Bonnyrigg snooker professional Michael Leslie is set to make his television debut against his hero John Higgins on Eurosport tomorrow in the opening round of the Arcaden Paul Hunter Classic in Furth, Germany.
When asked about his debut appearance on television against four-times world champion Higgins, 19-year-old Leslie said: “I didn’t think a match on the TV would come so soon. You always hope that you can draw a big name and perhaps get a shot on the television at some point but I did not expect it in my first season on the tour. It will be a totally new experience but I am looking forward to it. If I could pick someone to play in my first match on TV it would be Higgins. I have so much respect for the guy as a player and as a person and I have always looked up to him.”
Higgins, 37, turned professional in 1992 and, only two years later, won his first ranking title. His first world title followed in 1998 and he won three more world titles in five years between 2007 and 2011, three UK Championship titles, two Masters titles and 16 more ranking titles, making Higgins unquestionably one of the greatest snooker players ever.
When reminded of the achievement of his opponent, Leslie said: “Higgins has done everything in the game there is to do. I remember hearing Steve Davis commentating on a Higgins match. Davis was asked how Higgins managed to keep coming from behind to win frames and he responded by saying it was because he was the best player he had ever seen.
“There are no weaknesses in his game. His break-building, safety play and tactical play are all first class and to top it off he is incredible under pressure, so he has got everything. When he plays well, he rarely gets beat.”
When four times world champion Higgins, currently ranked No. 5 in the world, was asked about his television debut, which occurred 20 years ago, he said: “I was playing Steve Davis in the Regal Masters which was held in Scotland at the time and I remember being blown away by the whole occasion and Steve beat me fairly easily.
“Playing on the main television table is different from the normal match tables Michael will now be getting used to. They are even faster, it looks different, the lighting is different and it is hard to adjust at first. You have to try and block the cameras out. Some players just get used to it straight away – others struggle.
“Michael is the type of player who will enjoy it and hopefully will rise to the challenge, just not too much, I hope! This will be a new experience for Michael, however these games are the reason he turned professional and he will benefit from the experience.”
Furthermore, Higgins feels that the introduction of Germany as a host for the Main tour events is a positive thing for the game. “Germany is leading the way with China as the countries following the UK in terms of putting on great snooker and I am really looking forward to playing there again.”
As for Leslie, he added: “I have played John quite a few times in practice. I have learned something from him every time. To get drawn against John is a dream come true so hopefully I can put in a good performance, enjoy the experience and learn from one of the snooker’s greatest ever players.”
The match is scheduled to be on Eurosport tomorrow at 11.00am BST.