NO matter whose name is engraved on the williamhill.com UK Championship trophy come Sunday evening, it’s Luca Brecel people will remember when they look back at this tournament.
Shaun Murphy hung his head in relief on the side of the table after ending the teenager’s fairytale in yesterday’s quarter-final – but the youngster took him to the very brink.
Brecel’s been nicknamed the “little Belgian star” back home and the 17-year-old almost pulled off one of the tournament’s all-time shocks.
An epic match went into a dramatic decider and, after Murphy was left crestfallen when a massive kick on a tricky red down the cushion saw it hit the jaws and settle over the bottom pocket, the Magician was contemplating a trip to a finale of a very different kind this weekend – the X Factor finals.
But, needing just the colours, Brecel got on the wrong side of the blue and rattled both sides of the bag on a long pink. Murphy held his nerve to dispatch the ball into the middle pocket and will meet Ali Carter this afternoon for a place in Sunday’s showpiece.
It was the second time Brecel had been found wanting when victory was in his grasp. World number four Murphy enjoyed similar fortune in the frame before when the youngster again missed the pink.
“I thought that I had lost the match a couple of times,” Murphy said. “I really thought I was out. I got the kick on the last red and it is the thing of nightmares.
“Adrenalin and a little bit of inexperience at that stage of his snooker just cost him (Brecel) in the end. I am just relieved. It is one of those matches. If I win, I am expected to win and if I lose it is a massive shock.”
Murphy revealed he was given the Alex Ferguson “hairdryer” treatment from his manager Brandon Parker at the interval and said the tongue-lashing had been needed to put him back on the right path.
He added: “I didn’t feel any pressure in the match until I was walking down the stairs. It just hit me. I was all over the place for the first four frames.
“We are a really good team, Brandon and I. It was a really good time for the interval. I had a little regroup and without his words then I would have lost the match.
“The sense of relief and the sense of pleasure from this match is as much as if I had won 6-0 with four maximums. I probably won’t play as badly as that again or be put under as much pressure as that again.”
Brecel has wowed the Barbican crowd with his composed play and his disregard on the table for the game’s established stars.
Despite losing the match, he said he could take numerous positives from the “best week of my life”.
“I cued it perfectly but it didn’t go in,” Brecel said of the heartbreaking pink that ended his dreams of emulating Ronnie O’Sullivan, the last 17-year-old to win a tournament of this size.
“Shaun said to me that I had a fantastic week and I played very well. He was very nice but it doesn’t help.
“It’s definitely been the best week of my life and I think it will be easier in the smaller tournaments now because I have had this experience. It all helps.
“I played well. It was a very good game and I enjoyed it. It is very positive. I expected to get to the quarter-finals and I had a good chance to win. But Shaun deserved to win. I am ready (to go to the next level) but I am only 17. I have so much time to get better and better.”