Tom Ford still improving at 40 as he learns the reason behind the anger
'If you don't know why you're getting angry then you can't fix the problem.'
Tom Ford is enjoying arguably the best year of his career so far and believes he is still improving at 40 years old thanks to his work on the mental side of snooker.
First turning professional in 2001, Ford has long shown his great talent on the table, making five professional 147s and now reaching three ranking finals.
Two of those three finals have come in 2023, with the latest at the International Championship this month seeing the Englishman climb into the world’s top 16 for the first time.
Ford admits that his mindset and mentality has let him down over the years, but he has been working on giving himself the best opportunity of success, whereas in the past he was damaging his own chances by being too hard on himself.
‘It’s mentally that I’m improving,’ Ford told Metro.co.uk. ‘I used to get down on myself quite a lot when I missed a couple of balls. That is improving, I don’t drop my head as much.
‘It has [held me back]. I’d miss a couple of balls, I’d get down myself and it’s a losing battle then. It’s me versus my head and it goes into a downward spiral. You beat yourself up, it gets worse and worse and eventually I was just gone.
‘People could see that as well and they would take advantage. But I keep my head a little bit more now, and have done for the last couple of seasons. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely over it, I do sometimes wind myself up a little bit, but I’m better at dealing with it now.’
Ford could certainly be described as a ‘glass half empty’ kind of character, so it takes some work to look on the positive side of things.
His initial reaction to congratulations for reaching the top 16 was: ‘Well yeah, for now, it might not last long.’
However, he is working on his mind and understanding why things wind him up, looking to stop the root cause of the issue with mental coach Sabrina Francis from Mind Set Match.
‘She worked with Dr. Steve Peters before on the Chimp Paradox book,’ Ford explained. ‘I’ve been working with her for a few years. She doesn’t tell me things, she talks me through them, I answer them and that helps me work it out myself.
‘She’s there to guide me to figure it out, she’s been really good. It’s sometimes good to just speak to somebody if you’re struggling. Sometimes as soon as I’ve said something out loud I’ve answered my own question.
‘She’s helped me understand how the brain works and why I was getting so angry with myself when I was missing balls. It’s ok to try and keep yourself calm, but if you don’t know why you’re getting angry then you can’t fix the problem.’
The man known as Model T is already looking at the positives from his disappointing defeat in the International Championship final. A great run clearly, but also a great chance for the biggest win of his life against Zhang Anda.
‘I was gutted at the time, missed a few too many balls,’ he said. ‘I can’t take anything away from Anda, he played really well. It’s disappointing, but after a couple of days I realised I’m really happy about the top 16.
‘I’d not been feeling great in myself but all of a sudden in Tianjin I started to feel quite good. Even though my long game wasn’t there, when I got in the balls I felt good and knew I only needed one chance. Towards the end of the tournament I was feeling that way, so hopefully I can take that into the UK.’
Ford should be confident heading to York this weekend for his opening round clash with Noppon Saengkham after two UK Championship semi-finals in the last five years…if he can remember them.
‘I got to the semis last year. That was Ronnie?’ Ford asked. ‘It was Ding? Oh right. When was Ronnie? 2018! I’ve missed five years somewhere.
‘It doesn’t matter who you play now. In the top 32, even a bit more than that, if anyone plays well on the day they’re all capable.’
While he is trying to embrace a positive attitude, there are still things that wind Ford up, not least that he feels he is not given credit for previous success.
Labelled one of the best players never to win a ranking title, he reminds people that he has in fact won two, emerging as champion of a Players Tour Championship Event in 2010 and 2011.
The PTCs carried ranking points, were best-of-seven throughout and boasted impressive fields, so he can’t see why they don’t count as a title.
‘It annoys me a little bit, to be honest, because I have won two events,’ he said. ‘When people say I’ve never won a ranking event, I’ve won two PTCs and they had ranking points, they were ranking events and they never get mentioned.
‘Every player was in them, Ronnie, Judd, Higgins, Selby, everyone was in them. Because we don’t have them now they don’t class them as a ranking event and it baffles me because they were the same as India, Riga, the Paul Hunter Classic. They’re not majors, but they were ranking events.
‘The Shoot Out goes down as a ranking event, playing seven frames, but the PTCs were best of sevens throughout. I remember beating Jack [Lisowski] in one final, Judd [Trump] in one semi, you had to beat good players.’
Ford has the chance to claim a much bigger title over the next few days in York, in surroundings he would like to see a lot more of on the World Snooker Tour.
He is looking forward to the Barbican and the two-table set-up, and hopes that other events on the circuit can start to catch up with tournaments as prestigious as the UK Championship.
‘The UK is a big event, nice venue, nice city,’ he said. ‘But then we go to a leisure centre, going through a turnstile to play your match. It doesn’t feel professional at all.
‘We need to try and get the bigger venues and make it all feel more professional. We’re in our waistcoats and kids are walking around ready to go swimming.
‘Having China back is starting to improve, don’t get me wrong, but let’s hope it keeps going.’
Ford takes on Saengkham at 7pm on Saturday 25 November.
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