After his historic snooker coup, Luca Brecel showed great emotions. In the otherwise often chilled gentleman’s sport, the outsider was authentically and almost childishly happy about the first world title, which he won for his home country Belgium. Brecel spread both arms, raised his fist proudly and began to cry before the awards ceremony at the venerable Crucible Theatre. “It will explode in Belgium. I really wanted that to happen. I really wanted to do that for Belgium,” said the 28-year-old after defeating England favorite Mark Selby late Monday evening 18:15 in the final.
No Brit on the snooker throne in Sheffield, that was the last time there was 13 years ago in the billiard variant. And Brecel, who has always been eliminated in the first round of the World Championships, is a worthy champion: first a victory over three-time world champion Mark Williams, then a victory over seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and finally the crowning glory in the final against Selby , who in turn missed title number five.
The winner received praise from the highest level. “Nobody plays like Luca. He plays fantastic. The fans love him. He’s like Michael van Gerwen, the darts player. He is fast and dynamic. You can’t learn how he plays,” said O’Sullivan about his World Champion successor from Belgium. “The Rocket”, as O’Sullivan is known, was able to see for himself how mature and powerful Brecel is at the moment: he lost his quarterfinals 10:13 after leading 10:6.
“He’s the player of the tournament. He deserves to have his name on the trophy. Nobody can do as much with the cue as he does,” said O’Sullivan at Eurosport. Brecel was also celebrated in his native Belgium. “The new rock star in snooker,” was the headline on RTBF. The newspaper La Dernière Heure wrote: “With his signature style of play, which he describes as ‘all or nothing’, Luca Brecel is capable of… anything!”
The new world champion posed with the silver trophy in a rain of confetti – his partner Laura and his parents were seated around the huge green snooker table. Tears flowed again. “I have the best team. The best parents, the best girlfriend, the best friends: That makes me strong. It’s hard to play your best snooker without a team like that,” said Brecel. He encouraged his final opponent Selby and his wife. “Stay strong,” Brecel shouted. Selby had made mental problems public and also talked about his own suicidal thoughts.
The Belgian outsider offered great spectacle throughout the World Cup. He survived round one against Ricky Walden with a lot of effort and 10:9. “Snooker is a tough sport. I could have lost to Ricky Walden here too – then everyone would have said he lost again in the first round,” Brecel recalled. The audience laughed.
“The path to this title was a path of alternative tactics, great comebacks and unconditional support,” wrote the Belgian portal Sporza. Four more big appearances followed – including a comeback in the semifinals after being 5:14 behind. “That was certainly partly the ‘cheeky wins’ department, but that also shows Luca’s potential,” said commentator Rolf Kalb of the German Press Agency about the new world champion. He called the winner’s performance and path “impressive”.