World Snooker Championship: Si Jiahui vows to improve as Luca Brecel storms back to book final showdown with Mark Selby at The Crucible
The 20-year-old Sheffield-based potter from China was talking after Belgium’s Luca Brecel produced the greatest-ever Crucible comeback as he won 11 frames in a row to book his place in the final against Mark Selby.
Brecel, who conquered Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-final, looked certain to be heading home as he trailed 14-5 in the race to 17 after a dominant opening by Si. But he started his miraculous recovery by winning the final five frames of Friday’s night session and offered up more of the same on Saturday afternoon to complete a remarkable 17-15 victory.
In doing so Brecel became the first player in Crucible history to overturn a nine-frame deficit and booked his first final in Sheffield, having never previously got past the first round.
It was difficult not to feel some sympathy for Si, who at 20 years old looked set to become the youngest Crucible finalist in history, as he looked increasingly solemn in his chair as Brecel kept on winning frame after frame.
To his credit he stopped Brecel’s run of 11 in a row with a composed break of 91 and then had chances to send the match into a final-frame decider before a clipped red along the cushion allowed the Belgian to close out a famous victory.
But, afterwards, he was composed about his shattering loss, saying: “I was feeling kind of disappointed, but not very, he played nearly perfect snooker in the final two sessions and my safety let me down.
“I have realised there are flaws in my game, there are so many things I can still improve, so in the coming season I will be confident I can beat anyone.”
Brecel admitted after being cast so far adrift in the early stages of the last-four showdown was ‘unbelievable.’
“At 14-12, 14-13 I knew I had a chance, but I think 14-14 I was really believing it because I could see he was struggling and I was playing great stuff,” he said.
“But I knew I could have lost as well. To win is absolutely unbelievable, it is the biggest game of my life. I was in disbelief, I was shaking. The whole game I was expecting to lose, even with a session to spare, so to even have a chance to win was the craziest feeling ever in my body and I can’t believe I did it.
“I have never won a game here and now I am in the final, it is some story. It is going to take a while to sink in.”
In the other semi-final, four-time champion Selby came through a late-night battle with Mark Allen, eventually getting over the line with a 17-15 victory at 12.48am on Sunday morning – just 12 hours before the final is due to start.
Selby, who last won the tournament in 2021, probably thought he would have been done and dusted much earlier as five successive frames at the start of Saturday’s evening session put him one away from victory shortly before 10pm.
Yet, he had to wait the best part of three hours before potting the final ball as Allen hit back with five successive frames of his own and threatened to take it even deeper into the night.
Selby said: “I was just happy to get over the line, I felt I played well from 11-10 to 16-10 and then missed a couple of chances.
“At 16-15 he probably goes favourite because he had the momentum. It means everything to be back, I want to try and win it now I’m in the final.
“I don’t feel too bad right now, but I haven’t been sleeping too well while I’ve been here. If I don’t sleep well tonight there is something wrong.
“Luca will be fresh, he has had a night off, but if it means I only get 10 hours and playing in the World Championship final, I’d rather have that than have 24 hours off and be driving home.”