Luca Brecel was delighted to share a memorable maiden World Snooker Championship triumph with his family and friends.
The Belgian Bullet produced an outstanding display to hold off the challenge of four-time world champion Mark Selby in an engrossing final in Sheffield.
Brecel was never behind in the contest after winning the opening three frames of the title decider on Sunday afternoon.
But the 28 year-old was made to work hard to secure the Crucible crown, defying a 147 and a stirring fight back from his esteemed opponent to lift the trophy aloft.
The new world number two had never before won a World Championship fixture at the venue stages, five times losing in the round of 32 prior to this year.
However, after edging past three-time ranking event winner Ricky Walden in a decider, Brecel embarked on one of the toughest runs to glory in the sport’s blue-riband event.
He accounted for players boasting 14 world titles between them, additionally ousting Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan in the second round and the quarter-finals respectively.
Arguably his finest performance of the lot was against rising star Si Jiahui in the last four – overturning a nine-frame deficit to prevail against the debutant from China in 17-15 thriller.
In the final against Selby, Brecel cut a composed figure for the majority of the affair barring an understandable late wobble with the winning line in sight.
The former European amateur champion compiled five century breaks during the special showdown, and victory means he becomes the first player from mainland Europe to capture the World Championship silverware.
“It’s a dream come true obviously. It’s a cliché, but it is,” Luca Brecel told Rob Walker during his post-match press conference.
“You know, especially the way I did it, beating all those guys like Ronnie, Williams, Selby in the final – I think he’s the toughest opponent of all of them.”
“It’s unreal after not winning a game here. I could have easily lost the first game again against Ricky, I made a good break in the last frame.
“Ever since then, I played one of my best stuff here and it’s just amazing to come out as the winner.
“At 16-13, I felt like I wasn’t going to win any more, because I was just too nervous and I couldn’t play my shots any more.
“I missed so many long balls and my positional play went missing. He just got stronger, and he puts you in so much trouble.
“When you’re feeling it, it’s so tough to deal with. I just needed a good chance to settle down again, I had a chance at 16-15 and made a 50 break.
“After that, I felt a little bit more relaxed. Then in the final frame when I got the chance, I actually felt like I was going to make a good break.
“It’s been an unbelievable two weeks, and yeah, this trophy is just beautiful.
“I needed to stay in front. If he had won the (32nd) frame there it would have been 16-all. I think there was only going to be one winner then.
“I really needed that 17 on the scoreboard. After that, I just needed one chance to clear up, but it’s been so tough.
“I didn’t expect to win it obviously. Then all of a sudden you’re clearing the table to win the World Championship.
“It was just an unreal moment. I still can’t believe it, I think it’s going to take a couple of days or weeks to let it sink in.
“To be honest, obviously if you win the World Championship you get £500,000 – okay, great – but the only thing in my head when I was clearing up was, ‘I just want to share this moment with my family.’
“That for me was just the biggest motivation of all. To make it come true was unbelievable, I never expected to win it this year.
“I never won a game here before, so to win it this year and share it with my family and friends is just the best moment in my life.
“I have no idea (how big it is going to be in Belgium). I know it’s going to explode, and it has been exploding for the last couple of days.
“After winning this, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can’t wait to see it.”
For the full 2023 World Snooker Championship draw and results, click here.
Featured photo credit: WST