Few players can boast three wins on the spin over Ronnie O’Sullivan but Michael Holt takes that superb record into his clash with the Rocket at the Champion of Champions on Thursday.
The Hitman has picked up a trio of wins over the world champion and has not lost to O’Sullivan since way back at the 2007 UK Championship.
Any win over the six-time world champ is a notable one, but the three victories all came in significant events, with Holt snuffing out the Rocket at the International Championship, Shanghai Masters and World Grand Prix, all in 2016.
The world number 28 is not quite ready to say he was hoping to draw O’Sullivan this week, but he is certainly not afraid of his first round opponent.
‘It’s not a good draw, I’m not going to go that far, but it’s Champion of Champions, you’re not going to get a good draw,’ Holt told Metro.co.uk.
‘He’s the greatest ever, an incredible player but I can’t really focus on him, which is quite a boring answer, but I’ve just got to focus on me.
‘I’m capable of playing a level of snooker that can beat anyone, which I’ve proved. So I just hope to do that really and if I get my chances, try and take them.
‘The nature of snooker, if you’re at the table, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing. So hopefully get a few chances and I can do it.
‘He’s a human being, I’m sure he’ll be a bit nervous, it’s a big tournament, he’s not immune to these things. I’ve just got to be ready to pounce when I get my opportunity.’
‘I didn’t realise that, but I knew I’ve beaten him the last three times. They’ve been in good events as well, so no question he wasn’t trying,’ Michael continued.
‘It’s as much coincidence as anything, I don’t think there’s anything in it, but I think what helps me, for all my weaknesses as a snooker player, playing top players or being overawed by them, is not one of them.
‘If I get it going, it doesn’t really matter who I’m playing, I’m not bothered.
‘Although my career has not had much success, I’ve always beaten top players and I can play at a really high level.’
Holt is making his Champion of Champions debut, qualifying thanks to his memorable Snooker Shoot Out victory last year.
He may have veteran status at 42-years-old, but his enthusiasm for the game is as fervent as ever and he cannot wait to get involved in the huge event.
‘I’m looking forward to it because I’m playing well, I’m happy with what I’m doing,’ he said. ‘Playing these events is incredible. When I was 15 this was what I wanted, I dreamt of being a professional and playing in big events.
‘Although I’m 42, I appreciate how lucky we are and especially now, I’m just happy tournaments are on.
‘We’d rather have people there, of course, but I think Emily [Frazer, Matchroom Managing Director] and the team have done a fantastic job in how it all looks.’
The new Champion of Champions set design is reminiscent of a giant spider, which Holt will happily bring up should his winning streak against the Rocket come to an end.
‘I’m scared of spiders so I might be all over the place,’ he said. ‘But it’s a ready made excuse. So if he luckily flukes a win, I can just say it’s because of that.’
Holt has had a solid start to the season, with runs to the third round at the European Masters and English Open, both of which were ended by world number one Judd Trump.
The first clash with Trump was one-sided, but Holt had a superb chance to progress at the English Open at 3-1 ahead in a race to four.
It was a tough loss to take, but the Hitman has taken it on the chin and is ready to secure an even bigger victory this week.
‘The last two events I’ve been playing at a good level except the first game against Trump,’ he said. ‘Otherwise I’ve scored well and I should have won that second game against Trump, I didn’t collapse, but I missed a couple of balls I should have potted.
‘I was sore after that because I was surprised I missed those balls because of the way I was playing, I was really in shot.
‘Sometimes you can play in matches, you’re not feeling strong so you’re not that surprised you miss, but I couldn’t believe those ones.
‘But when you play those top players, you can’t ask for more than two chances. It’s my fault. Move on.’
Holt will be ready to take his chances against the Rocket in the Champion of Champions in Milton Keynes on Thursday afternoon, live on ITV4.