Luca Brecel and Ricky Walden will face each other in the first round of the 2023 World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.
This season for Luca Brecel
Is this the year when Luca Brecel finally breaks his duck and wins a World Championship match at the Crucible Theatre?
The 28 year-old has lost all five of his World Championship first-round encounters and will have pressure on his shoulders to rectify that depressing streak this year.
If his recent form is anything to go by, the Belgian Bullet’s fans may have some cause for concern.
Brecel began the 2022/23 season in confident fashion, capturing a third ranking title at the campaign-opening Championship League.
A final appearance in the English Open followed not too long after, but since the turn of the year there has only been a single run to the last eight of a ranking event.
For much of the season, Brecel looked like qualifying for the Tour Championship but he missed out on a spot in Hull after an unexpected loss to Haydon Pinhey in the first round of the WST Classic.
This season for Ricky Walden
After a more than respectable 2021/22 campaign, there were many who thought that Ricky Walden’s return to the top 16 this season would be inevitable.
But it hasn’t worked out that way at all, and it’s safe to say that his overall form has deteriorated once again.
Only one quarter-final appearance in a ranking event is a disappointing return for a player of his class and experience.
That being said, Walden did well to come through two tough qualifying matches in the World Championship.
The three-time ranking event winner overcame Ian Burns in the penultimate round before prevailing in a humdinger tie with Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in a decider.
Brecel and Walden head-to-head
Brecel and Walden have crossed each other’s paths on nine previous occasions in all competitions, with the former boasting a 6-3 superior advantage.
However, the pair clashed at the same stage at the Crucible Theatre in 2018 when Walden enjoyed the upper hand to emerge as 10-6 victor.
The Englishman also prevailed in their most recent fixture in last year’s German Masters at the Tempodrom in Berlin.
This is a tough one that has 10-9 or 10-8 written all over it, and it could easily go either way.
Brecel’s form at the Crucible is concerning, and the fact that Walden is battle hardened having survived the difficult qualifying competition may stand him in good stead.
It could get very nervy in the second session if things do end up being close.
Prediction: Ricky Walden 10-8 Luca Brecel
Saturday, April 15th – 2:30pm
Sunday, April 16th – 7pm
Featured photo credit: WST