'I got very close this time - I'll win it in the future'

Jak Jones acknowledges the Crucible audience
Jak Jones was only the ninth qualifier at the Crucible to reach the final [Getty Images]

When qualifier Jak Jones walked into the Crucible in Sheffield on 20 April, not many would have expected him to make it past the first round of the World Championship - let alone reach snooker’s showpiece on the final Monday.

But the 200-1 outsider from Cwmbran, ranked 44th in the world at the start of this journey, seems to have a love affair with the venue.

Having made it to the quarter-finals on his debut 12 months ago, he is now the sixth Welshman to have made it to a Crucible final.

The 30-year-old has taken some big scalps along the way during the tournament.

He saw off 11th seed Zhang Anda in the first round and then the promising Si Jiahui - who had beaten Jones’ fellow Welshman Mark Williams - in the second round.

The world number two Judd Trump was beaten in the quarter-finals and Jones overcame 2015 champion Stuart Bingham in the semi-final.

Jones’ composure, character and matchplay skills have been commended despite some criticism over his slow style of play.

Amid the disappointment of being beaten by 12th seed Kyren Wilson 18-14 in an eventually hard fought final, Jones can appreciate the enormity of what he achieved over the past few weeks.

"I understand why it's a surprise to everyone around the world but it wasn’t so much of a surprise for me," Jones told BBC Sport Wales.

"I've learnt a lot and hopefully I can win it one day. I've always had the belief that I could win it one day.

"I got very close this time. I will win it in the future.

"I feel like I didn’t play my best here, basically my B and C game, so the fact that I can come here, come so close to winning, it gives me motivation and hope for the future."

Reaching the Crucible final is Jak Jones' biggest snooker achievement by far.

His season's best coming into the tournament had been reaching the third round of February's Welsh Open in Llandudno - his deepest run in a tournament had been a semi-final appearance at the Gibraltar Open in 2022.

He will now find himself in the world's top 16 players next season for the first time, £200,000 richer.

"Before the tournament started, had you said I would have ended the season in the top 16 I would never have believed you," Jones said.

"That's a major plus for me and it gives me a lot of confidence and hopefully I can build on it."

A constant presence at the practice table with Jak is his dad. His mother on the other hand hasn't been able to bring herself to watch him play.

"From the moment I first picked up a cue she hasn't been able to watch me," Jones added.

"But for the evening session I managed to persuade her to come in and I'm really proud of her for doing that.

"Shame I couldn't lift the trophy for them, but I will one day."

Before Jones starts to think about next season and the top 16, there is only one thing on his mind after a gruelling 17 days at the Crucible.

"I didn't sleep at all after winning the semi-final," Jones said.

"I got back to the hotel about 1am and didn't sleep that night at all.

"I think I'll go to the party tonight first and then sleep tomorrow!"