World number 31 Matthew Selt hopes that his defeat of seven-time World Champion Stephen Hendry during a run to the last four of the BetVictor Gibraltar Open could prove to be a pivotal turning point in his career.
Essex cueman Selt, 36, has made three ranking semi-finals throughout his career, including his only ranking silverware to date which came by winning the 2019 Indian Open. He now hopes to reach the business end of tournaments on a more frequent basis.
Selt admits that drawing 36-time ranking event winner Hendry put him under a level of scrutiny and pressure which he’d never experienced before.
Scotland’s Hendry made his long awaited comeback at the Gibraltar Open, having initially retired from the sport back in 2012. The draw pitting Selt against him was made all the more intriguing due to the fact the pair have developed a close friendship with each other over the years.
With the eyes of the snooker world fixed on the best of seven encounter, Selt produced his best and ran out a 4-1 victor. He believes that the win could prove to be a defining moment and shape the narrative for rest of his days on the baize.
Selt said: “I’m hoping that match isn’t just a turning point for my season, but for my career. I’ve never had a spotlight on me like that before. There were huge numbers of people watching and the facts are the facts, I am 36 years old and I’ve never really put on a good performance in front of the TV cameras. I was playing against my mate, but at the same time I appreciated the magnitude of what I was involved in. When we both came out and sat down, I just looked at him and said I’d never seen so many cameras before. There were five or six out there and that hit home how important the match was.
“I remember he fouled in the first frame and left me a difficult yellow, but one I probably should go for. I was so close to putting it back. I thought to myself about not only who was watching, but the message that would send. I went for it, potted it and cleared up. That set the tone and I’m so pleased with how I handled the game. I got some advice from Neil Robertson once, he said that it doesn’t matter how you do, as long as you always play the correct shot. If you change your shot selection because of the situation then you are doing the wrong thing. I’ve done that loads before, I’ve messed about being nervous, but I didn’t in that game. If you watch the top players, whether they miss or not, they always play the right shot. That is why they have won so much.”
Selt went on to defeat Barry Hawkins, Kyren Wilson, Soheil Vahedi and Chris Wakelin to make the last four. There he faced formidable opposition in the form of world number one Judd Trump. Despite suffering a 4-1 defeat, Selt thinks he was agonisingly close to being in position to scoop a second career ranking title.
“It was very satisfying. It was also very frustrating. I felt like I was the better player against Trump to be honest. I thought I did enough to win the match, even though I got beat 4-1, I played really well. There were a couple of half mistakes, but at this high level that is the margin between winning and losing. Against Trump, in the form he is in, any mistake is magnified.
“I just couldn’t get it done. That does leave a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, because I feel that if I had won that then I probably would have won the final, even though you can’t really say that because Jack has been knocking on the door. I feel like I would have had enough in the tank. It was a great week snooker-wise. I played consistently well throughout the whole tournament.”
Selt’s attention now turns to Betfred World Championship qualifying, where he will be aiming to reach the Crucible for just the third time and the first since 2015. In the previous two years, he’s agonisingly missed out in the final round of qualifying. This year he has his sights set on a return to the Theatre of Dreams and hopes to face one of the sport’s all-time greats if he can get there.
“It is six years since I have qualified, but I am a completely different player now. The last two times I have played there, I’ve started extremely slowly. I think that would be different now. If I can get through I know that there will be top players waiting. As weird as it sounds, I would love to draw John Higgins. I’ve always loved playing him because he is my hero. To get back there and play him, in the form that he is in, would be special. It was so nice to play Stephen at the Gibraltar Open. These kinds of matches don’t come around every day. They do for Judd and Ronnie, but not for the vast majority. To play John at the Crucible and see how my game holds up against the very very best would be a dream come true. Those are the kinds of things that get you motivated and it will motivate me at the qualifiers.”