Meet the World Snooker Champion: Luca Brecel

15 May 2023
Meet the World Snooker Champion: Luca Brecel

Luca Brecel marked the 2023 World Snooker Championship from every angle. We look back at the Belgian superstar’s dream fortnight and a little further…

Belgium is a country of cue sports and legendary figure Raymond Ceulemans has a big part in this. Ceulemans, who has 21 world and 23 European championships in three-cushion billiards; changed the fate of the next generation and his country. Other champions such as Ludo Dielis, Frederic Caudron, and Eddy Merckx are also gone to the top of world after Ceulemans who is also known as “100”. Belgium is undoubtedly one of the few nations that have a say in the three-cushion billiards branch, in which our country is one of the leading ones today. After all, something happens to the people of this small European country when they see broadcloths and cues… So much so that since the nineties, they have brought players to the professional level in snooker. Steve Lammers, Björn Haneveer and Patrick Delsemme were pioneers in this field. But in the early 2010s, a talent never seen in mainland Europe emerged: Luca Brecel, who entered the snooker public’s radar at the age of 14.

Luca, who attracted attention by defeating Jimmy White and Ken Doherty in the World Series held in European countries at that time, defeated Stephen Hendry, one of the greatest in snooker history, in an exhibition match a year later. Slowly, everyone began to memorize the name of the blond-haired and sympathetic boy who could barely reach the table. The many amateur tournaments he won and his performances against named professionals were like a guarantee of how bright his future would be. Luca stepped into the Crucible Theater at the 2012 World Snooker Show, becoming the youngest player to do so. Of course, no one could have guessed at that moment that he would not be able to win a match for 11 years in the most iconic hall of snooker.

When we look at Luca Brecel’s professional snooker life of more than ten years, it is not possible to call him a “failure”. The fact that he was the first Continental European player to win a ranking tournament, to be in the top 16 in the world rankings, and to qualify for the Masters was valuable in itself. But he always carried the tension created by not winning a match in the world championship on his shoulders. The games he lost to Marco Fu and Gary Wilson in the deciding frame were the most painful. Despite this, it has at least managed to remain stable at a certain level. As a matter of fact, he also did good works from time to time in big tournaments. The UK Championship final he saw in 2021 was, until the past two weeks, the most flamboyant of his life at the table.

Who would have guessed that the 2023 World Snooker Championship, which he said was prepared by hardly training, partying every night and playing darts and FIFA instead of snooker, would change Brecel’s life? Let’s summarize the balance sheet of the two weeks that showed us the power of sports to create miraculous stories: Luca beat a solid player like Ricky Walden with a score of 10-9 in the first round and won his first game in Crucible. He was victorious over three-time champion Mark Williams in the second round. In the quarterfinals, he managed to come back from a 10-6 score against the biggest player of the game, Ronnie O’Sullivan, and laughed 13-11 by taking seven frames in a row. In the semi-finals, he fell back 14-5 against the super-talented Chinese Si Jiahui, leading him 17-15. He managed to beat four-time world champion Mark Selby from the fifth trophy in the final. Luca was snooker’s third non-British world champion to emerge. Moreover, considering that the other two came from member states of the British Commonwealth such as Canada and Australia, this victory was much greater than it seemed.

Meet the World Snooker Champion: Luca Brecel

The future of the 1995 born star has always been bright, but we now have ample reason to expect more from him. Luca Brecel’s journey at the table, proving that he can win on the biggest stage, rising to world No. 2 and doing this with his own aggressive play; it could affect an entire generation, just like those who once followed the Ceulemans. Ben Mertens and Julian Leclercq are his young compatriots following Luca for now. However, considering the popularity of snooker in the European Continent, this effect may spread beyond the borders of Belgium. This is all too important for a sport that is no longer as popular in its homeland as it used to be.