Belgium’s Luca Brecel created history by becoming the first player from mainland Europe to be crowned World Snooker Champion as he defeated Mark Selby 18-15 in the final at The Crucible.
Brecel, 28, came into the tournament having never won a match in five previous Crucible campaigns, but defeated three former World Champions on his way to becoming the latest new name on the sport’s most prestigious trophy.
The attacking superstar denied Selby a fifth world crown as he held off a spirited late fightback to seal the £500,000 top prize in Sheffield.
He becomes only the fourth non-British winner of the World Championship, following on from Canada’s Cliff Thorburn (1980), Ireland’s Ken Doherty (1997) and Australia’s Neil Robertson (2010).
“It’s amazing. [Mark Selby is] the worst opponent to have in the final. He just keeps coming back, he’s such a fighter and at 16-15, I didn’t fancy winning at all to be honest,” an emotional Brecel told BBC Sport.
“I was missing balls by a mile. I don’t know how I did it. Once I got to 17, I fancied it if I got a chance to clear up, which I did. It’s a great feeling.
“Snooker is a difficult sport and in the first round I could have lost to Ricky Walden – I beat him 10-9.
“If I’d have lost that game then everybody would have said ‘he’s lost again in the first round’ and now I’m the winner, that’s the small margins in snooker, it’s crazy. I still can’t believe it.
“I won’t practice for a couple of weeks, months, just going to enjoy this – it’s been a crazy week, no practice just partying!”
Having made a magical maximum break on Sunday evening, Selby trailed 9-8 overnight but a blistering Monday afternoon session from Brecel saw him open up a 15-10 lead going into the final session.
Selby, however, dug deep in typically tenacious fashion to close the gap to 16-15, but Brecel held his nerve to clinch the next two frames for glory.
Selby was bidding for a fifth world title since 2014, but admitted: “I battled and gave everything but every credit to Luca he deserves it.
“Congratulations to Luca, he’s a great talent and a great lad with a lovely family. I wish him all the best. It was great to make a 147 at the Crucible, I never thought I would do it in a final.
“It was an amazing achievement and something I will remember for rest of my life but it’s not about me today, it is about Luca, he played fantastic over the two days.”
Brecel’s inspired third session included breaks of 113, 101, 141 and 119 as he continued the swashbuckling style which had led him to victory over Ricky Walden, Mark Williams, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Si Jiahui in reaching the final.
Needing just three more frames for glory, Brecel took the evening’s opener with a break of 67, but was a mere spectator for much of the next hour and a half as Selby reeled off five in a row with breaks of 78, 122, 50 and 52 along the way.
A clutch of missed chances, though, proved costly for Selby in frame 32 as Brecel added a 51 break to stop the rot, before clinching victory in fitting fashion with a break of 122 to send the Crucible crowd into raptures.
Brecel’s fourth career ranking title sees him climb to second in the world ranking list and caps a remarkable tournament which also saw him complete the greatest comeback in Crucible history – from 14-5 down to defeat Si 17-15 in the Semi-Finals.
He made his debut on the sport’s greatest stage as a 17-year-old back in 2012, becoming the youngest player in the tournament’s history, and has now fulfilled his destiny little over a decade later.
— Live Snooker (@Livesnooker) May 1, 2023
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