Before the final, Jones briefly considered the magnitude of winning another big event, but immediately tried to short-circuit any tension.
“I was saying to myself, ‘Just play your game, just take what the table gives you’ — all those clichés, you know what I mean?” he said. “They sometimes work and sometimes they don’t.”
The attitude from both players in front of the ESPN cameras was loose. Jones looked bemused, either smirking or biting his lips while surveying the layouts after his breaks. Wiseman would chat with buddies Tony Chohan and Corey Deuel, sitting near his corner, and even called in advance a nifty billiard that freed the 4 ball from an obstacle.
The quality of play started to slip in the fifth game, tied 2-2, as the players traded misses on the 3. The match veered toward farce in the seventh game, tied 3-3, as Jones missed a reverse cross-side bank on the 8, Wiseman tried steering the 8 in the corner and missed, Jones missed again, and Wiseman nailed a long cross-corner bank on the ball — only to scratch.
The eighth rack was nearly as rough, with a Wiseman miss, a Jones scratch, and then a bobbled 9 ball by Wiseman. He retreated to his chair with a broad smile, but surely was stung by several missed opportunities.
Leading 5-3, Jones showed renewed control with a one-rail kick that sank the 2 ball and brought the cue ball back up table in perfect position for the next shot. Likewise, Wiseman regained form in the next rack with a deliberately paced runout. With a 6-4 advantage, Jones cleared the path to victory with a deft cross-side bank on the 3 and then ran out to clinch the title.
Both players sounded sheepish in their victory speeches.
“It was fun to play in front of a crowd, even though that wasn’t very pretty,” Wiseman said. “Sorry about that, but maybe next time.”
“As much as I didn’t want to win like that, I hate to see [Wiseman] lose like that,” Jones said. “We both struggled, but we both played great to get there.”
Wiseman traced his shaky performance to an early shot on the 3 ball that required him to cue over another ball. He felt uncomfortable and missed the shot. “After that, I kind of doubted what I was shooting at a couple times, and I got in my head a little bit. It just takes a couple bad games and you’re out it.”
Jones was similarly uncomfortable through the match. “It’s like we were rubbing off on each other,” he said. “Sometimes you play a perfect match and get beat, and sometimes you play a rough match and you win. … Overall, I was just going to make sure I enjoyed what was happening.”
He certainly enjoyed the aftermath. Jones retreated to Houston, where he planned to use some of the $15,000 prize to help pay off his new Honda Accord, which was ferrying him and Alicia to look at new home sites.
“My personal life is much more in line with how I like it,” he said. “My dad has been sick for a while, but he’s doing better. Just generally my family is doing better. When everything else is more in line, it’s just easier to play good pool.”
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