Luca Brecel has claimed the World Snooker Championship title with a monumental 18-15 win over Mark Selby in an epic final.
The Belgian becomes the first player from continental Europe to lift the trophy, remarkably, having never won a match at the Crucible before this year.
The match will go down in history for more than just Brecel’s triumph, as Selby became the first player to make a 147 in a Crucible final, knocking in a maximum in the 16th frame on Sunday night.
It is Brecel who picks up the £500,000 top prize, though, with Selby getting £200,000 for the runner-up spot, plus £27,500 – half of the winnings for a maximum, which he shares with Kyren Wilson after his 147 in the first round against Ryan Day.
The 28-year-old from Belgium had never won a match at the Crucible on his five previous visits to the venue but has put that poor Sheffield record right in some style.
‘Amazing,’ said Brecel. ‘He’s so tough, he’s the worst opponent to have in the final. He just keeps coming back, he’s such a fighter. When it was 16-15 I didn’t fancy winning at all, to be honest.’
He came in as the ninth seed, but was available at around 50/1 to win the event ahead of his last 32 match against Ricky Walden, which he scraped through 10-9.
‘Nothing changed, snooker is a difficult sport, in the first round I could have lost to Ricky Walden,’ he said. ‘Beat him 10-9, if I’d have lost that, everyone would have been saying, oh he lost again first round. Now I’m the winner!” Those are the small margins in snooker, it’s crazy. I still can’t believe it.’
After that nail-biter he went on to down three-time champion Mark Williams, defending and seven-time champ Ronnie O’Sullivan then 20-year-old sensation Si Jiahui in the semi-finals, beating the Chinese star 17-15 from 14-5 behind.
His performance in the final was even more sensational, though, conquering the towering challenge of Selby over 35 frames, leading at the end of the first three sessions and wrapping up the match on Monday evening.
Brecel took to the World Championship final like a duck to water, making a break of 77 in the opening frame in a matter of minutes and looking perfectly comfortable in the surroundings.
He didn’t stop there, opening up a 6-2 lead by the end of the opening session on Sunday afternoon, making four breaks of 50+ in the process.
Selby hit back, typically, reducing his deficit to 9-8 by the end of Sunday and doing so in style, making a 134 in the ninth and then becoming the first player to make a 147 in the Crucible final in the 16th.
It was absolutely immense stuff from the Jester, knocking in the maximum and barely looking troubled in the process, then he returned to win the next frame and be right in touch coming into Monday’s action.
Monday was not Selby’s day though, with Brecel grabbing the bull by the horns and powering himself into a huge lead by the end of the afternoon session.
Four centuries from the Belgian helped him into a 15-10 lead over the four-time champ, although it was a devilishly difficult break of 40 in the 25th that was crucial and secured him the huge lead.
As it was the great Mark Selby on the wrong side of the deficit then it seemed the match was still alive, but with Brecel playing so well, things looked sticky in the extreme for the Englishman.
Even more so when Brecel took the opening frame of the evening session with a break of 67, including an immense double on his way to yet another frame.
Selby was never going to relent, though, and showed he was still playing well himself with a break of 78 to take the score to 16-11 in Brecel’s favour.
He took the next and began to look stronger and even more so when he claimed the next to take the score to 16-13 with a break of 122.
All the momentum was with the Jester as he took the string of frames to five on the spin and go within one of his opponent, however, Brecel managed to stop the rot, capitalising on two Selby mistakes, his first in a long while, to go 17-15 ahead.
Brecel got the first chance in the 33rd and he didn’t wobble, making a break of 112 to get his hands on the trophy.
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