The 16 Seeds: Luca Brecel
Continuing our series of Cazoo World Championship previews.
By Phil Yates
Seed 9: Luca Brecel
Only 14 when he won the European Under 19 Championship, Luca Brecel was recognised as a prodigious teenage talent.
Quite often such fast rising stars fizzle out but not the now 28 year-old Belgian, winner of three ranking titles.
Brecel is indisputably the most successful player to emerge from one of snooker’s ever-growing markets, continental Europe.
He broke through by winning the 2017 China Championship, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan and, in the final, Shaun Murphy before overcoming another world champion, John Higgins to snare the Scottish Open silverware in 2021.
The manner in which he began the season, triumphing so fluently in last summer’s Championship League, suggested the current campaign would develop into Brecel’s finest.
The jury is out on that, much depends on his Sheffield showing, but his run to the English Open final again underlined the heights Brecel can reach.
A flurry of breaks and trademark fearless pots carried Brecel to victory over Judd Trump and Mark Allen before he succumbed to Mark Selby with the Steve Davis Trophy up for grabs.
That aside, consistency is an issue as only one other ranking quarter-final, at the Players Championship, has been registered.
Brecel continues to hold the record for the youngest player to compete at the Crucible. He debuted in 2012, just 45 days past his 17th birthday.
Although acquitting himself admirably, Brecel lost 10-5 to Stephen Maguire and, a little more than a decade later, is still waiting for his first taste of victory at snooker’s most famous venue.
Five visits have all resulted in an immediate exit, none more irksome than in 2017 when, after blazing a trail to lead Marco Fu 7-2, Luca was cruelly edged 10-9. Succumbing 10-9 to Gary Wilson, from 7-5 up, in the first round two years ago after a tactical decider of epic proportions, also hurt.
The unwanted record for most Crucible appearances without a win is eight, held by Rex Williams and the late Cliff Wilson. Brecel is tied third.
Previous Crucible appearances: 5
Matches played: 5
Matches won: 0
Crucible centuries: 4
Certain players defy prediction. Their prime form is stellar, they are vulnerable when struggling. Brecel falls into that category.
If he can jettison the emotional baggage of previous Sheffield setbacks and ignore bad memories, he could prosper. Conversely, if the ghost of World Championships past is not exorcised, a buoyant qualifier may prove too much to handle.
PREDICTION: The initial hurdle will finally be cleared but alien best of 25 frame contests might well be Brecel’s undoing.
Bookmakers’ odds on Brecel: 40/1