2023 Crucible – Day 7 – Luca Brecel is the first man through to the QFs

This World Championship is rapidly turning into one of the best, most eventful and most interesting in many years and that’s a blessing because snooker certainly needs to show that it has much more to offer than controversy and suspected match fixing.

Luca Brecel was the first man to book his place in the quarter-finals yesterday. He beat Mark Williams in an absolutely brilliant match. Here is the report by WST:

Brecel: My Best Feeling Ever

The outrageously talented Luca Brecel made a brace of marvellous breaks in the last two frames to beat Mark Williams 13-11 and reach the quarter-finals of the Cazoo World Championship.

It’s the best feeling of my career,” said Brecel after an outstanding performance, highlighted by four centuries and eight more breaks over 50, while averaging just 18.8 seconds a shot across the contest. The Belgian had never won a match at the Crucible before this week, but is now showing his quality on the biggest stage. Three-time champion Williams looked favourite when he came from 11-8 down to 11-11 only for Brecel, playing a best-of-25 match for the first time in his career, to take the last two frames in style.

The 28-year-old, snooker’s best ever player from continental Europe, will meet either Ronnie O’Sullivan or Hossein Vafaei on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the winner to appear in the one-table situation for the semi-finals.

Brecel first played at the Crucible in 2012 at the age of just 17 – the youngest player to compete at the venue – but lost in the opening round on his first five appearances in Sheffield. With three ranking titles now under his belt, including this season’s Championship League, he is quickly learning what it takes to win matches on the biggest stage.

Trailing 9-7 going into the last session, Williams looked set to take the opening frame tonight until he missed the black off its spot at 58-0, and Brecel punished him with a 71 clearance. Williams pulled one back with a run of 67 before Brecel’s classy 117 put him 11-8 in front.

In frame 20, Williams led 56-36 when he converted an excellent long pot on the penultimate red, and he added the points he needed to close the gap. The Welshman’s tactical nous was evident again in the 21st as he laid a tough snooker when he trailed 18-28, creating an opening for a break of 54 to draw within a frame at 11-10.

Brecel had a scoring chance in frame 22 but made just 23 before running out of position, then made a safety error which let Williams in for a run of 53 to level for the first time since 6-6. Brecel’s thumping long red initiated a run of 84 to regain the lead, and in frame 24 he knocked in another fabulous red to a baulk corner to set up a match-winning 67.

It is fantastic for my career to beat someone like Mark over 25 frames because he is such a legend, it’s so difficult to do,” said Brecel. “I had to play well and stay focussed for the whole game. At 11-11 he was playing better and I was struggling. So I didn’t expect to make two great breaks to win the game.

I have not been practising – and look at how I played! Do we need that much practice? I don’t know. Snooker is more of a mental game, we are all great players. I felt good coming here, mentally. My life is good, I have a new girlfriend. I am relaxed, and that helps me play well, even without practice.

It’s probably the best feeling in my whole career. In the past I have played a good session and then I play a bad one, but this year all my sessions have been good. I’m happy to play consistently.

In the next round I’m just going to play the same, play quick, play freely. If I don’t play quick it’s going to get even longer and I’m just going to get exhausted, so I need to play like this to make it easy for myself.

The ranking points are so big here, that’s what makes the difference I think for players in terms of pressure. It’s such big money but it keeps you safe in the top 16 if you win.

Williams said: “It was a high quality match all the way through, he played some unbelievable stuff. I put the pressure on him at 11-11 and I was feeling strong. But he made two breaks the last two frames, it’s as good as I’ve seen. He was popping balls from everywhere and thoroughly deserved the win. I just hope he can continue that form – if he plays O’Sullivan – and do himself justice because he’ll be hard to stop.”

Mark Williams appeared to be in some discomfort during yesterday session – back or shoulder pain – but said nothing after the match.

Luca Brecel is a brilliant player when he’s focussed, Ben Mertens and Julien Leclercq have both impressed as rookies this season and yet WST has not made any real effort to further push the game in mainland Europe, and in Belgium in particular. Both WWS and WDBS had events in Belgium in recent times and it’s easy to understand why: it’s not that far away from the UK, the Eurostar is a fast way to get there, it’s very centrally situated in Western Europe, with France, Germany and the Netherlands being neighbours, and it’s easily reachable by plane, train or car.

Ronnie leads Hossein Vafaei by 6-2 after their first session

Here is the report by WST:

Ronnie O’Sullivan surged into a 6-2 lead against Hossein Vafaei in the first session of their Cazoo World Championship last-16 clash, while on the other table Mark Allen moved to the verge of victory as he established a 12-4 advantage over Stuart Bingham.

Vafaei intensified his rivalry with O’Sullivan with passionate words after his first round win over Ding Junhui, and the strength of his feeling was obvious today when he smashed the pack of reds in the second frame – exactly what O’Sullivan had done during a previous meeting in the 2021 German Masters qualifiers. However the Iranian did little talking on the table as defending champion O’Sullivan opened up a four-frame cushion.

They return for eight more frames on Saturday from 2.30pm, and if O’Sullivan wins seven of those then he will be through to the quarter-finals at the Crucible for the  21st time. Otherwise the contest will conclude from 10am on Sunday.

World number one O’Sullivan took the opening frame with a break of 78, then capitalised on Vafaei’s unorthodox break-off in the second to make another 78 for 2-0. Vafaei, the only player from Iran to compete at the Crucible, made a 64 in the third and eventually won it with an excellent long pot on the final pink.

O’Sullivan dominated the next three with runs of 69, 51 and 102 – the last of those was a landmark break as he became the first player to score 200 centuries at the Crucible. Frame seven came down to a safety battle on the colours, and O’Sullivan laid a snooker on the yellow, then took advantage of the chance that followed for 6-1.

In the last frame of the session, Chigwell’s O’Sullivan led 44-0 when he missed the pink to a top corner, and Vafaei capitalised with a run of 58 to reduce the deficit.

When Hossein broke off for the first time, in frame 2, he smashed the reds open. This is exactly what I expected him to do, and Ronnie calmly took advantage.

Hossein’s demeanour at the table has Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry wondering how his mind works as reported here by skysports

Speaking to the BBC, six-time world champion Davis said of Vafaei’s red-splitting break: “It’s not good to see.

I don’t think it is necessarily disrespectful to Ronnie, but it is maybe considered disrespectful to the game of snooker and the people who come along to watch, and want to see a great game.

You’re basically giving your opponent an easy chance

That is stupidity or you just don’t care about being a world champion. You’re basically giving your opponent an easy chance.

For me it’s a nasty taste in my mouth for the match, and it was a mouth-watering taste to start with.

It’s not nice, it’s not good. It’s not a personal game, snooker, your problem is the table and the balls, not your opponent.”

After Vafaei won frame three, Davis added: “He is not cut from the same lump of wood as me. How can you smash the balls up in a World Championship? I don’t understand how you can then play great in the next frame.

What type of brain can do that? I don’t know where he’s coming from, but to win that frame after embarrassing yourself – how on earth can you concentrate after that?”

I’m afraid that the answer is quite simple: either Hossein has a very big ego and/or he’s deeply insecure. If he genuinely didn’t understand that Ronnie smashing the pack in those German Masters qualifiers, being 4-0 down, had nothing to do with him, his family and his people, but was just a show of sheer frustration, then it’s a clear sign that he tends to believe that everything other people do is about him.

The match, of course is far from over.

Mark Allen is just one frame away from booking his spot in the QFs: he leads Stuart Bingham by 12-4. Allen has been the player of the season but had not done that well in the second half of it. I didn’t expect that match to be so one-sided.

The big surprise though was once again created by Jak Jones who is currently leading Neil Robertson by 10-6.

2 thoughts on “2023 Crucible – Day 7 – Luca Brecel is the first man through to the QFs

  1. Even it was a ploy to drive attention away from Monday’s hearing (I don’t think so), it did not last till then, thanks to Ronnie’s comprehensive victory with a session to spare and very elegant and classy reaction, in the end and professionalism throughout the match which in the end was a good, but not too remarkable player taking on the world champion and trying to put himself to the limelight in an altogether silly way.

  2. I can’t help feeling that the WST missed an opportunity by not staging the World Mixed Doubles in somewhere like Belgium.

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