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Brecel beats Williams to reach World Championship quarter-finals

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Brecel is the first man through to the quarter-finals (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

Luca Brecel is the first man through to the World Snooker Championship quarter-finals after a 13-11 victory over Mark Williams on Friday.

The Belgian arrived at the Crucible having failed to win a match on each of his five previous appearance in the main draw of snooker’s blue-riband event.

But after beating Ricky Walden 10-9 in round one, Brecel closed in on a quarter-final place at 11-8 up on Williams – only for the three-time champion to reel off the next three frames level at 11-11.

Nevertheless, the Bullet held his nerve with breaks of 84 and 67 setting up a last-eight showdown with either Ronnie O’Sullivan or Hossein Vafaei.

“It was a fantastic game to be involved in,” he told Eurosport. “This is what you dream of as a player – to play well at the Crucible, to win games at the Crucible – so it’s a fantastic feeling.

“I feel so good right now. I was struggling a little bit this season mentally. I’ve still played well and got the results, but I was struggling with travelling, so I needed a bit of inspiration.

“To win today against Mark Williams in the best of 25 [frames] is brilliant for my career.”

Locked at 4-4 upon the resumption of their clash, Williams took the opening two frames of the second session with runs of 62 and 53.

But contributions of 113, 100, 66 and 80 saw Brecel reel off five on the spin for a 9-6 lead. He looked good for 10-6 after opening frame 16 with 51, but his opponent stopped the rot with a calm 81 clearance.

The three-time ranking event winner won two of the first three frames of the final session – hitting breaks of 71 and 117 – and despite Williams replying to level at 11-11, it was the Bullet who edged the high-quality encounter.

“I think it was a really good match overall,” Williams added. “I think he was a deserved winner, he scored a bit heavier than me, but there was nothing in it really.

“The two frames he had at 11-all under pressure, which I put him under, the two breaks he had to win the match were as good as anybody can make. If he keeps knocking in breaks like that, he’s going to be hard to stop.

“Some of the breaks he had were incredible. From nowhere, he was potting balls off the lampshade; he could’ve had six or seven centuries.”

Elsewhere, Mark Allen is one frame away from joining Brecel in the quarter-finals, the 2009 semi-finalist establishing a commanding 12-4 lead over Stuart Bingham.

The player of season with three ranking titles, Allen continued in that vein with breaks of 53, 75, 63, 65 and 97 as he won each of the first seven frames of their second session.

However, 2015 champion Bingham dug deep with a timely 103 clearance to stop the rot and prevent defeat with a session to spare.

Meanwhile, Neil Robertson has work to do as he trails debutant Jak Jones 10-6 overnight.

The 2010 champion trailed 3-0, but won five of the next six frames to edge 5-4 ahead at the start of the second session.

But Jones had not read the script, the Welshman taking each of the next six frames – hitting a top break of 100, while producing a sublime 74 clearance to snatch frame 14 on the pink – before Robertson took the last of the evening to keep his faint hopes alive.

Earlier in the day, Ronnie O’Sullivan coasted into a 6-2 lead in his eagerly anticipated grudge match with Hossein Vafaei.

The Iranian, who slammed the cue ball straight into the pack when breaking off in the second frame after losing the opener, appeared overawed by the occasion, despite runs of 64 and 58 along the way.

Seven-time champion O’Sullivan took full advantage with a top break of 102 – his 200th Crucible century and first at this year’s tournament – as well as contributions of 78, 69, 57 and 51.


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World Snooker Championship 2023 Day Seven Scores

Friday April 21

Second Round

Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-2 Hossein Vafaei
Mark Allen 12-4 Stuart Bingham
Luca Brecel 13-11 Mark Williams
Jak Jones 10-6 Neil Robertson