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Watch: Brecel forecasts European snooker boom after World Championship triumph

Belgium’s Luca Brecel said European snooker would “explode” after he became the first player from the continental mainland to be crowned world champion.

Brecel withstood a fightback from four-time champion Mark Selby to triumph 18-15 at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre on Monday.

Victory also meant Brecel joined Canadian Cliff Thorburn (1980), the Republic of Ireland’s Ken Doherty (1997) and Australian Neil Robertson (2010) as only the fourth modern-era world champion from outside the United Kingdom.

Having overturned huge deficits to defeat both seven-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and Si Jiahui in the quarter and semi-final rounds respectively, Brecel held his nerve after Selby had eroded his lead to just one frame.

The 28-year-old Brecel, an outstanding junior talent but a player who had never won a match at the World Championship before this year’s edition, started Monday’s concluding session 15-10 up.

Selby, however, won five of the next six frames as he closed to just 16-15 behind.

But the Englishman then missed a black off its spot and Brecel capitalised to move within a frame of victory at 17-15.

Brecel then demonstrated excellent cue-ball control around the black in a superb match-winning break of 112.

“It’s amazing, I can’t see any more, I don’t know why,” Brecel told the BBC.

“So tough, he (Selby) is the worst opponent to have in a final, he just keeps coming back, he’s such a fighter, when it was 16-15 I didn’t fancy winning at all, I was missing balls by a mile but then I made a good break.”

‘Crazy week’

Asked what his win would mean for European snooker, Brecel replied: “It’s going to explode, I was so nervous because I wanted it to happen for Belgium and Europe and now I can’t wait to see what it brings, I’m so happy I did it.”

Something of a throwback, the crowd-pleasing Brecel’s path to the final was notable for his unconventional approach to match preparation.

“It’s been a crazy week, no practice just partying, it shouldn’t be legal!”, he said.

Selby, who on Sunday became the first player to make a maximum 147 break in a World Championship final, paid tribute to the new champion by saying: “Congratulations to Luca, he’s a great talent and a great lad, a great family. Enjoy the year, you deserve it mate, you played fantastic.

“It was great to make a 147 at the Crucible, never thought I would do it in a final, the atmosphere was amazing and something I will remember for rest of my life.”

The 39-year-old Englishman added: “But it’s not about me today, Luca played fantastic.”

Brecel had previously seen his early 6-2 advantage on Sunday reduced to a slender overnight lead of 9-8.

But Brecel made three hundreds in four frames during a blistering start to Monday’s play to go 13-8 up before heading into the concluding session five frames in front.

Brecel had already proved himself a comeback king on his way to the final.

He won seven straight frames to beat seven-time world champion O’Sullivan, with Brecel then reeling off 11 in a row from 14-5 down to defeat China’s Si 17-15.

All had looked good for Brecel as his impressive potting continued with a break of 67 in the session opener that moved him to within two frames of victory at 16-10.

But renowned match player Selby, who came from 10-4 down to beat John Higgins in the 2017 final, then staged a trademark rally. 

The Englishman reduced the deficit with a break of 78 and then won a scrappy 28th frame to cut Brecel’s lead to 16-12.

Selby’s red from distance paved the way for his third century of the final, a break of 122, to leave him just 16-13 behind at the mid-session interval.

His recovery continued as Brecel went nearly an hour without sinking a pot.

But Brecel then showed plenty of nerve, as well as skill, to turn the tide and take the title.


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