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Selby v Brecel: Tale Of The Tape

The final of the Cazoo World Championship brings an intriguing contrast of styles, as Luca Brecel’s natural attacking flair comes up against the iron will and all-round excellence of Mark Selby.

Snooker’s biggest match of the year gets underway at 1pm on Sunday with eight frames, followed by nine more frames from 7pm. Monday’s 1pm session will see eight frames played, then the tie will come to a conclusion from 7pm on Monday night. First to 18 will lift a trophy which was first contested in 1927.

The pair have met seven times before, Selby winning five of those. Their most recent match was the final of the English Open in December, when the Englishman scored a 9-6 victory.

Leicester’s 39-year-old Selby has vastly more experience than his opponent at this level. He is playing in his sixth Crucible final – only Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins have played in more. After losing his first final against Higgins in 2007, Selby went on to capture the crown in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2021. A fifth title would take him ahead of Higgins and leave him behind only O’Sullivan (seven), Hendry (seven) and Steve Davis (six) in the Crucible era.

Officially ranked second, Selby will finish the season in fifth place if he loses the final, and third if he takes the £500,000 top prize. He is playing in his 33rd ranking final and has won 22 of the previous 32, including 19 of the previous 21. A 23rd ranking crown would bring him level with Judd Trump and Neil Robertson in joint sixth on the all-time list.

Selby’s route to the final has taken him past Matthew Selt, Gary Wilson, John Higgins and Mark Allen, winning 53 frames and losing 37. He has made nine centuries and 34 more breaks over 50.

Brecel first graced the stage in Sheffield in 2012 at the age of 17 and remains the youngest ever player to compete at the Theatre of Dreams. Remarkably, he had never won a match at the Crucible before this tournament, losing in the first round on his first five appearances. He broke his duck with a 10-9 victory over Ricky Walden, and went on to beat Mark Williams, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Si Jiahui, making a record comeback from nine frames behind in the last of those. He has made seven centuries and 35 more breaks over 50.

The 28-year-old Belgian has played 98 frames so far, so if the final goes the full distance he will have played 133 in total, which would beat Ken Doherty’s record of 132 set in 2003. If Brecel wins the final by a scoreline of 18-12 or closer, he will set a new record for the most frames played by the champion.

This is his seventh ranking final and he has won three of the previous six, at the 2017 China Championship, 2021 Scottish Open and 2022 Championship League. Currently ranked tenth, he will be up to a career-high position of fourth if he loses the final, and second if he wins, behind only O’Sullivan who is guaranteed to finish the season as world number one.

Brecel is aiming to become only the fourth non-British winner of snooker’s most famous trophy, after Canada’s Cliff Thorburn, Ireland’s Ken Doherty and Australia’s Neil Robertson.