Thursday, 5 February 2015
By: Erik Hjorleifson
Good day everyone today I would like to bring something up that I experienced while playing a regional tournament in London a couple of weeks ago. This was an Open tournament with no handicaps and I came in as a pretty big favourite. Most of the best players in Ontario were there but there was only one player that I would consider at a pro/world class level.
The draw was done in this 64 player field and I immediately found myself looking for where this other player was located in the draw. The first few rounds I played some good players but still felt like I was coming into the match as the favourite. As I stated earlier I saw that I would be playing the other favourite in the tournament in the final 4 on the winners side. It ended up being a long day as they decide to finish the tournament in one day, as it progressed and I was winning my matches I kept thinking intermittently about the big match-up in the final 4.
In this match my overall mental makeup wasn't the same, although I have a winning record against this player I played at a much lower level in this match than I did during the other matches in the tournament. Turned out I was fortunate and won the match but I remember that in the next round which was further along in the tournament and even more important in a way, I went back to my normal mind frame coming in as the favourite. I played good and won fairly easy, this day reminded me of possibly the biggest mistakes you can make in pool and that is worrying about who you are playing or being intimidated by your opponent.
I think this is very evident when amateurs or even semi pros are playing a pro level player, at this skill difference a player might think he has lost the match before it has even begun and this is a fatal error. Of course there are scenarios where a beginner level player is so far apart in skill level that reality is they will probably never win but any kind of skill difference such as pro to semi pro or strong amateur to weak amateur there is no reason to ever think like this. In any kind of handicap scenario the same should always hold true.
I was recently watching a post match interview with Dominika Cibulkova (CZE) at the Australian Open tennis tournament and the interviewer mentioned that she would be facing Serena Williams in the next round, the first thing she responded was that she wasn't even aware of that and she never looks at the draw until she's advanced. Sounds a little extreme but you could tell by the way she said it that she really didn't know, personally I'm not sure if I could go as far as Cibulkova did but the lesson of the story is that she is only worrying about her own performance not her opponents.
On the flip side sometimes you will hear players saying I took my opponent for granted or they were brought down to their level or that the speed their opponent was playing at threw them off. I generally find these to be a pretty poor excuses but I hear it often and comes back to the point I am trying make. Which is to try and stay within yourself as much as you can and worry about your own performance rather than anything related to what your opponent is doing. It is all easier said than done but I thought I would bring up the topic because I noticed that it is something that after 20 years of playing still crept in to weaken my mental game a few weeks ago. I can tell you that if its not something that you are willing to work on it can be one of the most detrimental things in pool.