Luca Brecel was playing in his second final in two weeks yesterday evening, and won his second ranking title by beating John Higgins quite convincingly by 9-5.
Brilliant Brecel Claims Second Ranking Crown
Belgium’s Luca Brecel summoned one of the best performances of his career to beat John Higgins 9-5 and win the BetVictor Scottish Open at Venue Cymru.
It’s the second ranking title of 26-year-old Brecel’s career. He became the first Belgian to lift ranking silverware with victory at the China Championship in 2017. On that occasion he brushed Shaun Murphy aside 10-5.
Tonight’s win comes as no surprise, with Brecel in red hot form. He reached his first Triple Crown final last week at the UK Championship, beating the likes of Stephen Maguire, Anthony McGill and Kyren Wilson on his way to the title match. However, he was denied the trophy by an inspired Zhao Xintong.
Brecel earns £70,000 for tonight’s win, along with the Stephen Hendry Trophy, whilst Scotland’s Higgins has to settle for the £30,000 runner-up prize.
Defeat will be a bitter pill to swallow for four-time World Champion Higgins. Who has now lost in all three of this season’s Home Nations finals. He was beaten 9-8 in both the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open and BetVictor English Open by Mark Allen and Neil Robertson respectively. Higgins was also runner-up to Judd Trump at the Champion of Champions, meaning he has now lost his last four major finals.
Brecel established a stranglehold on proceedings in the afternoon by emerging from the opening session with a 6-2 advantage.
When play resumed Brecel wasted little time in hammering home his advantage. Breaks of 79 and 64 saw him take the opening two frames and move just one from victory at 8-2.
Higgins kept himself in the contest by winning the 11th, before a run of 73 sent him into the mid-session four behind at 8-4.
Upon the resumption 31-time ranking event winner Higgins cranked up the heat by pulling a further frame back. However, Brecel stood up to his illustrious counterpart by hammering home a sublime total clearance of 127 to win the title.
“It is absolutely crazy. I’ve been dreaming of this for so long. Seeing Neil Robertson and Judd Trump winning all of those tournaments, I just wanted to be there as well. To be here now is crazy and to beat John quite easily is unbelievable for my game and for my confidence. It is very special,” said an elated Brecel.
“I felt so bad at the interval when it was 8-4. I had to call someone at home to just relax a little bit. I felt sick. I have never felt like this before, because I wanted to win so badly. You don’t want it to go 8-6 or 8-7, because you just know it isn’t going to happen then. I was really happy in that last frame to get a good chance and clear up.
“I was thinking about my game in the off season and I changed a couple of things like my mindset and some tactical stuff. I also have a new management team and we have been looking at other things like sleeping patterns and eating. We have been trying to get all the details as good as possible. It is paying off. To get to a final and win one is amazing. It has been a great season.”
Higgins said: “He was just too good all day. I didn’t get off to the greatest start and he just punished me. He was fantastic. I tried my best but it just wasn’t good enough. I thoroughly enjoyed being in the final again but I just came up short. It is brilliant for snooker having someone like Luca coming through. Playing in the manner he does is great for the game.”
Luca was outstanding and his achievements over the recent weeks are indeed very good for snooker: he’s young and he’s not British/Irish. If snooker is to have a future, it needs young winners and if it has true ambition to become global it needs winners form outside Great Britain and Ireland. The last two tournaments have brought just that and it’s brilliant.
Luca is now ranked 15th in the World but he will not play in the Masters come January. It’s a shame and it’s not right.
RONNIE O’SULLIVAN FEELS LUCA BRECEL DESERVES MASTERS PLACE: ‘A CASE THAT THEY SHOULD LEAVE A WILDCARD OPEN’
“I think Luca deserves to be in the Masters from his last two tournaments,” O’Sullivan said on Eurosport. “I think there is maybe a case that they should leave a wildcard open to see who has a brilliant end and if there is a player that should be in the Masters but is not, and if they think he is good for the tournament then there could be an argument for that.”
Ronnie O’Sullivan believes World Snooker should give themselves the option of a wildcard entrant for the Masters to ensure form players such as Luca Brecel can be handed a place in the event.
Brecel is one of the game’s most in-form players, beating John Higgins to win the Scottish Open, a week on from reaching the final of the UK Championship where he was beaten by Zhao Xintong.
Despite his fine run, Brecel will not be at the Masters in January after missing out on a place in the top 16 prior to the cut-off point of the UK Championship.
The result of the Scottish Open and next week’s World Grand Prix have no impact on who secures a spot in the Masters – which is fought out between the top 16 in the world at the Alexandra Palace in January.
O’Sullivan can understand the need for a cut-off point, but believes having 15 players and a wildcard would be the better strategy.
“I think Luca deserves to be in the Masters from his last two tournaments,” O’Sullivan said on Eurosport. “I think there is maybe a case that they should leave a wildcard open to see who has a brilliant end to the year and if there is a player that should be in the Masters but is not, and if they think he is good for the tournament then there could be an argument for that.
THE RULES ARE THE RULES, EVERYONE KNOWS COME THE UK CHAMPIONSHIP THAT IS THE CUT-OFF.
“But I think Luca can feel a bit gutted that he can’t take this form into such a major tournament like the Masters.
“He’d be a massive asset to the tournament, the way he plays. The London crowd would love him.
“If World Snooker could pick someone and throw him in they would like to, so maybe if they could leave themselves that option if someone does something fantastic to use a wildcard.”
Although Brecel will be disappointed to not be in the Masters, O’Sullivan feels things are looking good for the 26-year-old from Belgium.
“He’s in a good place,” O’Sullivan said. “Got to the final of the UK, he has his girlfriend with him at tournaments and he’s a happy guy.
“You can’t get too greedy, he’ll hopefully be in the Masters next year, he’s young and has time on his side.
“But that tournament would be better with him in it, he’s that special kind of player.”
John Higgins also said the Luca should be in the Masters, and, really he should but I don’t think that a wildcard is the right answer.
I do understand the need for a cut-off point, preferably sometime ahead of the start of the tournament to allow the press to do their “build-up” thing, to allow the venue to promote their event properly and to allow the players to plan/book their travels and accomodations. The draw/schedule mess we had last week with the 2021 World Grand Prix line-up and schedule doesn’t do anyone any favour. Mind you, the tournament starts today and the draw and schedule aren’t even available on WST website! It’s preposterous.
Instead of having a wildcard – that will always be controversial – scheduling the cut-off point for the Masters after the last ranking event of the year is what is needed. That leaves plenty enough time for the Masters build-up and promotion and I can’t see any reason why it is’nt that way other than the BBC insisting to have the Masters draw done on the final day of the UK Championship. I know that they are important broadcasters and sponsors for snooker but they act as if the only relevant events in the calendar are the three – out of twenty – they support.
John Higgins has now lost all four finals he has played this season. This is reminiscent of what happened to Ronnie last season when he reached five finals and lost them all. Both John and Ronnie can still play at a very high standard and they are very consistent. Both of them, and Mark Williams, are still in the top 16 AND in the top 8 of the one year list. But as Mark (not Williams) pointed out in his recent comment, John and Ronnie have lost 11 out of 12 of their most recent finals.
What happens there? I’m afraid that the answer is simple: age. They are 46. Ronnie has hinted a few times that recovering physically and mentally from a difficult or lengthy match was harder than it used to be, that he needed more time than in the past. It’s normal. It isn’t however a very uplifting prospect for their fans.
We have seen it this past week: Ronnie wasn’t at his best but fought very hard to reach the semi-finals, winning three matches in a decider; he had nothing left in the tank against his old foe John Higgins and the fact that he’s in awe of John and has lost their most recent encounters didn’t help his confidence. He struggled badly. John always gives it his all when he plays Ronnie. He had reached three finals already this season, losing them all. He might have been a bit tired and probably wasn’t very high in confidence either coming into his match yesterday. He struggled badly, finding himself 8-2 down at one point.
Ronnie recently said that he has to accept that he isn’t the player he was anymore. I’m afraid that we, as fans, have to accept that too, try to enjoy the good performances and hope that it all clicks together at some point. I still believe it will.