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Interview: Brecel Calm Ahead of Australian Open

By Colin Bell in Australia

Australian OpenWelcome back to Bendigo.

Last year I spent a week understanding the whole tournament was, so this year I thought I would try to understand the players and try my hand at journalism.

There were a few new names that qualified for the tournament this year, but the youngest ever to qualify is the Belgian Bullet Luca Brecel. I caught up with him after watching him practice at the venue, and asked him a few questions…

It’s your first time qualifying for Australia, what have you made of your time here so far?

“It’s a bit different than I expected. I expected it to be bigger, more lively, busier and warmer of course.”

It’s probably the longest flight you’ve ever done. How are you coping with the jet-lag, do you prepare in any particular way?

“I haven’t really had any problems with jet-lag. I’ve only been here one day so far and I don’t have any special preparation before a long flight.”

You’ve been to the venue already to practice, what do you think of the conditions?

Luca Brecel's first appearance in the Australian Open.

Luca Brecel’s first appearance in the Australian Open.

“It’s a small venue, but if the tables are good then it’s OK.”

You just about managed to get into the world’s top 64 at the end of last season. How much of a relief was that for you? Where you aware of what you needed to do to keep your tour card?

“I wasn’t so relieved as I was no.4 on the PTC Order of Merit, so it was a bonus to be in the top 64. I never think about my results because I just play each game as it comes. I have a lot of goals but I don’t look at the individual results.”

However, after you’ve played a match, do you evaluate your performance?

“After a game, I write down the good things and the bad things. I’ve had this list for several years now, but I just write it down for the moment.”

So you’ve just started this new season, what goals have you set yourself for this year?

“I would like to reach at least one semi-final of a ranking tournament but I also believe I could win a tournament.”

Do you believe you have any weak points in your game, areas you need to work on?

I am constantly trying to improve my game. I don’t believe I have any particular weak points although I do play quickly, that’s my style.

How is the game going in Belgium?

“A lot of youngsters look up to me, I don’t do much extra promotion but may consider some coaching in the future. It’s a pity there’s no tournament in Antwerp this season and I don’t really know the reason why.”

There aren’t any other Belgian snooker professionals, would you consider moving to England to work on your game and practice against other top players?

“Not at the moment. I would miss Belgium too much, although in the future I may consider spending  one or two years there but never permanently.”

You’re still very young at 19 but as the ‘experienced’ one of the younger crop of players do you feel any extra pressure is on you?

“I don’t feel any pressure. I believe in destiny, if you are destined to be good at the game then you will be. You just need to put the work in and don’t put pressure on yourself.”

The game is becoming more and more popular in mainland Europe. Do you see a big rise in the numbers of people playing?

“It’s growing slightly in these countries, but not very fast.”

What would help it to grow?

“More characters in the game, the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan or Jimmy White, and the late Alex Higgins.”

In the first round this week you play Matthew Stevens. Have you played him before? What kind of game do you expect from him?

Brecel practicing ahead of Stevens encounter.

Brecel practicing ahead of Stevens encounter.

“I’ve only played him once before when I was 12 – he won 2-1. I like his attitude to the game but I don’t know too much about his style. I think I can beat him though.”

Some of the bigger names like Ronnie and Ding are missing. Do you see this as a bigger opportunity to go further in a ranking event?

“I have no expectations. I will just play my own game, it depends how I play as to how far I go.”

If there was someone that you might fear playing, although I’m sure you don’t fear anyone, who would it be?

“Selby, because he’s tough and would really slow down my game.”

Who do you think can win this tournament?

“Either Robertson or Trump”

There’s a lot of talk on the circuit about the cost and lack of sponsorship, what do you think would make the game more attractive to sponsors?

“Make it more exciting and maybe have more events like the Shootout. It’s difficult to watch a full tournament. I don’t watch snooker when it’s on, I only play it.”

How do you feel about playing on the TV? I know you’ve played many times now, do you still get nervous?

“I don’t get nervous I just ignore the cameras and play my game, I don’t think about that I’m on TV.”

How do you relax away from snooker?

“I listen to music, go on holidays and play football.”

Have you been following the World Cup. What about Belgium’s chances?

“I’m not sure how the players are thinking mentally, but I think they’re capable of going to the final. It has been great to be in Belgium during the first stages of the World Cup, there’s been a lot of support and enthusiasm.”

Good luck to Luca who plays Matthew Stevens at 12:00pm (3am Irish time).

The full draw for the Australian Open can be viewed by clicking here.

Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.