On Monday I found myself on the short end of the pool gods’ favor. Every shot was tough, every layout was tough, and every miss by my opponent seemed to exacerbate the situation.  My opponent was someone whom I’ve had trouble beating in the past, though we were (until this session) the same level.  Now I have to spot her 2 games on the wire (going to 9).  Every time we played even the match went hill-hill, so I was a little concerned how this might turn out, considering my ups’n’downs as of late.

I stole the first rack on her miss late in the rack, but then she got the next 2 and I finally got one, making it 2-4 in her favor.  Then I traded her 2 more games for one of mine, making it 3-6. 

I recognized I wasn’t playing my “A” game early on so I opted to go for a more technical approach, rather than a fluid and natural style – but it seemed my mechanics were doing everything they could to betray me.  She gets another game, 3-7.  I start to feel those familiar feelings of inevitable defeat.

Then the greatest thing happened. I remembered watching an entire weekend of amazing alternate-break-9ball pool where several huge comebacks were staged. (The Smokin’ Aces $32K barbox tournament.) I convinced myself I was not done yet.  I only had to wait for my opportunity to arrive.

We were playing very slow (averaging about 10 MINUTES per rack), lots of safety battles, giving me more time to prepare for the time when I could begin my assault.  As we continued to trade innings and balls I noticed that the rolls started to turn my way.  I wasn’t getting hooked as often, and she was starting to get out of line more often.

I get a game, 4-7.  Then another .. and then I get a little over-confident in my come-back-ability and it costs me a game.  It’s now 5-8, she’s on the hill and I realize the pressure is now on HER to finish it off.  My only job was to keep her in high-pressure / low-percentage situations.  Lock balls up, play everything as a two-way shot.  “Don’t be a hero.” I told myself.  

I get another game… 10 minutes later I get one more.  It’s now 7-8 and she’s getting visibly frustrated being unable to finish it off.  I felt like I could steal this match.  I was excited and focused.

It was my break and I put down a decent one, but a bump of the 6 ball sent the cueball into the pocket … and left a 3-9 combo wide open, with natural position from the 2.  She makes the combo and wins the match (a 2 1/4 hour ordeal).

Okay, so I lost.  While it was frustrating – and made a little moreso by the other league members that finished up and came over to watch (and commentate in a dead quiet room) our battle – I still feel like I did reasonably well. … Tolerable, I’d say, with a few bonus points.

I maintained a (mostly) positive attitude while being down the entire match.  I kept optimism at the front of my mind.  I analyzed what was going on and took strategic steps to play the odds in my favor.  And best of all … it worked!

When I think back to all the matches I’ve ever been down that much I can’t think of a single time when I hadn’t already given up.  This set was no exception to producing those thoughts.  I’d have that thought “just snap it on the break” and then immediately push that out of my mind.  “SCREW THAT! I’m gonna show anyone who’s looking what a comeback is.”  No lead is safe.  I ought to know… I was up 6-0 against this very same opponent last year and ended up losing the set 7-9. This was my “revenge” for that set (although I suppose since it was my own doing, it wouldn’t be revenge as much as avenging myself).

Even though I didn’t make it a winning comeback, I pulled myself out of the rut and staged a hell of a comeback against a lot of little roadblocks.  Racks won are also important in this league, so in that end I did pretty well.

As far as losses go, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier with one.  I recognize this as a great stepping stone for my mental game – and I hope to build on it.  Almost every week I find some little thing to be happy about, and almost all of them are mental aspects.  I feel like I’m still struggling physically, but I’m betting that’s just because my mind is in a transitional period lately and it’s a symptom of mental distraction.

I’m anxious to see what the next 6 months brings my way.  I’m looking forward to sparring with more seasoned players, and letting my natural game come forward.