Belgium’s Luca Brecel is looking to lock in the biggest win of his career in York on Sunday after revealing he was almost caught short in his quest to become the first player from continental Europe to land a ‘triple crown’ title.
Brecel swept in four centuries plus two more breaks over 80 to sink Kyren Wilson 6-4 and reach the UK Championship final, where he will face Chinese rising star Zhao Xintong, who bludgeoned former world finalist Barry Hawkins 6-1.
But the 26-year-old Brecel, a two-time former ranking event winner, said he had been reduced to panic earlier this week when he almost missed his fourth-round clash with Anthony Hamilton due to being stuck in the toilet of his rented flat.
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) December 4, 2021
Brecel said: “I was in the apartment and I just locked myself out – I locked the door (of the toilet). I didn’t know how to open it and I thought, oh God, I’m locked in.
“I had to play Anthony Hamilton so I was a bit worried. I was in there for 10 minutes. It felt like two hours.
“I was worried not to be able to play Hamilton. It was 20 minutes past 12 and it was a 10-minute walk to the venue. I had to walk quickly. But I beat him 6-1 anyway so I could have stayed there for longer.”
Brecel, the youngest player to reach the World Championship at the Crucible in 2012, set about the biggest match of his career against Wilson in stunning fashion, opening with a 130 clearance and going back in front with his second century after Wilson had responded with a 121.
Brecel might have contrived a third century in the fourth frame before an unfortunate split allowed Wilson to clear to pink and level for a second time at 2-2.
Wilson, strongly tipped to make his belated breakthrough at a major tournament after sinking Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last eight, edged in front for the first time by taking the fifth frame.
But he could only sit and marvel at the onslaught that followed as Brecel produced his third century of the match, followed by breaks of 97 and 80, to move one frame away.
The remarkable standard continued as Wilson responded with 83 to reduce the deficit to 5-4, but if the magnitude of the occasion was going to get to Brecel he was yet to show it.
With the balls well placed after a lengthy safety exchange at the start of the 10th frame, the Belgian stepped in to finish with a flourish, an outrageous cross-double red sealing a fourth century and a place in Sunday’s final, where he will play either Barry Hawkins or Zhao Xintong.
“It feels incredible to put up a performance like that in such a big game,” added Brecel. “If I play like that again in the final I don’t think I’m beatable.”
Wilson admitted he could have no complaints about the result, which leaves him still searching for an elusive first ‘triple crown’ title of his career.
Wilson said: “The better man won on the day, and to do that under the utmost pressure out there is very impressive.
“As long as I leave everything out there and feel like I’ve done myself justice, at the end of the day there’s two people out there and the better man on the day is going to win.”
Zhao was equally comprehensive in his semi-final rout of Hawkins, firing one century and five further breaks of more than 70 as he spectacularly delivered on his potential as one of the finest prospects in the sport.
Hawkins trailed 4-0 inside an hour, and although he hauled his way back to 4-1, he was merely prolonging the inevitable, as the irresistible Zhao potted his way into his first major final.
Along with the £200,000 winner’s cheque, the pair have an additional incentive on Sunday, with the winner guaranteeing their place in the Masters at Alexandra Palace in January.
“It’s my first time in the final and it’s very important for me to try my best,” said Zhao, who will bid to become the first Chinese winner of the tournament since three-time champion Ding Junhui.
“I think I played very well and it was a great match for me. I’m pleased to be playing Luca in the final because we are both young and we have a similar style. I think we can make a beautiful match.”