Ed & Fred dance like Fred & Ginger


Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on May 20, 2015

Bert van ManenThe final match of the 2015 Belgian Cup tournament was captured by the Kozoom cameras, and the world of billiards says “thank you very much”. These five sets were not a tabloid newspaper, used a day later to wrap fish in. They were a leather-bound book, and it should be on your shelf if you are a student of the game. Have you missed it? Get a Kozoom premium pass. It costs about as much as three pieces of Kamui chalk or one-third of a Molinari shaft. You’ll have the entire Kozoom library at your disposal day or night, and it has enough video to keep you in the house for a year. That premium pass is the best money you’ll ever spend.

Caudron and Leppens, off the table, have been friends for many years and it never was a problem. For Caudron. He must have beaten Leppens nine times out of ten since the nineties, even in more recent years when Eddy had gotten so strong he averaged over 2.000 with some regularity. Caudron never seemed to mind, he simply averaged 2.500 or 3.000 himself. I can only imagine how immensely frustrating that was for Leppens, who seemed to specialize in very high losing averages and even acquired the reputation of “best player who never wins the title”.

Much like Zanetti, who had his magical months in 2013 and was suddenly able to beat anybody, the 2015 Leppens has thrown off the shackles, broken the curse. He first won the Belgian Nationals (and I don’t have to tell you how hard that is), now wins the coveted “double” by adding the Belgian Cup.

If you find the time to watch that great final (again), here are some of the key moments, with comment.

First set Eddy, 11 – 15 in 6. FC runs 3 from the break, and EL has the dream start: a run of 6 with a few shots that give you confidence when you make them. He solves several more tough problems in the set, finishes with a beautiful bank. Fred did not do a lot wrong. Did you see his ninth point, the run-through? He can make those look easy, but they are not.

Second set Fred, 15-8 in 4. Eddy, on his second point of the set, runs into the exact problem  I’ve discussed a few weeks ago, in the column “How to play the unmissable shot”. Glad to see that even the top players fall into that trap from time to time. The score sheet is remarkable: FC has three next-to-impossible starting positions in innings 1,2 and 3. He flukes in the 3d inning, but that does not win him the set. It’s the starting point of inning 4, another one of those typical FC shots that look simple when he plays them. Don’t you wish you could play those with so little force and so much quality? He runs 11 to win the second set, and the closing point is as good as Eddy’s was in the first set.

Third set Eddy. 1-15 in 1. Fred plays a poor second shot following the break, and boy, does he get punished.  Eddy runs a perfect 15, great technique and feel on the 4th point. Of course every 1-inning set is an achievement, but to run 15 when you’ve just sat and watched your opponent run out with 11, I think that adds to the glory. This is where you see that the balance of power has shifted. Leppens truly believes he can win this match, and it shows in his body language.

Fourth set Fred, 15-2 in 2. It’s turning into a highlight reel. Fred runs 8 and 7, with a handful of points that are just so beautiful they hurt. The starter, of course! You can put that position on your practice table and stand there for three weeks replaying the shot, but you will not hit it better than FC did on his first try. His 4th and 9th are all about “feel”, and understanding the table. The 10th is not only a good hit, it is also a very courageous decision (well rewarded). The final point of the set is not crazy-difficult, but did you see how tempted he was to play off the right side of the red? Three rails would have needed an ultra-thin hit, too risky. And the natural, four rails, was in the kiss or at least too dangerously close to it.

At the end of set 4, all sets have gone “against the break”. FC is on an average of 3.230 and EL is on 3.076. We are indeed watching an historic match, one of rare quality.

Fifth set Eddy, 9-15 in 8. Here’s where it all gets a little nervy, and understandably so. FC misses the break and also plays poor shots in innings 2 and 3, then comes up with two majestic points in inning 4. His choice on the fourth point in inning 4 (the very difficult one cushion first to the red) may be up for debate, but can you spot something better? EL meanwhile has built up a small lead, and it could have been a bigger one had he not been a bit unlucky with that powered LSL in the second inning. Fred puts out a helping hand: he has two more unforced errors in innings 6 and 7. A super shot in inning 8 followed by a good bank no longer help: it’s Eddy who seals the deal with a little run of 3, the match point again a technical, delicate shot played with admirable calm. He was the better player in three of the five sets, he fully deserves the win and the title.

I think this was one of the best matches of 2015. It was a hell of a lot better than Mayweather – Pacquiao, right?