Australia’s Matthew Bolton will make his World Snooker Tour debut this week at European Masters, Indian Open and World Open qualifying in Preston.
The Oceania Champion is no stranger to playing at the highest levels of cue sports, having reached the World Billiards Championship final on two occasions. We caught up with him ahead of his maiden appearance on the professional snooker circuit…
Matthew, how much of a thrill was it when you earned your tour card by winning the 2017 Oceania Championship?
“It was a fantastic buzz. I’ve been playing cue sports since I was six years old and it feels brilliant to have gained professional status as a snooker player. Billiards was previously my priority and I am very proud to have reached two world finals and been world number one, but I feel I am at a good age to knuckle down and give snooker a go.”
We’ve seen the likes of current tour players Neil Robertson and Kurt Dunham make the move to Britain. Where do you plan to base yourself for the season ahead?
“I will still be spending the bulk of my time at home in Australia. I’ve been in Leeds for the last six days practising at the Northern Snooker Centre. It’s been great here and I’ve been able to play against top professionals like David Grace and Oliver Lines . For any player coming over, you need to be able to adapt to the higher level and the more professional standards and culture. Playing in Leeds this week has been very beneficial in that regard. I’ll base myself from here during the busy points in the season, however I will still be predominantly living at home in Perth.
“Of course the travelling will be an extra challenge, but having a wife and a seven year old boy means that it is a little bit more difficult to move permanently and it is easier to do it in chunks. I’ve actually bought a Star table and have had that installed at home, so I’ll be putting in the hours on that.”
Having been a leading player in the billiards setup, has it always been your target to have a go on the World Snooker Tour?
“My background is in billiards and that is what I was successful doing the past, so snooker wasn’t my priority at that point. However, even as one of the best players in the world, I wasn’t going to make a living out of billiards. In the last three or four years, I thought I would give snooker a go and have started dominating the scene in Australia pretty heavily.
“I do think having that background in billiards and playing in world level matches will stand me in good stead. I’m not afraid of the finish line. That will benefit me, especially in the early stages. I’m also at an age now where I think I am ready to compete on this level. However, there are still many elements that I am not used to and if I reach the TV stages and play in those conditions, it will take some getting used to.
“Neil Robertson is obviously a huge inspiration for all Australian players. He has been really supportive and encouraging when I have spoken to him about taking up my tour spot. He has achieved everything in the game and I have really appreciated his support.”
This week you will face Liam Highfield, Alan McManus and Stephen Maguire in Preston. It’s three tough tests to get you underway. How much are you looking forward to the challenge?
“It absolutely is a tough test, there are no easy matches and I don’t expect there to be. I certainly won’t be intimated and will give it my best shot. That’s the whole buzz of it. Liam Highfield is promising young player, Alan McManus is a seasoned professional and someone I am really looking forward to facing, whilst Stephen Maguire is a top 16 level player. Each of them present different challenges which is interesting, but it doesn’t matter who I play. I will still need to focus on my game and try to get out there and produce high level of snooker if I hope to progress.”