Welshman Jak Jones believes he now belongs at the top level of the sport, after a superb Crucible debut saw him make the quarter-finals of the Cazoo World Championship.
Jones came through three rounds of qualifying, scoring a narrow 10-9 win over Robbie Williams and beating Barry Hawkins 10-8 along the way, to earn a first ever trip to the Theatre of Dreams.
The world number 37 faced Ali Carter in the opening round and defeated him 10-6, before stunning 2010 World Champion Neil Robertson 13-7. Jones was pitted against Player of the Season Mark Allen in the last eight and ran him close, but was denied a semi-final slot after losing 13-10.
We’ve spoken to Jones to reflect on the experience and look ahead to the new season, which he has started strongly by topping his group at the BetVictor Championship League…
Jak, first of all how do you look back on your experience at the Crucible as a whole?
“Looking back I am happy with how I handled myself there. Going into it I didn’t have a clue how I would feel playing at the Crucible for the first time. I am pleased with how I played in the end. I do feel it was a bit of an opportunity missed, but all in all you have to be happy. I’m pleased with how I handled myself, but disappointed with how I played against Mark.
“I really enjoyed it. There is quite a homely feel there. It is very different playing at the Crucible, as it is a lot smaller than other arenas. I preferred that to playing in big open venues. It was like playing in your living room in some ways. Before I qualified, I never thought I was that bothered about playing at the Crucible. After playing there, you realise why it is a unique venue and tournament. It is so special to play there. You can feel there is a different atmosphere to any other tournament. There isn’t one place to play that is even close to it. I am hungry to get back to the Crucible in the future.”
You had to come through some tough matches to make the final stages. How pleased were you with how you negotiated the qualifiers?
“I am proud of how I held myself together. I had close matches with Robbie Williams and Barry Hawkins, they are big tests to be able to hold yourself together. I potted a crazy red in the decider against Robbie to get in, so I could easily have gone out 10-9. I had my best tournament ever after that, so it shows the fine margins. I felt really good heading to the Crucible. The top players always say how hard it is to play for two weeks at the Crucible, but they forget the qualifiers are there for a lot longer. I know people say there is an advantage to being sharp for qualifiers, but when you get further into the tournament it goes the other way. There are a lot of frames to play and it can catch up with you.”
What did it mean to beat two players like Ali Carter and Neil Robertson at the Crucible?
“I was pleased with the way I played, but I feel like I am confident facing any player now. The name really doesn’t bother me at all. I feel I’ve got a lot of experience on the tour. The lower ranked players can produce very good snooker as well and the names make no difference to me. I knew that if I played well, then I had a good chance of winning. I have the confidence in my game and the belief in myself. My record against the top players is quite good anyway. I’ve played a lot of the top 16 players in the last couple of seasons and I think I’ve won more than I lost. However, to do it at the Crucible in such a long format is the ultimate test. It shows I can compete at any tournament in any format.”
Was there a bit of disappointment not to make the one table setup having come so close?
“It would have been nice. I don’t regret anything, because every match is so hard. I was close to getting to the one table setup, but I have confidence I will get there in the near future. Looking back on it now it was an opportunity missed, but I did feel tired in the match against Mark. With Mark having the season he did he probably deserved to get to the one-table setup.”
How hard have you been working over the summer and how do you feel ahead of the new campaign?
“I went on holiday with my wife and after that I started practising a bit again. I haven’t had a couple of months off like some players like to do. I was just trying to keep my arm in and I will be playing 100% from now. I finished the season quite well in the end so I wanted to keep that form going into the new season and start as well as I could. I didn’t want to let it all go to waste. In this game if you are playing well and confident then you need to make the most of it. In previous years I have had a couple of months off but I’ve taken a different approach this time.
“It is the best I‘ve felt. Winning tournaments is unbelievably hard, no matter who you are. However, I feel I can do it soon. It is easier said than done. I’m definitely more hungry for success now. I feel that although it was the quarter-final, I was quite close to the one-table setup which is the pinnacle of the sport. I want to be in those situations more and be in the deep end of tournaments. I feel a lot better going into this season and I have a lot more expectation. I am looking forward to the season ahead. It is always good to start a season well so to win my group at the Championship League was great.”