Belgian 15-year-old Ben Mertens became the youngest ever winner of a match at the Betfred World Championship, beating James Cahill 6-2 in qualifying at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
Mertens isn’t the only teenage Belgian to achieve a World Championship landmark, his compatriot Luca Brecel became the youngest player to qualify for the Crucible in 2012, at the age of 17.
Last year, it was Cahill who made history with a World Championship shock, when he became the first amateur to qualify for the Crucible and went on to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the opening round. Today the Blackpool cueman experienced the other side of an unexpected defeat.
Mertens, who won the world under-16 title in 2018, is one of continental Europe’s most promising prospects. He joins Polish 16-year-old Antoni Kowalski in round two, who defeated David Lilley 6-4 yesterday.
Despite only being 15 years of age, Mertens is already used to playing in front of the TV cameras, having represented Belgium in the World Cup alongside Brecel. He also beat Thai legend James Wattana to reach the last 64 of the Shoot Out in 2019.
Cahill did start brightly this evening with a fine break of 82. However, Mertens responded by crafting a run of 63 to help edge an exciting second frame on the pink.
The young Belgian then notched up four frames on the bounce to move a frame from victory at 5-1. Cahill kept in the tie by reducing his arrears with a contribution of 90, but Mertens wasn’t to be denied and he wrapped up the 6-2 win in the eighth frame.
“It is amazing, I am over the moon and I really can’t believe it,” said Mertens. “I was happy that I even got one frame on the board, but to win the match 6-2 is unbelievable.
“The World Cup was also on television so that helped me to handle the cameras and things. I was always watching Luca when I was young, the fact I can now do it on television by myself is amazing.”
Malaysia’s Thor Chuan Leong kept his hopes of tour survival alive with a 6-3 defeat of another exciting youngster in Ukraine’s Iulian Boiko.
Despite suffering defeat, 14-year-old Boiko still made history as the youngest player ever to compete in the World Championship.
This afternoon’s match did hang in the balance at 3-3, but Thor then took control of proceedings. Consecutive breaks of 68, 83 and 69 saw him surge to the 6-3 win. Next up for Thor is world number 81 Ian Burns.
Thor said: “I’d seen him play in Facebook videos, making 140, 147, and I was thinking, oh my God, I’ve drawn him! He can be a very good player. He just needs some experience.”
Rory McLeod came out on top 6-5 in a marathon battle with Billy Castle, which lasted four hours and 30 minutes. The former Ruhr Open champion now faces Northern Ireland’s Jordan Brown
Barry Pinches recorded the first whitewash win of the week so far, defeating Dean Young 6-0. Pinches top scored with a break of 111. Next up for the Canary is Craig Steadman.