Why do players suddenly seem to lose all semblance of form?
It’s happened to a fair few over the years: one moment they are at the top of their game, the next they are plunging down the rankings.
The latest to suffer this fate is Ryan Day. Two years ago he was third in the provisional rankings after reaching the Grand Prix final.
Now he is 24th, will have to qualify for the UK Championship and won’t be at the Masters.
Day has lost his last eight matches on the tour and is badly in need of a run in a tournament to arrest an alarming slide.
Players, like anyone, have pressures away from their professions which may impact their form but snooker is a sport that cruelly exposes any mental frailties.
When a player is at the table it is up to them and if they are not feeling confident, doubts cloud their minds and cause mistakes.
Ryan Day has not forgotten how to play snooker overnight. But something is wrong and, as with Mark Williams a few years ago, turning the corner will not be easy.
The PTCs are, in theory, a good thing for a player struggling with confidence. If you lose early one week you have an immediate chance to make amends.
But the other side of that coin is that a series of swift exits one week after another can deplete self belief at a greater rate than if there were fewer events.
Last season, a player not performing could blame the paucity of tournaments. Not any more, though.
Day is a fine talent: a long potter and break builder of the modern style. In that 2008 Grand Prix he made an excellent 50-odd clearance in the decider against Mark Selby in the last 16 that proved he can compete under pressure.
But he has failed to win any of his three ranking finals thus far and so does not have that reservoir of success to tap into.
Day was ranked sixth last season. I’ve seen players reach such heady heights before and then struggle. I wonder if sometimes they look at their lofty position and think that the only way is down.
After all, they’ve spent years working hard to climb the rankings but, when they get there, they are no longer the hunter but the hunted.
Does this instil a mood of panic, particularly after a couple of disappointing defeats?
I don’t know why Day is struggling but I do know how highly he is rated by his fellow players.
They would expect him to turn the tide at some point, as would I, but professional snooker is cutthroat and nothing is guaranteed.
My perception of Ryan - who I've met and watched "live" a few times - is that he is more anxious by nature than most and he doesn't handle it very well. It's a shame really because when he's on song he has the game to win (and is a nice bloke). Maybe he needs some help in the psychology department. He's got nothing to lose to try it certainly.
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