Luca Brecel won his first ranking title by beating Shaun Murphy 10-5 in the final of the Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou.
Belgium’s 22-year-old Brecel came from 3-1 down to win nine of the last 11 frames against former World Champion Murphy, to land the silverware and top prize of £150,000.
Brecel becomes the first player from continental Europe to win a ranking title and makes his major breakthrough, having been touted for success since his early teens. This triumph – at a tournament carrying the joint-highest prize money of any event outside the UK – is sure to boost Brecel’s profile in Belgium, especially with the European Masters ranking event coming up in Lommel in October.
Victory launches Brecel from 27th to 15th in the world rankings and puts him in line for a debut appearance at the Dafabet Masters in January as he is up to 11th in that race. He is also sure of a place at the Champion of Champions in November and potentially the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix and Ladbrokes Players Championship later in the season.
Brecel reached his first ranking event final last year, losing to Martin Gould at the German Masters. Earlier this year he qualified for the final stages of the Betfred World Championship and squandered a 7-2 lead against Marco Fu, losing 10-9. Rather than setting him back, those defeats seem to have inspired the gifted break-builder to work harder, adding maturity and improved safety to his game. He has also shown calmness under pressure this week in China, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan and Li Hang in deciding frames to reach the final.
Brecel led 5-4 after the first session and won the opening frame of the concluding session with a break of 49. In the next he got the better of a safety battle on the last red and took advantage to lead 7-4.
Murphy, seeking his eighth ranking title, pulled one back with a break of 77 and looked set to reduce the gap to 7-6 when he was among the balls on a break of 48 in frame 13. Needing just to pot the penultimate red along a side cushion, the Englishman watched in despair as the red wobbled in the jaws of a corner pocket and stayed out. Brecel later won a safety exchange on the last red and cleared the table, pumping his fist as he headed for the interval 8-5 ahead.
That proved the key moment as Brecel took the next with a run of 49 to lead 9-5. Both players made mistakes in a nervy 15th frame and it came down to the colours. Brecel laid a snooker on the yellow, and from the chance that followed he cleared to the pink to clinch the title,
“It’s amazing, a dream come true,” said Brecel. “Especially to beat a player like Shaun in the final of such a big event. Hopefully there will be many more to come. Shaun played really well to go 3-1 up then I came back to go 5-3. When I lost the last frame of the first session I was devastated because I should have been 6-3 up but it was 5-4. I went back to the hotel and had some food and I was relaxed again.
“It was a massive moment to go 8-5 up because if it had been 7-6 it would have been very close. It means so much to me to win a tournament, especially beating a lot of good players and coming from 4-1 down to beat Ronnie. This is a big milestone because it puts me in the top 16 and gets me into other tournaments.
“This is what we need in Belgium because you can see what Kim Clijsters has done for tennis there – hopefully I can do the same for snooker. This is the first step.”
Murphy, age 35, banks £75,000 and climbs from eighth to fifth in the world. He said: “Luca fully deserved to win because he played much better than me throughout the day. My potting was bad, my safety was bad, my tactical play was bad, I just wasn’t good enough today. On the whole it has been a very good week, everything apart from the result today.
“This will be the first of many for Luca. He’s the best player we’ve had from Europe, and we need more like him. Maybe his success will inspire others.
“The tournament has been a fantastic success, we have to thank Evergrande, the CBSA, Star and all our sponsors and volunteers. This is one of the biggest events in the world now.”