Louis Heathcote intends to prove Ronnie O’Sullivan right and use his words as motivation after the Rocket tipped him for a long and successful career in snooker.
O’Sullivan made headlines during the World Championship when he said that he would have to ‘lose an arm and a leg to fall out of the top 50’ such is the paucity of talent in the game.
However, having won his sixth world title at the Crucible, the Rocket changed his tune slightly and picked out two young talents in the game that have a big future ahead of them.
One was World Championship finalist Kyren Wilson, so little surprise there, but the other was Heathcote, a 23-year-old who has had just one season on the main tour thus far.
‘There are a couple on the circuit; Kyren Wilson is definitely one of them and another guy is Louis Heathcote, I spot that they have what it takes to hang around and get the most out of their career,’ O’Sullivan told The Blank Podcast.
Such praise from the game’s greatest player does not go unnoticed and Heathcote intends to use the words to his advantage as he continues to climb the ranks.
‘It gave me shivers,’ Heathcote told Metro.co.uk. ‘For me, it’s the best compliment anyone could ever give me, so it was really nice.
‘It meant even more after what he said at the Worlds. For him to pick me out of the people he doesn’t rate as someone who has got a chance, it was nice.
‘I’m fully aware that doesn’t mean I’m going to be world champion, I’ve still got to work hard and prove him right.
‘But the confidence it’s given me after seeing that has been unreal, even in practice, it’s made me want to practice more. I’m trying to look at it in a positive way, not thinking there’s pressure to do well, I’m now just motivated to prove him right.’
The Leicester cueman admits that hearing O’Sullivan slam the young talent in the game hurt and it was difficult not to take it personally, but hopes that his contemporaries can take motivation from the comments.
‘I thought it was a bit out of order, maybe he did have a point, but it was the way he said it about losing an arm and a leg,’ Louis continued.
‘Everyone at the bottom of the rankings kind of takes it personally. You think, “is he having a dig at me?”
‘But he’s come out and said he wants to motivate young players, which is fair enough, but at the time it came across badly.
‘He always has a point to what he’s saying but in the moment he can take it a bit too far. He knows exactly what he’s doing, he’s got a grin on his face when he’s saying it. He’s waiting for people to go mad on social media, he loves it.
‘It can be good for the game and it can motivate players to prove him wrong.’
It is not just O’Sullivan that has noticed the rise of Heathcote. Metro.co.uk spoke to Mark Selby, ahead of the World Championship, who said of his fellow Leicester native: ‘I’ve practiced with Louis before, he’s a really good player, got a nice rhythm to his game, quick, heavy-scorer.’
‘It’s mental when you hear these top players give you compliments,’ said Louis. ‘You think, “are they actually talking about me?” But it’s really good to hear stuff like that.’
The World Snooker Tour hierarchy has also taken note of his performances, as Louis was voted Rookie of the Year in the end of season awards, something he was very much focused on achieving after watching his pal Joe O’Connor winning the prize the previous year.
‘That was really nice,’ he said. ‘It was a massive goal of mine from the start of the season to win Rookie if the Year because you only ever get one chance, I can’t have another go this season, so that was a big goal.
‘My good friend Joe won it last season as well, so I was joking all season with him about winning it, so that was nice.’
He fell at the final hurdle before the Crucible, losing to Alan McManus, but the thoroughly impressive win on his television debut has spurred him on to get back into the big matches, where he feels he will shine.
‘I’ve got to get into the top 64 to stay on tour so that’s the biggest goal, but I’m really looking to kick on and improve on last season. It’s not just getting into the 64 but pushing on beyond that.
‘I’ve got momentum, I want to win more second round matches, I’ve been consistent in winning first round matches but often lost in the second round so that’s an aim, to get a bit deeper into tournaments.
‘As a snooker player there’s nothing better than playing on TV in that environment and I think it brings out the best in me so I want to do it more throughout the season.
‘There have been so many players before that Ronnie and people in general have said they’ve got what it takes but then they don’t do it on tele, but I think I can produce my best stuff on the tele, which is a good trait to have.
‘It was such a good experience [against Carter], I’ve never felt that good under that much pressure before.’
Heathcote’s next chance to show what he can do comes in the Championship League on 15 September when he takes on a trio of grizzled veterans in Stephen Maguire, Dominic Dale and Leo Fernandez.
Coming through that challenge will be a step close to proving the Rocket right.
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