This post is awesome. The intent of the original topic was to generate options. There is no right or wrong. Each player likely has a unique collage of factors that when present allow their best self to emerge. I’ve added comments to each section. The addition is just that, an afterthought. In some cases it just finishes a thought triggered by the point made. In others it adds addition perspective. The result is thanks to a thought provoking post. Thanks for the time taken to compose and share.
Thanks for the post and follow up comments, very good stuff! Fundamentals are super important but there is so much more to the game as you’ve pointed out. Below are a few additional qualities that separate the great from the outstanding:
There is no way to get past the primacy of fundamentals. None of the points made in this entire thread matter if you are stuck in your chair.
1. Shot Selection: Once you get to a certain level, anyone can and should run out the table. The trick is to choose the path that will give you the absolute best chance of getting out. Even if it’s only a 1% difference it’s important to diligently weigh all options and choose the correct shot. Getting slightly too flat on a shot can turn a simple run out into a tricky situation where you have force shape which lowers the odds of success.
There are so many dimensions to this topic. Creativity is one. Seeing the shot to start with. Decision making is another. While seeing a shot as a possibility is important, the decision of whether it’s the right shot, situationally, is another. Finding that right balance is not static. The dynamic of score, available options and risk/reward considerations make each context unique. The decisions are not just about the player. Sometimes the effect your decision can have on your opponent is more important. A bad decision can offer hope, motivation and a whole new world of possibilities. The strategic effect of that compared to taking a chance because you may never get another chance. Never having a regret about the decision allows for commitment.
2. Endurance: Lots of players can play a good set or two but it’s rare for a player to maintain that same stamina at 2am when they’ve played five consecutive nail-biter sets and haven’t eaten much while fighting back through the loser’s bracket. This also applies to the opposite situation where you win a match and then have a four hour break until your next match without an opportunity to hit any balls and stay in stroke.
This is possibly another, bigger than the player moment. If you are going through a grueling loser’s side marathon, it’s quite likely the same for your opponent. The trick here is to recognize the situation as an opportunity. Watch for the cracks in the other guy’s game. Destroy his hopes by making the path even more exhausting by using tactics. The effect is to transfer the taxing load to your opponent hoping to shorten the match in some cases, in others just to wear him down.
3. Adjustment: With all things being equal, the player who adjusts to the conditions the fastest has a huge advantage. The conditions are always changing. Cloth speed, cloth cleanliness, cloth age, ball type, ball cleanliness, lighting, and so on. From watching pros, I’ve noticed that they will often use one extra rail than necessary when playing position. Using the extra rail provides them with extra information about how the table plays which allows them to adapt faster.
On slick surfaces, like tv tables, playing a slightly thicker hit to pocket means the object ball absorbs more of the momentum. The use of stun run through and drag allow you to hit with more pace yet limit cue ball travel. It’s a little like hitting banks with stiff pace lessens the difference from table to table. Thicker hits allow the player to send the ball off multiple rails with a firmer stroke. Once again the thicker angle removes pace from the cue ball. There are fewer negative consequences when the difference firm and firmer are just a couple of inches.
Since throw can create a thicker hit by itself this concept needs further explaining. Rather than cut induced throw, I’m referring to spin induced throw. By using inside side
we end up with a thicker contact and a cue ball that reacts with a heavier feel. To counter the throw the aim line needs adjusting on most shots. The cue ball turning into contact removes the outside side normally created at contact. Two forces cancelling each other, removes momentum from the shot. The cue ball travels less off contact with the same speed stroke. Stun run through works the same on the vertical axis. The skidding action of the cue ball on the table uses the table surface to take pace off the ball. The combination can have a dramatic effect. A thick hit with inside and stun run through can be hit quite firmly on even a slick surface and not travel very far.
4. Mental Perseverance: No matter what the score is, how well you’ve played so far, or how bad you’re winning or losing, you need to always have the correct mindset and give 100% effort on every shot.
5. Outcome Acceptance: Bad rolls are inevitable. Misses are inevitable. You won’t always play your best. You won’t always win. The quicker a player accepts and moves on from negative thoughts the better they will perform.
These two seem related. This is about playing in the present. As noted in point 5, you need to leave the bad shots behind you. Turn the page, get onto the next chapter. A tougher one to recognize is leaving the good or great shot behind. How many good shots have led to the players missing the next much easier one. It’s hard to shoot when you are patting yourself on the back.
6. Confidence: Confidence is a paradox in a way because you need to play great to develop confidence yet you can’t play great without confidence. One cannot exist without the other. With two closely skilled players, I’m betting on the more confident one.
Once again we are looking at leaving the past behind. Anticipation and certainty are part of the predictive process. If you can’t get down and shoot an absolute sense of certainty, a commitment, then some other mindset is there instead. Without certainty there is hesitation and doubt. This isn’t about countering uncertainty, it’s about reaching in to find the right sense of certainty needed. What are you absolutely certain about? If you can’t think about something, consider this. Do you believe you need air to live? If you have any doubt hold your breath for 5 minutes, then answer the question. Take that sense of absolute certainty, hold onto it and shoot the shot. What can it possibly hurt? Rule out a possible better choice of shot first.
7. Pace: Every player has an optimum pace/tempo/rhythm that is unique to them and allows them to perform at their best. It’s important to know your optimum tempo and find it quickly in a match. The quicker you get there the better you’ll do.
The idea of flow as part of the zone has been posited by many. In a book, Flow, the author talks about the absorbing nature, the time suspending effect and pure joy of an activity. Problem is it isn’t always accompanied by peak performance. There needs to be an element of precision, an innate appreciation for exactness in the process. A ball on a string, is often the metaphorical description. Conversely, the ability to stop and reset is important when the certainty, precision or predictability is less than optimal or missing. Other elements rise above pace situationally and that is when flexibility needs to emerge.
8. Capitalization: At the top level you don't get many opportunities to pull ahead. Once an opportunity arises, you must capitalize on it. That's one of SVB's major strengths. He always amazes me with his ability to break and run the final rack in a hill-hill match. At the most high pressure moment of the match he finds a way to stay composed and capitalizes on the opportunity to win.
This is almost like a predator mindset without the need for there to be prey, the challenge is enough. The challenge alone feeds the motivation, stirs the master to emerge, brings the selflessness of detached clarity to the performance. The situation is as much a needed part of the context as any other ingredient. That said, the point was taking advantage of opportunity when it’s offered. I think finding another level to your game is almost a separate point.