Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen says he was “not mentally strong enough” in his 6-1 first-round defeat by David Gilbert at the Masters at Alexandra Palace.
The 2018 Masters champion managed just one half-century break as he lost to the tournament debutant on Monday.
“I’m really struggling to focus out there and it’s the same in practice,” said world number seven Allen.
“My mentality is normally one of my strengths but the last little while it hasn’t quite been there,” he added.
“Against a top player like Dave you can’t afford to be mentally weak.”
Breaks of 77, 121 and 58 helped Gilbert into a 4-0 lead, before Allen edged a tight fifth frame.
But Gilbert, a World Championship semi-finalist in April, then made breaks of 95 and 53 to seal his place in the quarter-finals.
“Dave played really well. He was making his debut and it can go one of two ways – you can feel inspired and get off to a flying start, like he did, or you can feel the nerves and fall flat on your face, which I was sort of hoping for,” said Allen.
“He is a class player and you’re playing so many tournaments these days it’s probably not as big a deal to make your first appearance at an event like this.
“He’s been flying up the rankings the last 12 or 18 months so he came here full of confidence and he showed that.”
Allen, 33, has shown good form this season in reaching six semi-finals in nine tournaments but feels he has been left with much to ponder after an under-par performance against the 38-year-old world number 11.
“He played great but there are a lot of questions to be asked about how I played,” continued the Antrim man.
“I came here with plenty of hours under my belt after the Christmas break – I’ve been practicing hard and I was looking forward to coming here.
“I just didn’t play well enough and I’ll have to watch it back, as I always do when I lose, and see if I can see anything.
“Even trailing 4-0 at the interval I was sitting with my mate Kyle and telling him that I felt really good out there. But in the end I just couldn’t get anything going at all.
“It was a very, very poor performance and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong. I felt technically good.”