Luca Brecel won his first competitive match as World Champion, beating Jackson Page 5-3 at the BetVictor European Masters in Nuremberg, despite having recently lost his cue.
The Belgian sensationally landed his first ever Crucible crown back in May by winning a classic final with Mark Selby 18-15. Although he first competed at the Theatre of Dreams in 2012, this year’s opening round victory over Ricky Walden was remarkably his first at the hallowed venue.
World number two Brecel can reach the summit of the rankings this week if he makes the semi-finals, following current world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan’s withdrawal this morning. However, he is having to overcome cue issues, after the one he used to win the World Championship was lost whilst flying from Seattle to Frankfurt in the summer.
Using a different cue, Brecel faced a tricky test this afternoon against Welshman Page in his first match as World Champion. Breaks of 54 and 66 helped the 28-year-old to take the first two frames this afternoon, but Page replied with two on the bounce himself to restore parity at 2-2.
Brecel hit the front again after taking the fifth, where he embarked on a 147 attempt before breaking down on 80. A run of 89 from Page saw him claw back level again, but it was Brecel who stormed to the line by taking the next two frames to emerge a 5-3 victor. He faces Indian rookie Ishpreet Singh Chadha in round two.
Brecel said: “When the draw came out I was panicking a bit. Jackson Page is not the one you want as a starter, he is really tough and a big talent. I had to play really well and I didn’t expect to play this well. I’m really happy with the win.
“I don’t think this cue is ever going to be the same. Normally the cue doesn’t matter to me but this one felt so good that it is going to take some time to get used to. I guess this is also a good cue and it is never going to be exactly the same, but I think I can get really close to my World Championship level.”
Chinese 19-year-old Wu Yize staged a shock win over 2010 World Champion Neil Robertson, emerging a 5-3 victor after a thrilling encounter.
The result sees Wu enact revenge for a 10-3 loss at the hands of Robertson at last season’s World Championship. The first four frames this evening were shared, before breaks of 81 and 47 saw Wu surge to a 4-2 lead.
Robertson responded with a sublime break of 110 to stay alive. However, Wu emphatically got himself over the line with a break of 93 in the eighth to come through 5-3.
Last season’s Player of the Year Mark Allen kept his chances of moving to world number one for the first time alive with a 5-0 whitewash win over Anton Kazakov. The Pistol top scored with 81 and must win the event to top the world rankings. He faces an intriguing clash with Thepchaiya Un-Nooh next.
Judd Trump hit the ground running with a 5-0 win over Egyptian Mohamed Ibrahim, which set up a second round clash with Northern Ireland’s Jordan Brown. The Ace in the Pack composed breaks of 71, 74, 117 and 60 on his way to the win.
Ricky Walden put on a fine performance to beat Jamie Jones 5-3. The Chester cueman compiled runs of 123, 125 and 138 during the victory.