With one of the best performances of his career, Belgium’s Luca Brecel beat Kyren Wilson 6-4 to reach the final of the Cazoo UK Championship, becoming the first player from mainland Europe to reach the final of a Triple Crown event.
Brecel was in tears as he potted the winning balls of a fabulous match in York which featured five centuries and five more breaks of 50. “It’s a dream to play like that and win,” said the 26-year-old. World number 40 Brecel will face Barry Hawkins or Zhao Xintong over 19 frames on Sunday, with the winner to lift the famous trophy and collect £200,000. Victory would also propel Brecel into the top 16 and give him a place in the Cazoo Masters.
His only ranking title so far came at the 2017 China Championship and he now has the chance to double his tally and join the list of winners of one of snooker’s most historic tournaments, dating back to 1977. Victory for Brecel would make him the fourth non-British player to lift the trophy, after Patsy Fagan, Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson, and he would be the lowest ranked winner since Ding in 2005.
Brecel made only one century in his first five matches of this event, but today with a capacity crowd gathered around a single table, he caught fire. A break of 130 gave him the opening frame, then in the second he missed a red to a top corner on 14 and world number five Wilson punished him with a 121. The high scoring continued as Brecel regained the lead with a run of 105. In frame four, Brecel made 59 before failing to split the pack and playing safe. Wilson converted a plant from long range and cleared with 69 for 2-2.
Frame five was the scrappiest of the match and came down to a safety battle with four reds remaining. Wilson slotted in a red from distance and added enough points to take the lead for the first time. But he scored just one point in the next three frames as Brecel fired breaks of 102, 97 and 80 to go 5-3 up.
Kettering’s Wilson pulled one back with an 83, but his hopes of winning a first Triple Crown title ended in the next frame as Brecel made a 112, rounding off the match with a series of crowd-pleasing exhibition shots.
“It feels like the best I have played because of the stage of the tournament,” said Brecel, a pro since 2011. “I beat Shaun Murphy 4-0 once in Ireland and didn’t miss a ball. I have done it before, but to have the belief to do it today is so big to me.
“It was a huge match but I felt confident in my game. I was so nervous before the match – you can ask my girlfriend because I was grumpy! I had a century in the first frame and that settled me down. When I was on 20 or 30 in the last frame, I felt as if I was going to cry if I potted the winning ball. And when I potted a red on 67 I cried a little bit, it was very emotional, there is so much pressure out there.
“This will be big news in Belgium but I am going to try to block it all out, hopefully win tomorrow and then enjoy all the attention. I would love to play Zhao Xintong because it would be good for snooker to have two very young players in the final. But nothing against Barry because he is a nice guy and fantastic player. I will enjoy the final, I will be more relaxed and hopefully play the same stuff.”
Wilson said: “Without a doubt the better man won on the day, he was scoring phenomenally. Good luck to him for the final. At 3-2 I had a bit of momentum but then Luca took control.”
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