Mark Joyce is into the world’s top 32 for the first time in his career after some fine performances in recent months.
The 30-year-old from Walsall, who turned pro in 2006, reached the quarter-finals of the Haikou World Open in China in March, and the last 16 of last week’s Australian Goldfields Open. When the updated world ranking list was published, Joyce was delighted to see himself at number 32.
“It was great to do that just in time for the Shanghai Masters cut-off point, because it means I only have to win one match to qualify rather than three,” said the former European Under-19 Champion. “Around 18 months ago I was outside the top 50, so it’s great to be heading in the right direction.
“Under the old points system I actually would have been in the top 32 at the start of the this season. But I like the new money list because if you have a good run in one event you can shoot up. Whatever the system, if you pot balls and win matches you will move up. I think the only thing most of the players would want now is to have all of the events under the flat 128 draw structure.”
Looking back to his run in Haikou, where he reached the last eight of a ranking event for the second time in his career, Joyce said: “I played in the Asian Tour event the week before, and even though I lost my first match, it was good to take a few days to get used to the time difference and do some practise, and I probably felt fresher than the players who came straight to Haikou.
“I beat Barry Hawkins and Kurt Maflin who were both in form last season, then in the quarter-final I felt I was a bit unlucky to lose 5-3 to Marco Fu. In the seventh frame I was 60 ahead then he came back to nick that, and in the next I got a kick on 20-odd which cost me that frame. It was a golden chance to get to a semi-final, but the good thing is that I’m getting to more venues now and getting used to playing in front of the TV cameras. The top players are used to those conditions, so for the likes of myself it’s about being comfortable from the first break-off shot rather than being 2-0 down before you get going.
“This season, I will probably play in the Asian Tour events again if they are just before ranking events which I have qualified for, as I do think that makes a difference. Generally this season I just want to keep preparing properly for tournaments and winning matches. The calendar is so packed now that you have to balance your schedule to make sure you are fresh for each tournament.”
Joyce, whose practice partners include Tom Ford, Nigel Bond and Kyren Wilson, has a 15-month-old son called Luke and admits it’s tough spending time away from home. “The trip to Wuxi and Australia was hard because I was a way for a few weeks. But for most of the events it’s only a few days at a time, and being able to do video calls on Skype makes a big difference,” he said.
Joyce made a breakthough at the 2010 UK Championship when he beat the likes of Steve Davis, Ali Carter and Judd Trump to reach the quarter-finals, before losing to Mark Williams. But just a few days later he was attacked by a gang wielding knives and broken bottles outside a nightclub, after what he thought was a trivial argument at the bar. Joyce ended up in hospital with a fractured elbow and eye socket. He couldn’t play snooker for two months, and when he returned to the baize he suffered from double vision. The physical wounds healed in time, but the dent in his confidence went deeper.
“Looking back on it now, it was a massive set-back – I probably didn’t realise how big at the time,” he said. “It took me two seasons to fully get over it. But thankfully it is in the past now, and I am back on track in my snooker career again and only looking to the future.”