Martin Gould won the first world ranking title of his career by beating Luca Brecel 9-5 in the final of the 918.com German Masters in Berlin.
Londoner Gould landed his biggest pay-day of 80,000 Euros and jumped from 20th to 15th in the world rankings after outplaying Brecel in the final at the famous Tempodrom venue in the German capital.
It was third time lucky for 34-year-old Gould who lost his first ranking final against Shaun Murphy at the 2011 Players Championship and his second against John Higgins at the Australian Goldfields Open earlier this season.
Success has not come easily for Gould as he virtually quit snooker after dropping off the tour in 2004 and worked as a casino croupier to make ends meet. But since regaining his pro status in 2007 his talent has blossomed.
He has won other tournaments including a PTC event in 2012 and the one-frame Shoot-Out in 2013 but this is by far his most significant victory. He knocked out the likes of Mark Williams and Judd Trump on his way to the final, then got the better of Brecel, who was the first Belgian player to contest a ranking final.
Gifted Brecel, age 20, had hoped to become the first European player from outside the UK and Ireland to win a ranking title, but struggled to show his skill and flair today. He still earns 35,000 Euros and jumps eight places to 28th in the world, and it surely won’t be long before he is clutching silverware.
Leading 5-3 after the first session, Gould made a strong start tonight with a break of 110 to extend his lead. He also dominated the next to make it 7-3.
Gould led 39-10 in the next when he missed a tricky pink to a baulk corner. Brecel replied with 55 which proved enough to narrow the gap.
Both players had chances in frame 12 and it came down to the last red. Brecel, trailing by 30 points, potted the red but then missed a tough long brown and his opponent took the yellow to lead 8-4 at the interval.
Gould appeared to be sailing over the winning line in frame 13 until he ran out of position on 56. He then missed a red with the rest and Brecel responded with 63 before missing the final pink. But he got another chance and cracked in a long pink to keep his hopes alive.
Gould edged into a 43-0 lead in frame 14, then Brecel had once last chance at a long red but couldn’t find the pocket, and his opponent added 21 points to seal the result.
“It’s great to get the monkey off my back and win my first ranking title,” said Gould. “I struggled early in the match today and felt some pressure because I knew I was the higher ranked player so perhaps I was expected to win. I managed to go 3-1 up and that settled me down. I made a few mistakes but bounced back well. It was just a wonderful feeling to get over the line.
“My arm was shaking when I potted the last couple of balls. When I was back in my chair I kissed my finger and pointed up to the sky for my mum (who died 12 years ago). I’m sure she’s up there now and she’ll be so happy and having a whiskey tonight.
“I want to take this form forward now and I just can’t wait for the next tournament, especially if I play on a TV table and get to be introduced as a ranking event winner. That’s going to take some getting used to.
“The atmosphere tonight was incredible and the German fans have been brilliant all week. It’s an honour to win my first event in that arena.”
Gould suffered from a series of acute ear infections last year and was concerned at one point that he would not be able to travel by plane to tournaments. “It got very annoying and very painful,” he said. “A couple of times I was told by doctors not to fly and I had to miss the Riga Open because of that. Over the last few months it has got a lot better and it’s great that I have flown to a tournament this week and ended up winning it. I haven’t had to go and see the specialist since September, I’ve had no issues at all so hopefully that’s the end of it.”
Brecel said: “I’m disappointed but it has been a good run this week. I made too many mistakes today and couldn’t get going. I never settled down and Martin was too good. Tonight I had a chance to get to 7-5 and then it might have been different, but instead it was 8-4 and I knew he was going to do it.
“It has been a great experience for me this week. If I can keep improving I can do better. My targets now are to get into the top 20 by the end of the season and to qualify for the Players Championship and the Crucible.”