Jack Lisowski has ‘flipped his loser mentality,’ tweaked his technique, stuck to his guns and is reaping the rewards

Jack Lisowski is into his second consecutive final (Picture: Getty Images)

Jack Lisowski is into his second consecutive ranking event final at the German Masters this weekend, as all the hard work on his game, his mentality and his fearless approach is elevating him towards snooker’s elite.

Jackpot has long been one of the brightest young talents in the sport, but now looks like he is evolving from having great potential to being a reliable winner and it is no fluke.

The 29-year-old did not get past the second round of a tournament from the World Championship in the summer until the UK Championship in December as he struggled to adapt to the ‘new normal’ of life in the pandemic and snooker behind closed doors.

He admits he allowed himself to wallow in the malaise of lockdown and restrictions last year, but has taken on the challenge of changing his mindset and thinking more positively, something that is clearly working for him.

Asked if he has coped well with the state of the world since March, Lisowski told Metro.co.uk: ‘Not really, no. I think I’ve really struggled.

‘When the World Championship got moved, I wasn’t down, but I lost a lot of motivation, we couldn’t even practice for a month or so. Then it was horrible playing there with no crowd, it’s bizarre, it’s really different.

‘But I’ve got used to it now. I’ve found a way to use it to my advantage and I think it suits me not having a crowd. My concentration is something I’m still working on and obviously a crowd doesn’t help with that, I can keep my adrenaline down. When I got to the Grand Prix final I was much calmer, there wasn’t so much going on around me, it felt like a normal game.

‘I’ve turned my lockdown around, I struggled at the start, for six months maybe  I was unmotivated. Practicing, going to tournaments, It didn’t feel right. But I’ve accepted it now and tried to be stronger and it’s been a really good two months for me since the UK Championships.’

Part of the new positive attitude is appreciating that, while playing every event in Milton Keynes with no crowd is not perfect, just being able to continue with a snooker career is a privilege in these times.

‘It is cool to be practicing, moving around, even just going to Milton Keynes, we’re lucky and privileged, while everyone else is isolating or locked down,’ said Lisowski.

‘It’s a crazy time in the world. My mum works at a car dealership and she’s not working at the minute, my dad’s working from home, so we’re lucky to be out working playing snooker tournaments.

‘It is definitely a challenge for mental health and a challenge for so many people. You’ve got to find a way to self-motivate, that’s the challenge. Look at the top players now, Judd [Trump], [Mark] Selby, [Neil] Robertson, they’ve excelled, they’re some of the mentally strongest players and there’s something in that.’

Lisowski’s struggles over the last year will be recognisable for millions across the world, with the restrictions on our freedoms almost impossible not to have an impact on your mind.

The likes of David Gilbert and Stephen Maguire have also spoken about a malaise creeping in, while Gary Wilson has been open about struggling with depression over recent months.

Jackpot has taken matters into his own hands and chosen to change his outlook after a difficult time.

‘It was like a lockdown syndrome, I felt trapped in my house,’ he explained. ‘Luckily in the first lockdown it was sunny so I could sit outside, it felt chilled out but then after a few weeks all the fun goes.

‘When you’ve watched every single thing on Netflix going, it hits you. It was scary and it is scary because no one knows what’s happening still.

‘I do feel lucky I’m still playing. I was feeling sorry for myself in lockdown, when the tournaments were getting cancelled in China, I used to love them, other tournaments were getting cancelled, the World Championship got delayed, no crowd, but you just need to suck it up, take a bad year on the chin but don’t let it break you.

‘I started just mentally trying to turn the situation around. I kept feeling sorry for myself in games and I realised that wasn’t the way to go, it wasn’t going to help me. It sounds stupid, but I just tried to be stronger mentally, keep the belief and not let little things get to me.

‘I read an amazing book by David Goggins. He was in the US Navy SEALS and now he’s a runner who will run 100 miles in a day. His thing is that he’s not a superman he’s just got discipline and is so mentally strong. I just thought, “cor, that’s the exact opposite of me, I go 1-0 down in a game and just feel sorry for myself.”

‘I can start thinking about anything, Covid, everything being a dark time, but that’s just a loser mentality. I think at the moment everyone could get something from this guy, I think he could help a lot of people, especially now.

‘I read that it’s the greatest challenge to mental health since WWII, which may well be true. I’m no expert, I’m just rolling with the punches and hopefully got out of that Covid mentality that was just getting me down, flip it and come out stronger.’

Lisowski’s work on his mentality is admirable, and he has also tweaked his technique, which is clearly yielding great results on the table.

Still searching for his first ranking title as he goes into Sunday’s final against Judd Trump, Lisowski now feels that his game is as solid under pressure as it ever has been.

‘I changed something in my technique, my alignment on my shots, I’m not moving so much,’ Jack explained. ‘I’ve started hitting a few shots and really feeling solid under pressure, which I’ve never really had in my career before.

‘I finally feel like I can do it more under pressure, it’s just happened since the UK Championship. I feel like my game is good and everything is coming together, even though Covid is wrecking everything else.

‘I’m just really enjoying my snooker again, the tweak on my technique is exciting, I can see the shots better, I’m not steering the shot, not moving when I hit the shot.

‘One evening I played a shot and thought, “I move so much, I steer”, Judd moves on his shot but he always moves the same way, while I was moving up, down, left, right, but it feels like I’ve sorted that now.

‘I’ve been hitting some good shots under pressure the last two tournaments which I’ve not really done before. I’m just trying it out and surprising myself. Against Selby [Grand Prix semi-finals] when I needed to make that clearance at 5-4 up the pots just kept going in, so I’ll just keep it going.’

Lisowski is stepping up into the elite of the game (Picture: Getty Images)

Lisowski is looking to pick up his first ranking title on Sunday in his fifth final and he will be taking the same attacking style of play into the clash with Trump that he has employed for his whole career so far.

The stylish, swashbuckling 29-year-old has come in for criticism from some pundits for his shot choices in the past but, while he knows he can improve his safety play, he has no intention of dialling down his attacking instincts.

‘It’s the way I like to watch snooker and it’s the way I like to play,’ he said. ‘But it’s tough to play like that, it’s fractions and they don’t always go in. Sometimes when you’re playing a long shot, you can miss it my a millimetre, and that can make it look like the wrong shot, or it can go in and give you confidence.

‘It’s risk-reward and high-risk snooker but I enjoy it because I feel I can control the game. If I play well I feel like I will win a high percentage of the time and if I don’t I’ll probably lose. I know what I’m getting with each game rather than it being in the hands of my opponents.’

Jack admits that criticism from pundits and commentators was bothering him to the point that it was impacting his game, but ignoring the naysayers is all part of his ever-improving mentality.

‘I think it had affected my game,’ he said. ‘Even playing right-handed, I get criticised for that. I missed a really bad pink two or three years ago in China. I just needed the pink to win the frame and I played it right-handed because it was a bit of a stretch with the rest.

‘Everyone was asking what I was doing playing right-handed so I went back to the academy where I was playing and did a line-up right-handed and I made a 147 on my third go. No one can do that with a rest, it’s not possible, so I’m going to keep going for my right-handed shots. I got criticism in the Grand Prix but I haven’t really practiced it so I’m going to do more right-handed in my daily routine.

‘I know what works for me and I’m a bit erratic at times but I feel I’m the best judge of my game and I’m going to play the way I want to play.

‘Eventually my safety’s going to get better so I can get away with things a bit more. I never claim to be some amazing player, I think my criticism is a bit much sometimes because I don’t claim to be a world beater. I know that when I’m on it I can give anyone a run for their money, but sometimes I feel like people want me to play well all the time. I don’t think that’s possible, I think I’m doing well being number 14 in the world with what I’m doing.

‘Maybe they think I look good because I play quite fast and don’t look like I put a pint of blood into every shot, but the only reason I play like that, if I put a pint of blood into every shot I’d end up missing. I play fast and attacking because I play better that way.

‘When it goes in it looks really good but it’s impossible to do that all the time. Maybe they think I’m better than I am? At some point I’ll string it all together and win a tournament. If I’d have won the Grand Prix it would have been such an amazing achievement for me.’

Illustrative of Lisowski’s love of style and flair is how highly he rates highlight reels and covets a place in the Shot of the Tournament discussion.

‘That’s one of my favourite things, the shot highlights at the end of the tournament,’ said Jack. ‘I potted one of the best shots I ever hit, I think the 2018 World Championship against [Stuart] Bingham, it won Shot of the Tournament and afterwards I felt so good, even though I didn’t win the event, obviously.

‘They don’t go in of you don’t go for them. It’s hard because you need to be in a certain mindset, they don’t work if you’re not confident, but that’s the challenge for me now to learn when they’re not going in, what to do about that.

‘That’s my 10 year challenge, 10 years I’ve been a pro, and I’m still working on that one.

‘It’s one of the toughest sports ever, it’s a mental challenge, no two games are the same. Sometimes I wake up and just think, “today is not going to be my day, I can feel shaky, it’s just little things, I can miss my breakfast…I think I’m just sensitive, to be honest.

Lisowski has long been one of the most exciting talents in snooker (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Just a little thing can happen. Too much sugar, not eat enough, not get enough sleep and I don’t feel right. You just want to feel relaxed and sometimes I feel nervous or tired, it’s hard to explain.

‘When you’re playing snooker you try to be a machine, suppress all your emotion and adrenaline, stay disciplined and that’s just the opposite of me, I’m bad at that, but I’m learning to do it better. I feel like I’m trying to play to my strengths, not worry too much about the careless things I do and my lack of safety, I’m just trying to play to my potting and break-building.’

Lisowski faces the toughest challenge in the sport on Sunday, a clash with the world number one with a ranking title on the line.

He has had it very tough in all four of his previous runs to big finals and things are not getting any easier at the German Masters, but he is now playing the best snooker of his career and is ready to make that step through the gate and into the winners’ enclosure.

‘I’ve lost four finals but I’ve lost to Neil Robertson twice, Selby, now Judd, the best three players in the world, stick Ronnie in, the best four of the last five or 10 years. I’m not far away and I feel like it’s coming now.

‘Everything’s more enjoyable now, even my practice. I played every day over Christmas, I had New Year’s Eve off, played three hours on Christmas Day, I’m on it at the moment.’

He will need to be on it against Trump, as he was in the second session of their Grand Prix final in December, which eventually ended in a 10-7 win for Judd after some stunning snooker from both men.

If he can down his good pal on Sunday, Jack will prove the doubters wrong and prove all his hard work on his mind and his game will have been worthwhile.

Anthony Hamilton recalls ‘crazily good’ Ronnie O’Sullivan practice sessions

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