Luca Brecel believes he can strip the absent Ronnie O’Sullivan of one of his proudest records by winning the williamhill.com UK Championship.
The 17-year-old Belgian is a surprise quarter-finalist in York, having come from 3-0 behind to beat Mark King 6-4 yesterday.
And now fearless Brecel has the title in his sights, warning that his tough streak makes him a threat to anyone left in the tournament, including today’s opponent Shaun Murphy.
Before the tournament, Brecel was a 100-1 outsider. He would be the youngest winner of a ranking event, beating O’Sullivan’s record of 17 years and 358 days, set when he landed the 1993 UK title.
O’Sullivan is taking a break from snooker, with speculation circling that he could return for the World Championship in April.
Brecel, who turned 17 in March, said of his chances this week: “I can win, but we’ll see what happens.”
The teenager felt he played to only 20 per cent of his ability against King and accepts more will be required to be competitive against an in-form Murphy.
But his confidence around the table at the Barbican Centre shone through yesterday, as it did in the first round against Ricky Walden. And providing that remains unshaken, he could trouble the 2005 world champion.
At 3-0 down to King lesser players would have crumbled, but Brecel won five frames in a row, making two breaks of 65, a 78 and an 80. “I’m a fighter, so I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised how badly I’ve played in the first two matches,” he said.
Brecel bears few physical characteristics of a pugilist, but struck a fists-up pose when his claim was questioned.
“I am,” he said. “I’m very tough.”
Romford potter King, 38, was hopelessly off his game in the closing stages and admitted as much.
“It was awful,” King said. “I just didn’t get going at all today and that is one of the main reasons I’ve never won a ranking event.
“One day I’ll play really well and the next I’m like a bag of spuds. He half got going. It’s my own fault – end of story.”
King had a parting shot for Brecel, saying: “If he plays like that against Shaun Murphy he won’t win a frame.”
A brilliant long red from Brecel made victory certain, and for King it was a second painful and costly defeat to the youngster this year, having been beaten 10-8 in April in the final round of World Championship qualifying.
Mark Selby came through his second-round test in similar circumstances, sliding 3-0 adrift against Ryan Day but recovering to win 6-4, and the Leicester man will replace Judd Trump as world No 1 if he reaches the final.
“The way the match started I don’t think it could have got any worse,” Selby, 29, said. “I was expecting the light to go off halfway through, I thought I was at a social club.”