World number 30 Matthew Selt says the end of last season was the best he has ever felt in the match arena and now he’s putting in the hours to carry that into the new campaign.
The Essex cueman came through Cazoo World Championship qualifying to earn a Crucible berth for the fourth time in his career. He faced four-time World Champion Mark Selby at the Theatre of Dreams and gave a strong account of himself, before falling to a narrow 10-8 loss.
There were mixed emotions for Selt who was devastated to lose, but delighted to feel comfortable on the biggest stage. This was despite having previously admitted to struggling with producing his best form under the spotlight.
“I felt unbelievable. That is the best I’ve felt anywhere, let alone at the Crucible. I think my performance showed that. As the match went on, with every shot I played, I felt better and better. It was nice to play the snooker I normally produce away from the big stage,” revealed 38-year-old Selt.
“Feeling that way allowed me to put on a game. I wish the match had continued. I built up a lot of momentum prior to that. It is a case of hoping to hit the ground running and trying to get back to that. It was the best snooker I’ve ever played.
“I am still a bit sour about losing now. Although, Mark produced an amazing break in the last frame. That is what he does and the top players do. I missed a long red which somehow went over the yellow pocket. He potted the red and left a blue, which he wouldn’t ordinarily go for. He had no safety shot and had to go for it. If you put someone of that calibre in a position where they have to pot balls, the majority of the time they knock them in. It was a great break, he is a great champion and it was a great game. I enjoyed every moment. It was nice that one of the best players of all time had to produce something special to beat me. That is a lot better than I have done previously at the Crucible. It is a step in the right direction.”
Despite the disappointment of the early exit, Selt continued to take an interest in the event from the sidelines. When his opponent, Selby, earned a place in the final against Belgium’s Luca Brecel, Selt felt there was only one winner. However, he was shocked to see Brecel stun Selby 18-15 and claim a maiden Crucible crown. Selt heralds it as the best world final ever and hopes it has had big impact on drawing attention to the sport.
Selt said: “Mark is arguably the greatest Crucible player, over the course and distance, that there’s been. He has proved that he can beat anyone there. I was absolutely flabbergasted that he could lose a best of 35 to anyone. It took something magical from Luca. I watched every single ball of the final and I loved it.
“We all know what Luca can do and what he is capable of. His brand of snooker is fantastic for people that are watching. However, I did assume Mark would win comfortably. I thought Luca would play his snooker, have loads of big breaks and he would throw a few frames away. That was the best final I’ve ever seen. For someone to keep up that pace, over 33 frames against the best in the world, was incredible. Mark’s greatest attribute is to defuse players, but Luca kept going on and on. It was magnificent. That match can only do wonders for the game of snooker.”
Selt himself came into Crucible qualifying already feeling positive about his game. He faced 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott on Judgement Day for a place in the final stages, but didn’t have the match he expected when he learned the Scot was carrying an injury. Selt held his composure to come through 10-6.
“The fact that Graeme was clearly injured was actually the hardest part about that game. He had a really bad shoulder. Keeping my focus and trying to get the job done was probably harder than normal, because it put a different context on the game. I wasn’t trying to beat someone at full health, which is especially unusual in the last round of World Championship qualifying. I would say it was more strange than hard. I was delighted to get through. To beat someone of Graeme’s quality was obviously very pleasing. You still have to get it done.
“I saw him wince a couple of times in the first frame and asked him if he was alright. He told me about it during the frame. I tried to make light of it and not put him off. You could clearly see he was in pain. Trying to beat someone you know is hurt is difficult. It is like when you see a draw for a tournament and you think you are against someone you will automatically beat. It never turns out that way. If you take something for granted it always comes back to bite you.”
The aim for Selt now is to ensure he continues to produce the standards he achieved in Sheffield this season. He has been working hard during the off-season to hone his skills alongside coach Chris Henry. The 2019 Indian Open champion has lofty ambitions for the campaign, but he isn’t willing to reveal any of his specific targets at this point.
“I do have goals and I have already told Chris Henry what they are. It will be interesting to see how that pans out. I won’t make them public though. I will reveal them at the end of the season, they are written down and we will see how many I manage to hit.
“I’ve been slowly trying to build up a bit of momentum. I’ve been putting in the hours and seeing Chris, which is great as I would see him every day of the week if I could. I’m sure that would drive him bonkers, but he is a fantastic coach and a great guy. The more hours you spend with him the sharper you will become. That is what you get with him.
“Although he is a mental coach and a very good one, Chris will be the first to say that I am quite lazy on that side of the game. I don’t really do the other stuff he wants me to do. He is able to get me so sharp in terms of hitting the cue ball where I want to and that it gives me enough confidence to go out and play well. If I can get to that point consistently, then I will have a good season.”