Joyce relishes Crucible debut but laments missed opportunities

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Mark Joyce was delighted to be at the Crucible but rued 'missed opportunities' against reigning champion Ronnie O'Sullivan
Mark Joyce was delighted to be at the Crucible but rued 'missed opportunities' against reigning champion Ronnie O'Sullivan

MARK JOYCE says his memorable Crucible debut against Ronnie O’Sullivan has whetted his appetite for the World Championship big time.

But the Walsall potter reckons the Rocket was ‘there for the taking’ on Saturday and he was just a few missed pots away from stunning the six-time Sheffield king.

Joyce, the world No.46, was making his maiden appearance on the hallowed Crucible baize but went down 10-4 against O’Sullivan in the first game of the tournament.

He started strongly against the 37-time ranking event champion – at one stage trailing 4-3 – but O’Sullivan finished with a flourish as three consecutive century breaks turned on the style and ended Joyce’s World Championship dream.

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Joyce loved banishing his 15-year qualifying demons but believes he could have done more against the defending world champion.

The 37-year-old said: “It’s mixed emotions – obviously I’m thrilled to have the experience of playing at the Crucible.

“But I’ve got to be honest, I’m quite disappointed in my performance. I found it hard to settle early doors, which I don’t think I can beat myself up about too much as I’ve never played here before.

“I’m just disappointed – I missed too many easy balls in the first session. I thought my long potting was probably better than Ronnie’s – I got in the balls and just missed too many.

“He looked as edgy as me early doors, which I was quite surprised at. It just shows what the pressure of the Crucible can bring.

“I felt like he was there for the taking [in the morning session] but when he got in front you could just see he was playing with that more freedom. He’s a rhythm player and once he gets into that rhythm, he’s very hard to stop.

“It’s given me the massive determination of experiencing it and qualifying to come back. Now I’ve got this experience under my belt, hopefully I can relax a little bit more and play to how I know I can do.

“I now know what the tournament’s all about – and it’s an amazing atmosphere to play in. I didn’t realise how claustrophobic and tight it is – obviously I’ve been here as a spectator before but only for the one table set up.

“When you’re out there, you almost feel like you’re in a straightjacket. All these experiences I’m sure will help for future occasions.”

Joyce knocked in fluent early breaks of 58 and 66 to peg O’Sullivan, chasing a record-equalling seventh World Championship title, back in the morning session.

But the Rocket responded with five half-century visits of his own to open up a 7-4 lead on Saturday evening.

Fans were returning to the Crucible and O’Sullivan then gave them a potting exhibition to savour as he reeled off successive breaks of 124, 137 and 112 to dash Joyce’s first round hopes.

Joyce reached the last 32 of the Scottish Open in December and reckons finding the formula to beat the elite holds the key to catapulting his career to the next level.

The West Midlands potter, who also reached the second rounds of the UK Championship and English Open, added: “I feel like I’ve played pretty consistently all year.

“When you look at the players that I’ve lost to, they’ve all been top players. The guys who have been fetching me out have been top eight players.

“I feel like my game’s at a consistent level where it’s taking a top player to beat me. But obviously I’ve still got a lot of work to do to raise my standard up to beat those guys consistently.

“I’m delighted with the way I played coming into the tournament – now I’ve experienced it it’s given me a taste of what it’s all about.

“I just want to go away, have a bit of time with my family and really work hard and come back a stronger player.”

Watch the World Snooker Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from April 17- May 3