Ali Carter and Jak Jones will face each other in the first round of the 2023 World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.
This season for Ali Carter
Raise your hand if you thought Ali Carter’s tenure in the higher echelons of the game were all but at an end.
After a quiet few seasons in which he has been scrambling for positions just outside the top 16, Carter bounced back with a bang in 2022/23.
The Captain took advantage of a weakened field to emerge triumphantly at the German Masters in February.
Carter then proved that was no fluke by following up his fifth ranking title with a run to the final of the Players Championship and the semi-finals of the WST Classic.
All of a sudden he’s deservedly back up to number 12 in the world rankings and looking like a regular contender in events again.
The 43 year-old has pedigree at the Crucible Theatre, reaching the finals in 2008 and 2012 when he was denied on both occasions by Ronnie O’Sullivan.
This season for Jak Jones
Jak Jones is one of five Crucible debutants in the field in 2023, and his qualification sort of came out of nowhere.
Apart from a few wins at the Shoot Out and the Welsh Open, the 29 year-old hadn’t really done much all season.
In the world qualifiers, the world number 52 beat Adam Duffy, Robbie Williams in a decider, and most impressively Barry Hawkins on Judgement Day.
Some Crucible rookies thrive in the unexpected limelight while others crumble under the intensified media scrutiny and pressure.
Which category Jones will fall under remains to be seen, but just getting this far is an achievement in itself for the former European amateur champion.
Carter and Jones head-to-head
Carter has played Jones twice before, and interestingly he has lost to the man from Cwmbran on both occasions.
The latter triumphed 4-1 in the last 64 of the 2019 Riga Masters and 5-4 at the same stage of the 2020 German Masters.
It’s interesting that Jones boasts the superior head-to-head record, albeit one of those ties was in the early rounds of a small ranking event and the other was a qualifying fixture.
There is a rich history of Welsh players doing well while making their Crucible debut – Terry Griffiths won the event in 1979, then Mark Williams consigned the Griff to retirement 18 years later on his first appearance.
Jamie Jones and Michael White reached the quarter-finals respectively in 2012 and 2013, and last year Jackson Page upset Barry Hawkins to reach the last 16.
Carter, though, will be looking at his quarter of the draw thinking that he is the player in form and that this is a realistic opportunity for him to go deep in Sheffield again.
Prediction: Ali Carter 10-6 Jak Jones
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Featured photo credit: WST