Luca becomes one of the Crucible’s greatest stories

Luca Brecel. The youngest player to ever play at the Crucible has “finally” become world champion in his coming-of-age moment.  

It is 11 years since the Belgian Bullet burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old potting sensation tipped to go on and rule the world. The precocious talent took a while to match those lofty expectations but is now the king of the Crucible; the first ever winner from mainland Europe.  

Despite the hype of his teenage emergence, Brecel was not fancied to win the World Championship this year – at all. He arrived in Sheffield having never won a match on snooker’s biggest stage with five first-round defats in his five visits. What has unfolded in the past 17 days in Sheffield has simply been lightning in a bottle, the realisation of a dream and a fulfilment of undeniable natural talent.  

While some may remember the 2023 World Championship for his somewhat surprising triumph as a 66/1 outsider when the tournament began, it is the manner in which he bulldozed his way to success which will probably outlast these memories.  

He did it the hard way and with so much style and panache. We shouldn’t forget that it was nearly over before it really got started as he battled through illness to beat Ricky Walden 10-9 in the first round. But from that win onwards, this was the definition of swashbuckling snooker.  

He knocked out three multiple world champions on his journey including Mark Williams, the defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan with a run of seven straight frames from 10-6 down and then arguably the greatest match player in the sport in shape of Mark Selby 18-15 in the final.  

Throw into the mix his semi-final victory against China’s young star Si Jiahui, where he recovered 14-5 down to pull off the greatest ever Crucible comeback and you get the picture that this was not an ordinary run. This was special and will surely go down as one of the greatest stories ever told inside Sheffield’s little theatre.  

There is much to love about Luca and he’s made many new fans over the past fortnight. The fact that his preparation for the tournament consisted of very little table practice and a few too many nights out on the town, his ability to play with freedom even under the greatest of pressure or that he remained fearless from the very first ball right until the last are just some of the reasons why.  

This was what BBC presenter Hazel Irvine dubbed “Luca snooker” and it was a breath of fresh air.  

On a personal note, this is massive for Brecel. It catapults him up to number two in the world rankings, totally eclipses his previous biggest win at 2017 China Championship and well and truly takes his game to the next level. He has now proved he can do it when it really matters and given us a glimpse of what the true ceiling of his ability might be.  

Beyond his own career, Luca becomes only the fourth player outside of the UK to be crowned world champion; joining Canada’s Cliff Thorburn, Ireland’s Ken Doherty and Neil Robertson of Australia.  

He is in esteemed company and the impact this could have on snooker in mainland Europe is seismic. Don’t be surprised to see a ranking event returning to his homeland and some eager young potters emerge over the next decade off the back of his inspiring story.  

From being the next big thing, this is Luca’s golden moment in the game and he has royally entertained us along the way.  

Luca Brecel. Take a bow.

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