Ahmad Taufiq Murni's poor run against Filipino cueists continued yesterday after losing 9-5 to World No 12 Dennis Orcollo in the first round of the men's 10-ball singles at the 2013 SEA Games.
Brunei's No 1 has notched up numerous impressive wins over his eight years as a national player, though a maiden victory against a cueist from the Philippines remains elusive.
Orcollo took a 3-0 lead at the Pool & Billiards Centre, Wunna Theikdi Sports Complex yesterday, and despite Taufiq cutting the deficit to 4-3, Orcollo would win the next three frames to pull to 7-3.
Taufiq came back to 7-5 but the gap in experience between the players proved crucial on the day.
"It may be a mental thing," said Taufiq about his losing streak against Filipino cueists.
"I missed the 8-ball when it was 1-1 and after that he made it 2-0 and broke clear in the next frame to go up 3-0... He's consistent. I also missed the 3-ball when it was 4-3.
"I played a lot of safety shots in this game and this was something coach (national coach Lim Tat Hwe) and I talked about before playing, and during the time-out (at 6-3) we talked about how to play safety shots and how to attack," added Taufiq, who is ranked 41st in Asia.
Going up against a player of Orcollo's calibre - he is currently the Asian No 2 - was never going to be easy.
The reigning World Cup of Pool champion is also an accomplished SEA Games athlete, winning the 9-ball doubles event with Alex Pangulayan at the 2005 Games in Manila, bronze in the 9-ball singles at the 2009 Games in Laos and gold in the 8-ball singles competition in Indonesia in 2011.
It isn't that Taufiq doesn't have the necessary quality to beat the world's best players - he proved that when he knocked then World No 8 Ralf Souquet out of the 2011 Beijing Open.
However at this level, a mistake is punished mercilessly - placing great importance on one's mental strength.
"Taufiq needs to be mentally stronger and more consistent," agreed Lim.
"His mental game is already good but it has to be better - It has to be very strong. 'Good' and 'very strong' are different.
"Taufiq has improved a lot over the past year since we started working with Zulkiflee (Zulkiflee Abd Hamid, sport psychologist at the Sports Medicine and Research Centre) last November. It has done Taufiq a lot of good, but his mental game needs to be stronger, that that's only going to happen long-term... It will take more than a year.
"Dennis had very good breaks and was able to position himself well for the next balls. Of course, he is also a lot more experienced than Taufiq.
"He has played in more than 30 tournaments this year, but we're not using that as an excuse," added the national coach.
Prior to the game, Orcollo - who lost 9-6 to Thailand's Nitiwat Kanjanasri in the quarter-finals of the men's 9-ball singles on Monday - told The Brunei Times that he is currently suffering a dip in form.
And during some points in yesterday's match, it certainly looked that way.
Orcollo's body language, sighs and pursed lips seemed to confirm that he knows he could be playing better, with his control of the cue ball letting him down on a few occasions - forcing him to make jump shots or play safety to escape trouble.
He started off brightly enough though, going up 3-0 before a foul on the 1-ball put Taufiq back on the table to make it 3-1.
Orcollo's scratch on the 6-ball gave Taufiq another shot at reducing the deficit on the next frame, and he did just that to pull to 3-2.
The next frame saw the Filipino play himself out of some sticky safety shots dished out by Taufiq to add to his lead at 4-2.
Poor positioning then saw Orcollo vacate the table for Taufiq, who went on to make it 4-3 - though a cross-table shot for the 3-ball was unsuccessful, putting Orcollo back on for 5-3.
Orcollo started the next frame with a dry break, and after some safety play by both cue artists, the Filipino would go ahead 6-3, with Taufiq calling a time-out soon after.
A miss on the 6-ball in the next frame meant the scoreboard would soon read 7-3, but it was 7-4 right after when Taufiq cleared the table up after Orcollo once again missed the 6-ball.
Taufiq played safety on the 3-ball in the next frame to force Orcollo to hit the ball out in order not to foul, and with the table open, Taufiq did the rest to set the score at 7-5.
Orcollo won the next frame though, and despite a good safety play on the 4-ball the following rack, Orcollo managed to bank it in and clear the table to progress to the quarter-finals.
Taufiq also saw his 9-ball singles campaign end at the first round when he fell 9-8 to Thailand's Tanut Makkamontee on Sunday, the third time his involvement in the 9-ball event has ended at the same stage at the SEA Games.