After eleven days, the non-ranking tournament that was quickly put together after the COVID-19 lockdown went down to the very last frame.
Luca Brecel has won snooker’s Championship League after coming out on top in the Tournament Finals on Thursday in Milton Keynes.
In a dramatic finish that was befitting of the event, the outcome came down to the final frame of the event’s last encounter between Brecel and Ben Woollaston.
With the latter leading 2-1, both cueists knew that winning the fourth frame would lead to triumph.
Brecel had been in control of the group from the outset, beating Stuart Bingham 3-0 early on before securing a 2-2 tie with Ryan Day, but he was in danger of missing out on glory to Woollaston at the very death.
The Englishman, who had started the fixture having beaten Day before losing to Bingham in the round-robin, had just compiled a brilliant brace of century breaks – including a 141 total clearance – to move to within the brink of a first professional title since 2011.
Yet, it was Brecel who got in first in the decider and the former China Championship winner didn’t miss thereafter as he constructed a 111 to etch his name onto the trophy.
In unusual scenes that adhered to the guidelines, Brecel lifted his own trophy in front of no fans in attendance but to plenty of hollers from the commentators and staff inside the arena.
Snooker’s Championship League was organised in May by Barry Hearn’s Matchroom Sport in an effort to bring snooker back to the sporting calendar as soon as the coronavirus restrictions began to be lifted in the UK.
Several precautions were taken in order to make the event as safe as possible.
The event was originally proposed to take place in Leicester but was moved to Milton Keynes to accommodate the players and staff on-site at the Marshall Arena.
Every participant was tested for COVID-19 before entering the venue, with a 100% success rate of negative results.
Isolation and social distancing measures were strictly implemented, while the players were forced to avoid handshakes and use their own individual equipment including rests.
Many were quick to rightly question the effectiveness of this when the players were still sharing the same table and cloth.
However, the competition was completed without a major hitch and the fact that the champion happened to be a player from outside the UK will have done Hearn’s reputation as a master promoter no harm whatsoever.
Continued travel difficulties meant that the majority of tour members from outside the UK weren’t able to enter.
Brecel made the trip – crucially before the 14-day quarantine entry requirement was enforced in the country – and has reaped the rewards.
Well done Luca Brecel, quality performance from a class player 👏🏻 https://t.co/u8FzmpurGw
— jason ferguson (@jasonferguson5) June 11, 2020
Not only does the 25 year-old pocket £30,000 in total for his efforts over the course of the last week or so, but he also gains a place in the lucrative Champion of Champions later this year.
“It’s unbelievable really,” Brecel said soon after his victory. “It was probably the biggest test of my career so far, to win the title is unbelievable.
“Most of the time I’m pretty cool under pressure, but this time I was feeling it and it was a struggle.
“I’m over the moon. It’s massive (to be in the Champion of Champions) and I’m really looking forward to that already.”