CHRIS SMALL expects Bonnyrigg snooker professional Michael Leslie to take a major boost from narrowly losing out to four-times world champion John Higgins on his television debut last week.
Leslie, 19, gave Higgins a scare after coming from two frames down to level the match before eventually going down 4-2 in the opening round of the Arcaden Paul Hunter Classic in Furth, Germany, in a match televised on Eurosport.
Former World No. 12 Small, from Leith, today hailed Bonnyrigg player Leslie’s performance. He said “Considering he was playing his first match on television in front of big crowd and playing against John Higgins, I thought he did very well. I thought he started slowly, losing the first two frames, but I expected that as there was a lot for him to adjust to. However, he didn’t let it faze him and after that he came back well and potted a lot of good balls under pressure.”
Small, who retired from snooker due to a degenerative spinal disease, also believes that the performance will help Leslie during the rest of the season. He said: “I definitely think that his performance will give him a boost and if he plays like that against some of the players ranked alongside, him he will start to win matches.
“I did pick up a few things that I can hopefully help him with. They are just little things from the match, mainly around a couple of the shots he selected to play and how he approached a few shots that he will learn over time. So I will be going up to see him next week to spend some time with him.”
When asked about his experience, Leslie said: “Overall, I really enjoyed the match and the whole occasion of playing in front of a good crowd and the cameras.
“I was really nervous before the match as it was totally different to anything I have ever experienced before, but I have worked so hard for this opportunity that I was determined that I was going to enjoy it.
“When I first came out I noticed the cameras, but I managed to put them to the back of my mind and concentrate on the table. I am pleased at how I came back from going two-nil down as I was starting to think the worst, but as the nerves started to disappear I felt more relaxed and really got into the match. I got a few chances in the fifth frame and had I managed to win that one I would have had a good chance, but overall I am pleased with how I played.”
Small was not the only one to praise young Leslie’s performance. Eurosport Commentator Mike Hallett, the former World No. 6, said of Leslie looked “the real deal”, whilst Higgins himself believed that Leslie “looked good and was very composed whilst also looking like he was enjoying it”.
Leslie added: “It is obviously very encouraging to hear people saying those things about me. I got lots of messages after the match from people who had managed to watch the match so that was great.
“I have watched snooker on the TV so many times hoping that one day it would be me playing so to be put in that position. The whole experience has really motivated me to put in the hard work to get myself back there and hopefully getting an early taste of playing in front of the cameras will help me.”