Since I started the APA league, there has been just one guy who has beaten me every time we play; even though we are the same skill level. It’s not just that he wins, but he wins by a landslide. The first time we played was my very first match in the Masters league and he skunked me 7-0. Now, I gave away a lot of games that night, but over the last 10 months, in regular APA and in Masters, he continues to just walk through me. I’ve beaten players that beat him, so clearly there was something just mental about playing him that I just couldn’t manage.
Last night was Masters league and the draw dictated that I had to play him. I told my teammates that I’ll be the sacrificial lamb this week. When they asked why I told them I just can’t beat this guy. They tried to give me some encouragement, as teammates do, but every time I think “I’m due to win.” I still get killed. Back in the Fall, he broke his grip hand, but was still playing. I drew him once in 9-ball league and thought “Finally! I have a chance” … still lost.
Backstory cut short, I decided tonight I wasn’t going to try and out-shoot him. His cueball controls is better than mine and he’s more consistent. Instead, I was going to try and simply out-play him. Play smart, play the percentages – and above all make the ball.
We started off playing 8-ball and he made a rare mistake early in his runout, which left me a pretty open table, so I get the first rack. 🙂 Then he gets the next, I take the 3rd, he takes the next 2. So it’s 2-3 him at the end of the 8-ball set. Then we start the 9-ball segment and I get the first two of those, taking my first lead, then he ties it, but I re-take the lead at 5-4 and he again ties it. He breaks and is on his way to a break and run, but misses the 5. He leaves this table and I play a couple of great “recovery” shots to win the rack:
I didn’t like just cutting the 5 and staying on the top side of the table for the 6 – I might run into the 9 getting shape on the 7. I’ve been practicing this shot lately and I’m getting the hang of it more times than not. I visualized the shot, the ending position and traced the path of the cueball with my eyes before getting down.
Having over-ran position on the 7, I was forced to come with another good shot:
This puts me on the hill! I break decently but there are some clusters and we play a bit of a safety battle which he does win, but then he hangs the 6. I take a little extra time making sure I make the ball on each shot. I shoot the 6, get a little too straight on the 7, which is on the rail near the side pocket with the 8 nearly the headspot. I decide to just take the table as it is and not to force anything. I stop on the 7 and slice the 8 in accepting a longer shot on the 9, which was just above the footspot. I had been practicing spot-shots earlier in the evening, so I was extra comfortable shooting both of these shots. As I bent over for the 9 I started to think “I’m about to WIN!” – but I got back up and said “not yet…” and started my pre-shot routine over again. Took a deep breath, lined up the shot, trusted my stroke and alignment and kerplunk went the 9!! I FINALLY WON!!
My favorite shot of the evening was this safe:
I have never played that shot as perfectly as I did last night. Feathering the object to move just an inch and sending the cueball perfectly back behind a blocker. Another great position shot, in my opinion, was this 2-way shot where I had to bank the 2 but since I know this is a low-percentage, I used the high-karate to kill the cueball on the rail to hide behind the blocker if I missed. But if I made it, my next ball was in sight down the rail.
The last shot I want to show is such a weird shot I couldn’t believe it happened. The reason he tied the match at 5 was because he jarred the 9 – the cb was frozen to the rail when he shot this straight-in 9 ball. The cueball drifted right behind the 9 but he missed the 9 by a hair and the two balls kissed and locked up in the jaws of the pocket! It’s been YEARS since I shot this 2 railer out of the corner pocket back to the same pocket, but I thought I had it figured out. I was close – only missed it by a couple inches:
In addition to all of that, I recognized that my mental game was pretty strong during the match. Sure, I got a little upset when I missed some easy shots early in the match, but I managed to brush that aside relatively quickly. I attribute this to my having started working out again. I’ve missed it so much and I’ve been feeling pretty good overall all week because of it. Must keep doing this!
Lastly, I recognize that my opponent gave me more opportunities than he normally would – just as I returned the favor to him in the early matches – but the end-result is that I was able to capitalize on his mistakes more than he on mine. But, just to have a “W” in my column against him is a huge boost of confidence. I know I’ll always have to bring as much of my “A” game as I can when we play, but I think the fear of him has been squashed – at long last.