Name: Luca Brecel
DOB: 8th March 1995
Turned Pro: 2011
Highest Ranking: 44th (2015)
Highest Break: 140 (2015 Welsh Open)
Career Highlights: 2015 Welsh Open semi-finalist, 2012 UK Championship quarter-finalist, 2012 World Championship last 32 (youngest ever), 2014 China Open last 16, 2013 ET5 quarter-finalist, 2010 EBSA European Champion, 2009 European U-19 Champion
One of snooker’s hottest prospects, Belgium’s Luca Brecel first began to play the game at the age of nine and it was not long before the amateur titles began to come his way. Amongst other titles, at national level Luca won the U-16 Championship for three successive seasons between 2007-9 as well as adding the Belgian U-21 title during both 2008 and 2009 and the senior title in 2010.
It was however to be at the European U-19 Championship in 2009 where Luca would really announce himself as aged just 14 he defeated several players including Jack Lisowski and in the final Michael Wasley to become the youngest ever winner of the event.
Luca at the 2011 PTC2
He followed this up a year later by taking the full European Championship in Bucharest with a 7-4 victory against Holland’s Roy Stolk to become the youngster ever winner of that event and again demonstrate his talent.
Following both of these victories he would normally have been nominated for a place on the professional circuit but due to the age restrictions in place at the time he was not able to accept them. Upon turning 16 however he was handed a wildcard for the main tour for the 2011/12 season by the WPBSA.
With victories against the likes of Ken Doherty and Jimmy White in the World Series as well as an appearance at the Power Snooker event in 2010, it will be interesting to see how quickly Luca can adapt to life full-time on the main tour.
Luca enjoyed a respectable start to his début season on the main tour with third round runs in three of the events staged during the Players Tour Championship but early exits in the season’s full-ranking events prevented him from climbing making significant progress up the rankings.
Luca at the 2011 UK Championship qualifiers
He came close to recording an impressive victory against Ian McCulloch during the UK Championship qualifiers having at one stage led 4-1, but Ian was eventually to come back and snatch the match 6-5 following a dramatic decider.
Initially, 2012 followed the same pattern as he lost early at the Welsh Open qualifiers and Haikou World Open qualifiers, before improvement came at the China Open qualifiers where he defeated Andrew Pagett and Andy Hicks to reach the last 64 before losing out to Anthony Hamilton.
Luca would though save the best for last as at the World Championship qualifiers, he would defeat Ian McCulloch, Barry Pinches, Michael Holt and finally Mark King, to become the youngest ever player to play at the Crucible at the age of 17 years and 45 days.
Once there, although Luca was to lose 10-5 to the experienced Stephen Maguire, he had impressed onlookers enough with breaks of 116 and 96 to earn one of the two European nominations for the main tour for the 2012/13 season.
Following his exploits at the end of the previous season, Luca made a solid start to his 2012/13 campaign, reaching the third qualifying round of both the Wuxi Classic and International Championship qualifiers, as well as the last 16 of the UKPTC1 tournament in Gloucester.
The best however was to come at the close of the year, as he repeated his achievement at the World Championship, by winning four matches to qualify for the venue, most notably his opener against Scott Donaldson which he at one stage trailed 5-3, before back to back century breaks turned the match back in his favour.
Luca at the UKPTC4 event
Unlike at the World Championship however, Brecel’s run was not to end at the last 32 stage, as the 17-year-old recorded victories against Ricky Walden and Mark King to reach the quarter-finals. There he looked set to cause another shock by defeating former champion Shaun Murphy, but for a couple of misses on the pink allowing Murphy to come through in a deciding frame.
Nevertheless, the tournament represented Luca’s breakthrough and demonstrated that it will not be long before he is a regular at the business end of snooker’s biggest events.
From there however, Luca was to struggle for results during the second half of the season, losing his last five matches of the season, culminating in a 10-6 defeat to experienced amateur player Fraser Patrick at the 2013 World Championship qualifiers.
Though unable to repeat his heroics of the previous year in televised competition during the first half of 2013/14, Luca was to enjoy an improved campaign in European Tour events, winning ten matches. His best run was to come at the ET5 event, where he defeated Allan Taylor, Paul Davison, Michael Holt and Stuart Bingham to reach the quarter-finals, before losing out to Robbie Williams.
His year was to end on a disappointing note however, as he lost out to Stephen Maguire in the last 64 of the UK Championship having at one stage led the match 5-2.
After the turn of the year, his best run was to come at the China Open, where having defeated Jamie Burnett, wildcard Yuan Sijun and Dominic Dale, he lost out to another Scot, Graeme Dott at the last 16 stage.
His season ended at the World Championship qualifiers, with wins against Lee Page and Yu Delu evoking memories of his run to the Crucible two years previously, before he was handed a 10-1 defeat by Leicester’s Tom Ford in the third qualifying round.
Importantly however, Luca’s end of season form was enough to see him up into the top 64 of the rankings at the end of the season, ensuring that he would retain his ranking money earned and be in a position to continue his rise up the world rankings.
Following a difficult couple of seasons since his breakthrough year in 2012, Luca returned to form during 2014/15 as he reached the semi-finals of a ranking event for the first time in his career, defeating reigning world champion Mark Selby before losing to another great in Scotland’s John Higgins.
He also reached the quarter-finals of European Tour events in Bulgaria and Poland, as well as reaching the last 32 of both the Australian Goldfields Open and Indian Open events.
Thanks in particular to his run in Cardiff however, he was able to finish the season ranked 44th, a career-high and comfortably inside of the world’s top 64.