Joyous Jamie Jones believes he’s playing the best snooker of his life after stunning Stephen Maguire in the first round of the World Championship, writes Will Jennings.
And the emotional Neath potter issued a stirring statement to the established baize elite – ‘I can go all the way.’
Jones, the world No.69, was thrown off the tour for a year after failing to report a corrupt approach but capped a memorable Crucible return with a fine 10-4 win over world No.8 Maguire.
It’s been three long years since he was last in Sheffield and Jones says the only way is up after booking a last 16 clash against either Ding Junhui or Stuart Bingham.
Jones, 33, said: “It’s just a special place to play.
“I suppose it feels a bit more special as it felt so far away at one time, but it’s not far away now. I’m here, I’m playing well and I’m a better snooker player now than I’ve ever been.
“I feel like I’ve matured as a player and my thought-processes now are far better than they’ve ever been – I’m narrowing down the things that can go wrong.
“I watch people like [John] Higgins and the way he plays, and not a lot of things can go wrong. In the past, my game has been either amazing or nothing.
“My thought-processes are giving me more chance of doing well, and that’s all you can do.
“I thought to myself: ‘go out there and enjoy the experience.’ This is what I played for every day when I was a kid – I’m not going to go out there tonight and be nervous.
“I was nervous, but I went out there with a focus on enjoying the experience.”
Neither Jones or Maguire were at their fluent best in a cagey first round affair but Jones, who reached the last four of the Scottish Open in December, fought back from 3-0 down to battle over the line.
The three-time ranking event semi-finalist rolled in breaks of 81, 73 and 65 in Sunday’s second session to shock the decorated Scot and continue his remarkable resurgence since returning to the tour.
Jones dropped off the tour during the 2018/19 season but is relishing an upturn in fortunes this term, also reaching the fourth round of the prestigious UK Championship – one of snooker’s Triple Crown events – in December.
Three-time UK champion Ding or 2015 Crucible king Bingham lie in wait next – and ambitious Jones reckons he can be the last man standing come May 3 in Sheffield.
“I believe that I can win my next match,” he added.
“I can’t win the tournament next week, but I can win my next game and that’s all I’m focused on. I’m going to make it difficult for my opponent try and score my best as I can and just give it my all.
“People have supported me and no one’s ever left my side. It’s perfect to be able to repay people who have faith in me.
“I’m working as hard as ever and I’m hoping to go all the way.”
Watch the World Snooker Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from April 17- May 3