Luca Brecel became the first Belgian player to reach the final of a ranking event by beating Kyren Wilson 6-3 in the semi-finals of the 918.com German Masters.
Rising star Brecel, age 20, is also only the second European player from outside the UK and Ireland to reach to reach a ranking final – the other being Tony Drago who was denied the 1997 International Open title by Stephen Hendry.
Tomorrow in Berlin, world number 36 Brecel will face Martin Gould, ranked 20th, over 17 frames for the title and 80,000 Euro top prize. Both men will be seeking their first ranking title.
Brecel was first tipped for the top when he won the European under-19 title at the age of just 14, and three years later he became the youngest player ever to compete at the Crucible. He went through two lean years where he struggled to fulfil his potential, but he made a breakthrough last season with a run to the Welsh Open semi-finals, and now the player nicknamed the Belgian Bullet has gone one step further.
A cagey 45-minute opening frame tonight came down to a tactical battle on the pink, and Brecel capitalised on a safety error from his opponent to take it. Both players struggled to settle into the occasion but Brecel took the next two frames as well with a top break of 48.
Kettering’s Wilson, who had hoped to win his second ranking title of the season having landed the Shanghai Masters crown in September, battled back by winning two scrappy frames, before Brecel made a 67 to lead 4-2.
A missed red to a baulk corner from Brecel at 27-43 in frame seven allowed Wilson to narrow the gap again. But Brecel responded well to that set-back, compiling a run of 63 to go 5-3 up.
In frame nine, Brecel missed a red to a centre pocket on 43, and Wilson responded with 51 before unluckily getting a kick on the final yellow which left him out of position on the green. He attempted a thin cut to a baulk corner, but missed his target, and Brecel held his nerve to clear to the pink.
“It feels unbelievable to reach my first ranking final, especially to do it here because it’s a great venue,” said Brecel. “I was a bit nervous before the match tonight, but then when it started I felt very comfortable. I went 3-0 up but then started missing a few balls and the game changed. I was just happy to get over the line in the end because Kyren is very dangerous. I got lucky when he got a kick on the yellow. I haven’t played that well this week but now I’m in the final and hopefully I can play better tomorrow.
“I have been very consistent over the past year and gained more experience. When I was 16 or 17 I expected a lot, and when it didn’t happen it was frustrating. As you get older you realise it doesn’t happen easily.
“It’s an honour to be the first Belgian player to reach a final and hopefully now in my country other people will be motivated to play snooker and we can have a bright future.”