Jamie Jones enjoyed one of his best seasons on the World Snooker Tour in 2016/17, reaching quarter-finals at the Paul Hunter Classic and UK Championship, however a sudden eyesight scare led to big concerns for the Welshman last week.
Jones woke up on Saturday morning, as he prepared for his World Open qualifier against Josh Boileau the next day, to find a bubble shaped abscess on one of his eyes. The 29-year-old feared the worst.
Jones recalled: “I had a bit of a panic to be honest. The vision in my eye was actually going blurry. The World Open is now one of the biggest ranking events. I just thought please let me play. I really wanted to play the game.
“At the time, when I first saw it in the mirror, I started thinking all sorts of things like my career potentially being over. I didn’t know what to think to be honest. I went to the doctors, they sent me to accident and emergency and they couldn’t help either. They referred me to an emergency eye specialist, but on my way there the bubble actually burst. I don’t want to get too graphic but it wasn’t very nice. The minute it burst the blurriness in my vision disappeared. The problem went away as quickly as it arrived.
“I actually played alright in the match itself. I made a break of 131 in the fifth frame, although other than that it was a bit scrappy. You just sometimes have to get through these matches. I also qualified for the European Masters earlier in the week but missed out on the Indian Open. Ideally I would have liked to qualify for all of the events, but I’ll take two out of three.”
The Welshman’s campaign last year was characterised by some strong showings, but was left slightly tinged by near misses which could have turned a good season into an excellent one. Jones got himself to the verge of booking a 2016 UK Championship semi-final showdown with Ronnie O’Sullivan in York. He led Marco Fu 5-2 in the last eight, but eventually succumbed to an agonising 6-5 loss.
“I just feel like a couple of times in my career I have got into a winning position in big matches and let it slip. I had the opportunity to get over the line against Marco, but he is a very wise player and played the right shots to put me under pressure. It would have been my biggest achievement to go on and play Ronnie in the semis. I think Marco knew that it was new territory for me and put me under pressure. I also led John Higgins 4-0 in the 2015 Australian Open semi-final and he turned it around to win 6-4. If you give players like John or Marco a way back into a match, they don’t let you off the hook. I perhaps took my foot off the gas, but I need to learn from these experiences.
“The idea now is keep getting to those stages. I’ve had a couple of defeats in big games, but next time I get there I think I will know more about how to finish it off. I’ve had two that I should have won but I didn’t and at the end of the day next time I get there I will need to make sure I close it out.
“I was pleased with how I finished out the season at World Championship qualifying. Although I didn’t quite reach the Crucible, I think my match with Graeme Dott in the final round was one of the best I’ve ever been involved in (Dott won 10-8). He showed his class at the end really. It’s slightly frustrating, as I could have had a good World Championship if I had got through. It took a great champion to beat me.”
Jones has now set his sights on capturing a maiden ranking title this campaign. Last season saw five players claim their first ever piece of ranking silverware and Jones is determined to add his name to the list alongside them.
“I’ve got a goal of winning a tournament. If I can string a few performances together then no reason why I can’t win an event. I need to practise as hard as I can. But also I need to appreciate, I’ve got an opportunity to achieve my dreams and I think it is a big plus if you can enjoy the journey. If you are lucky enough to win an event that is fantastic, but you have to enjoy getting there. I want to have my mind clear enough to be able to do that.”