World number 43 Elliot Slessor has turned to 2002 World Champion Peter Ebdon for help with the mental aspects of the sport, which he believes is the last piece in the jigsaw of his development.
Gateshead’s Slessor was beaten in the semi-finals of last week’s matchroom.live British Open by fellow Tyneside cueman and close friend Gary Wilson. However, that wasn’t before taking some big name scalps during a tremendous run.
Slessor defeated both Judd Trump and Ali Carter on Friday to earn his place in the quarter-finals, where he won an epic tussle with Zhou Yuelong 4-3 on the final black.
Despite falling just short of the title match, Slessor is keen to take the positives. He credits Ebdon’s counsel on the psychological side of snooker with helping him move his game towards the next level.
Slessor said: “I picked Peter because he was absolutely bulletproof mentally himself. I thought I should aim for the top. You cannot get anyone more mentally strong than him. If I can gain even 25 percent of what he had, then it will be worth it. He was the best person for the job and the only person. I’ve spoken to different people in the past, like shrinks and various others. No disrespect to them, but they haven’t walked in my shoes. They haven’t played the shots and been in the same situations. Peter has been in every situation you could imagine. He’s won the World Championship and played in thousands of matches over the years.
“The British Open was our first tournament together really. I have taken everything he has said on board. It is well documented that my attitude has got in the way in the past. The only person I’ve ever harmed is myself. Since Peter has come on board he has told me certain things and made me more composed and relaxed. I’m looking forward to showing people what I’m really capable of.
“I’m doing all of the right things now and treating the sport in the right way. I knew I had the game to compete, but I didn’t have it mentally to cope with what I was doing. If I was behind or struggling, I didn’t want to be there. It is different now. I have never performed against Trump, but this time I felt I wanted it more. I wanted to win every frame all the way through the match. I feel stronger and more patient in those frames where the balls are tied up. I am happy to win by any means necessary.”
It was a case of fine margins for Slessor in his semi-final with Wilson in Leicester, missing out on a maiden ranking final appearance by just a single frame in a 4-3 loss.
Slessor says he was unfazed by the prospect of facing such a close friend in such a big match and maintains that a first title could just be around the corner.
“To be honest, on my end, it didn’t make any difference at all being against Gary. It doesn’t matter who you are playing in a semi-final. You just want to win. This sport is all about putting yourself first. Whether that means playing a family member, a brother, a sister or a friend it doesn’t make any difference. If I am involved in a match, then I want to win. If I was going to lose to anybody I would rather it was him, but at the time you do not want to lose to anybody at all. That is just the competitive instinct inside me that wants to win.
“I fully believed that I was going to win that tournament. It was a toss of a coin in the end really. I thought I actually had the better of the semi-final, but it was a good game and could have gone either way. I thought I performed that little bit better and felt I would win the decider. When a game is played to that standard, little flicks can be the difference and he took his chance really well. I believed If I just somehow could get to that final that I really fancied the job.
“I see it as the ultimate test to play the best players on the biggest stage when there is a full crowd. That is when you are tested the most. Can you hold yourself together and perform when it counts? It is alright to do it on the back tables but when it really matters that isn’t enough. I think I am a player who can do that. I have plenty of bottle. If you put me at 5-5 in a final and give me a chance I’ll always back myself to take it. I know that in the future it will come.”
Last week also marked Slessor’s first event back playing in front of a crowd for 18 months. The 27-year-old’s last time playing for fans was all the way back at the Gibraltar Open in March 2020. He says it is an environment that can bring out his best.
“It was brilliant. They were all just making so much noise. It felt like the first time we’d had a proper tournament for well over a year. Just hearing everybody there and experiencing an atmosphere was fantastic. I loved every minute of it, even when I lost. I hope everybody there got good value for their tickets. It was disappointing on my end, but if everyone who has come enjoyed what they have seen then I have done my job.
“When you have it every week you are spoiled. You don’t realise how lucky you are. When it is taken away from you then you realise how much you miss it. Everybody was so happy to be back that it created an extra special atmosphere. It wasn’t like normal, it was really rowdy and really quiet at the same time.”
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