”
You played a lot of pool when you were younger and won numerous events including the Junior European Champion. Did that act as a good competitive grounding for your snooker career?
“Yes it did. There are a lot of team events in pool and coming through in that environment really helped. I captained the England team at my age group for a few years. When you have six or seven players counting on you to win a frame it is very hard. It is actually very similar to the Q School pressure. So having done that from a young age has been very useful.”