Holt relishing opener against four-time world champion
IN his own words, Michael Holt faces the toughest opponent possible in the opening round of the UK Championship but ever-confident, the Nottingham potter is backing himself to deliver.
After convincingly beating Thailand's Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 6-1 in qualifying, Holt must take on four-time world champion John Higgins in York on Saturday.
The Hitman is bidding to at least equal his best ever showing in the event, when he reached the last eight in 1999 – just three years after turning professional.
Back then, Higgins stopped him in his tracks 9-6, and Holt admits he has failed to hit those heights since.
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Now 34, the ex-Fairham Community College pupil knows time is against him if he is to completely fulfil the potential he has always had.
But he remains confident in his game, even though in world ranked number three Higgins he faces a daunting challenge.
"It is the toughest draw possible in my opinion," said Holt, who is currently the world ranked number 29.
"It is an honour to play John, he is a great player and person as well and I am looking forward to it.
"He is the best player in the world for me, and he has proved that over the years to be a great of the game.
"It is an honour to be on the same table as him but if I can play as I know I can and if I concentrate on my own game then I have a chance.
"It would be nice to have a good run but I have the biggest obstacle in front of me straight away."
Recalling his best UK Championship showing of 1999, Holt feels he may well have underachieved in his career to date given the promise he showed so soon after joining the tour.
"I played John in the quarter-finals in 1999 in only my second year on the tour and he was the world champion then," he said.
"He beat me 9-6 but everything was new to me then and I was running around thinking this game is so easy, I'm going to do so well. He had to play well to beat me that day because I didn't miss a lot.
"I was looking for a breakthrough but it has never really happened. I have been a top-32 player but never got into the top 16 or won anything.
"I have played John two or three times since and he has bashed me up a couple of times and I have beaten him as well.
"I'm not bothered who I play though. I am long enough in the tooth now to know that as long as you take your chances you can beat anyone so I will concentrate on doing that."
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