A new name will be etched onto the UK Championship trophy as young guns Luca Brecel and Zhao Xintong collide in the final at the York Barbican on Sunday.
An enthralling tournament of upsets, quality and drama has resulted in a final between two of the sport’s most exciting rising stars as they compete for the £200,000 title and a place in the history books.
For both, it will be their first appearance in a Triple Crown final, with a sub-plot of a place in the Masters up for grabs, as well as the chance to become only the fourth non-British winner of this prestigious title.
Brecel is poised for his third appearance in a ranking final, having finished runner-up in the 2016 German Masters before going on to win the China Championship a year later.
Winner of the Championship League in 2020, the ‘Belgian Bullet’ is already somewhat of a veteran of the tour at just 26, having made his World Championship debut at the age of 17.
Brecel began his run at the Barbican by defeating Xu Si 6-2, before edging out Tom Ford in a last-frame decider and going on to whitewash 2004 UK Champion Stephen Maguire.
He then thrashed Anthony Hamilton 6-1 in the Last 16, before overcoming world number 16 Anthony McGill 6-2 and producing a spectacular scoring display to knock out 2020 world finalist Kyren Wilson in Saturday’s Semi-Finals with four centuries and a further two 80-plus breaks.
Zhao, meanwhile, has stormed into his first ranking final, with his previous best performance having come on home soil at the 2018 China Championship – where he reached the Semi-Finals.
The world number 26 is bidding to follow in the footsteps of compatriots Ding Junhui and Yan Bingtao by becoming a Triple Crown event winner and looks to be finally fulfilling the promise he showed when he beat Steve Davis as a 16-year-old at the 2013 International Championship.
Zhao, who came into this event having reached the Second Round just once this season, opened up with a 6-4 win over Yuan Sijun before defeating Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in a deciding frame thriller.
He then pulled off a stunning 6-5 victory over three-time UK Champion John Higgins and backed that up by defeating former World Seniors Champion Peter Lines 6-4 in the Last 16.
In the Quarter-Finals, the Chinese cueist brushed aside world number 15 Jack Lisowski 6-2 before blitzing Barry Hawkins 6-1 in the Semis with a century and a further five 70-plus breaks.
Zhao and Brecel have met on three previous occasions, with the Belgian prevailing twice (2016 German Masters and 2018 China Open), while Zhao came out on top in their most recent meeting in the opening round of this year’s Welsh Open.
The final gets under way from 1pm GMT for a total of eight frames, before resuming to a finish over the best of 19 from 7pm.
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