Gifted Belgian teenager Luca Brecel reached the quarter-finals of the BetVictor Welsh Open with a 4-3 victory over World Champion Mark Selby.
World number one Selby was aiming to win back-to-back titles having captured the German Masters, but suffered a surprise defeat against a player 65 places below him in the rankings.
Brecel, 19, jumped into the snooker spotlight in 2012 when he became the youngest player ever to compete at the Crucible, then reached the quarter-finals of the UK Championship. Since then, he has struggled to live up to his early promise, but a recent reunion with coach Chris Henry and commitment to practice have led to an upturn in form. This is the first time since that UK Championship run that he has reached the last eight of a ranking event.
Selby led 2-0 and 3-2, making breaks of 131 and 114, but Brecel showed his own break-building ability with a 101 in frame six.
In the decider, Brecel built a 46-0 lead then Selby had a chance to counter, but he missed a short range red to a top corner on 20. Brecel kept his composure with a further run of 27 to earn a meeting with Stuart Bingham or Ricky Walden tomorrow.
“I think I showed a lot of bottle and I’m very satisfied because the hard work is paying off now,” said Brecel. “Mark played one of his best matches of the tournament. That was my best performance at this level because I was 2-0 down against the world number one. This could help me a lot in the future. For the last two years I haven’t worked hard enough so now I am working very hard on the mental side and practice.
“The game plan was to attack Mark because he wouldn’t expect me to do that. He might have thought I would be afraid of him. I went for my shots. I didn’t just want to enjoy the game, I wanted to win so I’m delighted.”
Selby said: “A few times he went for long reds, missed and left me on nothing. But from 2-0 he played very well. I missed a red in the last frame but otherwise didn’t do that much wrong. Luca’s a bit like the way Judd Trump was when he came on to the scene. If he plays well he can blow you away, but he can probably lose to people he shouldn’t lose to. He’s not going to change and that’s why he’s so dangerous.”
John Higgins continued his recent resurgence with a 4-2 win over Michael Georgiou. Higgins trailed 2-1 but took the last three frames with a top break of 87.
“Michael had a good chance to go 3-2 up but he didn’t take it and that was the turning point,” said four-time World Champion Higgins, chasing his first ranking title since the 2012 Shanghai Masters. “He had a great win against Graeme Dott yesterday and these guys are coming into matches fancying beating the top players. He would have been thinking he could beat me today so I’m delighted to win.
“I feel as if I’m close to playing well, I’m just trying to get to the business end of tournaments and give myself confidence. I’m slowly getting there and maybe it will be this week. I’ve not been to the later stages for two or three years.”
Higgins is not yet certain of being among the top 16 seeds when the cut-off point for the World Championship comes after the China Open. He added: “I’m looking over my shoulder because Mark Williams is still in this one and the likes of Graeme Dott or Robert Milkins could win something and leapfrog me. I’m not in the Players Championship finals in Thailand so I need a good run in Poland next week to try to get into that. On the other hand, if I did miss Thailand at least it would give me a week at home practising before the China Open, which will probably be the make or break tournament for everyone.”
Mark Williams scored one of his best wins in recent years with a 4-1 victory over Judd Trump. Cwm’s Williams, who was the last Welsh winner of this title in 1999, won the first three frames with a top break of 68 as Trump struggled to find his rhythm. Trump did take frame four on the final black, but his opponent clinched victory in the next with a run of 56. “Not many people would have expected me to win today, but I outplayed Judd in every department,” said Williams. “I’m not going to say I can win it because I’m probably the outsider of the last eight. But at least I’m still here.”
Ben Woollaston reached the second ranking event quarter-final of his career by beating Ali Carter 4-2. Leicester’s Woollaston, who had already knocked out Mark Davis and Mark Allen this week, fired in breaks of 65, 103, 108 and 51.