Sweating it at Derby City
I think Shane was supposed to have a big 9b match with Filler. Not for covid, it would've went down. I wonder if he will be apprehensive to take on Filler now. Filler plays stronger than Dennis!
Congratulations to Dennis. I didn't see this coming. Well played!
The Shane lovers are already making excuses for him, but he'll tell you he lost because he wasn't good enough and, as we saw a few years back in his TAR matches with Alex Pagulayan, if Shane has to grind against a player with far better after the break skills than himself, even long races are plenty losable. In my opinion, Orcullo's after the break skills are only a shade below those of Alex at his best.
Shane is a living legend, one of pool's all time greats, but the signs have been there in recent years that Shane is no longer at the top and the evidence is strong. I believe that the seven toughest titles to win these days in our sport are a) US Open 9-ball, b) China Open 9-ball, c) All-Japan Championships 9-ball, d) WPA World 9-ball, e) World Pool Masters 9-ball, f) Derby City Classic 9-ball, g) International 9-ball. Shane hasn't won any of them in 2017, 2018, 2019, or 2020. You have to go back to the 2016 DCC Nine Ball to find his last win in any of them. With his break, we all understand that Shane has a chance to beat any player in the world, but when he's not dominating with the break, he's vulnerable. Last year, Jayson Shaw narrowly lost 100-91. Also last year, JL Chang blew Shane out of the water in their race to 50 in Texas. Despite a 50-43 final score, Chang had led 25-11 and went into cruise control after that.
Yes, Filler is much, much stronger. Filler carved Dennis into little pieces in the action room at the 2019 International. Filler has also won 19 of the last 22 racks of nine ball he has played against Shane (5-1 and 5-0 at the 2019 Mosconi an 9-2 at 2020 Derby City). Filler is also the only player that I know of that beat JL Chang in big action in 10-ball (winning 17-14 in the action room at the 2019 Derby City Classic).
Shane is still top three in our sport. My top 10 in the world right now are: 1A) JL Chang, 1B) Filler, 3) SVB, 4) Wu Jiaqing, 5) Shaw, 6) Orcullo, 7) Zheng, 8) Raga, 9) Ko Ping Chung, 10) Ouschan. I'm picking Shane whenever he plays the last seven of these guys, but Chang and Filler play at a higher level than Shane and have for a while. On his best breaking day, he can top both Filler and Chang, even in a very long race, but their average day is better than his.
Perhaps one day Shane will start winning the big events again, but until he does, comparisons with the top two are time wasted. He just hasn't been beating the most elite in the biggest spots for years now.