MATT SELT believes he is better placed to do some damage at the Crucible this year than on his debut appearance at the theatre of dreams two years ago.
Those dreams turned into nightmares for Selt in 2013 when he fell 5-0 adrift to Mark Selby, who eventually beat him 10-4. But Selt starts out against Barry Hawkins this morning off the back of the best season of his career, which included a run to the Lisbon Open final and consistent displays in a number of other tournaments.
He has had setbacks too, including a 6-0 thumping by Ronnie O’Sullivan at the UK Championship and 4-3 loss from 3-1 up to Mark Williams in the quarter-finals of the Players Championship in Bangkok. But Selt, 29, is relishing a second opportunity to make a name for himself at the home of snooker.
“Last time I was there I froze,” he said. “I played Ronnie in the UK Championship and froze. Against Mark Williams in Thailand it was the first time I put myself in a winning position against a top player that far down the line of a tournament. Although I didn’t get over the line I took positives out of it.
“I fancy putting up a fight at the Crucible. I’ve had a great season and there aren’t too many players playing better than me. I feel really good in my game.
“I’m really looking forward to walking out there again. It was horrific last time how I played the first five or six frames. I was a non-runner as far as the match goes.
“I know if I settle I can beat anyone – whether I settle or not remains to be seen, but as long as I keep putting myself in these positions, eventually I’ll feel comfortable with my surroundings and be able to play my natural game. When that happens exciting things are round the corner.”
One change in Selt’s life has been the presence of his father, Michael, at the last couple of tournaments, which he believes has made a difference.
“My dad’s only been to two other tournaments,” Selt said. “He never came to any of my snooker when I was a child. I felt calm having him with me in Llandudno and at the qualifiers, like I was a kid who has got to behave. It’ll be special for him as well as me.
“My mum and dad split up when I was younger. We had contact but he always thought snooker was a hobby. But now he’s making a real effort to come and support me.
“He asked me two years ago when I was going to get a real job but he can hopefully see now that I’m actually quite good at the game and that I can earn a good living.”
Selt, a bullish Essex-boy, is certainly starting to do that. Now the Crucible awaits for a second time.
Hawkins has enjoyed two good years in Sheffield, reaching the final in 2013 and the semi-finals last season. But this campaign has been largely disappointing, certainly since he lost 6-5 from 5-0 up to Nigel Bond in the last 64 of the UK Championship last November.
The Crucible could well inspire him again. It may have to, as he is up against someone in the most confident form of his life.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.