Michael Holt nearly got his season off to a perfect start at the Kaspersky Riga Masters. The ‘Hitman’ came within one match of winning his first ranking title, in a run which saw him beat the likes of Stuart Bingham, Mark Williams and reigning World Champion Mark Selby. He succumbed to Neil Robertson 5-2 in the final.
We caught up with the 37-year-old after his return from Latvia and he was in buoyant mood about the season ahead.
Michael, well done on reaching the first ranking final of your career. How much of a boost is your performance for the year ahead?
“It was great. I had to beat three World Champions on the way and that always means you’re playing good snooker. I was disappointed to lose in the final but I came up against a brilliant player in Neil Robertson. You can’t win them all and as a whole I feel really positive about the event and going forward.”
The event in Riga was upgraded to full ranking status this year. How do you feel the introduction of new ranking events will impact on the World Snooker Tour?
“I remember when we had six events in a year. It didn’t even resemble a season, it was just a random set of tournaments. Now we have a proper tour, which gives the sport credibility. What Barry Hearn has done is give us all the opportunity to be successful and that is all you can ask for. It’s great to get to the final of the first one and that gives me the chance to kick on now. It was a pretty quick turnaround from last season. A few of us felt a little bit flat in Preston. But that is the one of the trade-offs for having so many events and you just have to get on with it. I would rather be playing than not.”
What are your main aspirations and goals for this 2016/17?
“At the start of the season I wanted to get into the top 16 and qualify for the Masters. I also really want to win a ranking event. I feel if I keep improving the way I am then I can achieve all of those goals.”
Looking back, you had a great run at the World Championship. Do you feel the win over Neil Robertson in particular could act as a positive catalyst for the rest of your career?
“It’s a confidence boost to beat such a good player. I’ve had a few good results recently. Throughout my career I’ve been consistent. I’ve qualified for lots of tournaments, but haven’t done myself justice at the major events. I’ve always known that I can play and produce the snooker required to succeed. Those wins have given me a lot more confidence and I believe I can play my best game when I really need to.”
You didn’t qualify for the Indian Open, so you now have a bit of time off. Have you got any plans?
“Not really. I just want to get practising again and try to build on what I achieved in Riga. I feel I can play better and if I do then I obviously have a great chance of winning an event. I’ll get to work with Terry Griffiths over the next couple of weeks and hopefully get my game in shape for the year ahead. I’m feeling good mentally and technically, but I’m desperate to improve and get better.”
How important has Terry been to improving your game, and what do you think is his biggest asset as a coach?
“I think his main asset is that he loves the game and understands the mindset. I don’t want to disparage or undermine any of the coaches that haven’t played at the top level. There are lots that are really good. But Terry knows what you are going through out there in the arena and that gives him the edge over most. We work well together and he has won a world title, money can’t buy that experience.”
Finally, England face Iceland in the last 16 of Euro 2016 tonight. What are your thoughts on how they have done so far?
“I’m always positive about England. I know we aren’t the best team in the world, but if we play the way we have so far, then I’m confident we will get through tonight and we will then have nothing to be afraid of against France in the quarter-final.”