Luca Brecel (born 8 March 1995 in Dilsen-Stokkem) is a professional Belgian snooker player, widely considered one of the most promising upcoming snooker talents. In April 2009, he became the youngest European under-19 champion at 14 years of age.
In May 2009, in the Grand Final of the World Series of Snooker in Portugal, he beat Jimmy White 4–3 and former World Champion Ken Doherty 5–3 on his way to the quarter-finals, where he lost 4–5 to Graeme Dott. In August 2009, he beat Joe Perry, the then world number 12, at the Paul Hunter Classic. On 8 January 2010, Brecel defeated former world champion Stephen Hendry 4–1 at an exhibition game in Brugge (Bruges), Belgium.
Luca Brecel became the Belgian senior snooker champion on 24 May 2010, beating Bjorn Haneveer 7–4 in the final. He also had the highest break of the tournament with a 136.
Brecel was one of the eight players in the first ever Power Snooker event, held on 30 October 2010 at the indigO2, next to former reigning world champion Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui, Mark Selby, Ali Carter, Shaun Murphy, Jimmy White and Ronnie O'Sullivan. Brecel was defeated by O'Sullivan in the first round.
On 19 December 2010, Brecel was named the Young Belgian Sportsman of the year.
Brecel received a wild card for the Main Tour of the professional 2011/2012 season on 5 May 2011.
Brecel became a professional snooker player in June 2011, beating Anthony Hamilton in his first official professional match. By August 2011, he was ranked 87 on the Snooker world rankings, as second Belgian after Bjorn Haneveer, then ranked 65. In January 2012, he made his first 147 break in an amateur tournament.
Brecel played in all 12 of the minor-ranking Players Tour Championship events throughout the season, with his best finishes coming in Event 2, Event 8 and Event 9, where he reached the last 32 each time. He finished 69th on the Order of Merit.
Brecel became the youngest ever player to qualify for the World Snooker Championship in 2012, after defeating Ian McCulloch, Barry Pinches, Michael Holt and Mark King. In doing so he broke the record of Stephen Hendry from 1986, as he was almost 2 months older than Brecel. He also became one of five players to qualify for the tournament under 18 years of age and played in his first ranking event main draw, but lost 5–10 in the first round against Stephen Maguire despite making a century break and a 96 break during the match.
Although finishing the season outside the top 64 who automatically retain their places on the snooker tour, Brecel received a two-year wildcard, along with Tony Drago. World Snooker chairman, Barry Hearn said the decision was made as it would be a "loss to the sport" if Brecel did not feature. Brecel was awarded the Rookie of the Year Award at the World Snooker Annual Award Ceremony.
In July 2012, Brecel made his second 147 break in an amateur tournament. In qualifying for the first ranking event of the season, the 2012 Wuxi Classic, Brecel reached the third qualifying round but ultimately lost 5–4 to Jamie Burnett. He made three century breaks.
Next up for Brecel was the first PTC event of the year. The teenager had a good run, beating former world champions Graeme Dott and Ken Doherty on his way to the last 16 where he met Judd Trump who beat him 4–1. Brecel made two centuries in the tournament. Brecel was beaten in the first round of the second PTC event of the year, 4–2, by Matthew Selt. He fared a little better in the first European Tour event of the season reaching the last 64 but was beaten 4–3 by Rory McLeod. The Belgian was also knocked out in the last 64 of the third PTC of the season, 4–1, by Chinese player Xiao Guodong. He made one century in the tournament. Brecel lost in the last 64 of both the Gdynia Open (where he made a century) and the Antwerp Open to Mark Joyce and Stuart Bingham respectively. The Belgian was eliminated in the first round of the fourth PTC event of the season, losing 4-3 to Jimmy Robertson. Soon after this defeat Brecel traveled to Sofia to play in the Bulgarian Open. He won his first round match but was beaten 4-0 by Mark Davis in the second round. He finished 51st on the PTC Order of Merit.
Brecel failed to qualify for the 2012 Shanghai Masters, losing 5–1 in the second round to Andy Hicks. He also failed to qualify for the fourth ranking event of the season, the 2012 International Championship, losing 6–3 to Anthony Hamilton in the third round. Brecel led Barry Pinches 3-0 in qualifying for the 2013 German Masters but was eventually beaten 5-4.
Brecel qualified for the 2012 UK Championship after coming through four rounds of qualifying. He beat Scott Donaldson 6–5, Peter Lines 6–4, Liu Chuang 6–3 and former World Champion Peter Ebdon 6–1, making 5 century breaks in the process, to reach the main draw of a ranking event for the second time. The Belgian won his first ever match in a ranking event by beating Ricky Walden 6–5 in the first round. He followed this up with a 6–4 win over Mark King (notably coming from 0-3 behind) to become the first Belgian player to reach the quarter-finals of a ranking event. He was eventually defeated 6–5 in the quarter-final by Shaun Murphy, having missed a pink which would have given him an opportunity to win on the final black in each of the last two frames.
Following this success, surprisingly, Brecel failed to win any other qualifying match for the rest of the season and therefore could not repeat last year's run to The Crucible, as he was beaten 6–10 by amateur Fraser Patrick in the first round of World Championship Qualifying. He ended his second year as a professional ranked world number 72.
The 2013/2014 season started badly for Brecel as he lost in the qualifying rounds for the first five ranking events. He received automatic entry into the first round of the UK Championship as all 128 players on the tour began the event at the venue and he beat Mike Dunn 6–4, but then lost 6–5 to Stephen Maguire, despite having held a 5–2 lead. Brecel qualified for the next ranking event, the German Masters, by defeating James Wattana 5–3, but was eliminated by Joe Perry 5–2 in the opening round. Brecel failed to win a match in either of his next two ranking events as Jimmy Robertson defeated him 4–2 in the last 128 of the Welsh Open whilst Ryan Day won a deciding frame in the first round of the World Open to win 5–4. His best result of the year came at the penultimate ranking event of the season, the China Open where he reached the second round thanks to the withdrawal of Mark Allen. Brecel then comfortably beat Dominic Dale 5–1 in the last 16, but missed out on his second career quarter-final as he lost 5–2 against Graeme Dott. In the minor-ranking European Tour events played throughout the season, Brecel advanced to the quarter-finals of the Ruhr Open by seeing off Stuart Bingham 4–1, but was then edged out by Robbie Williams in a deciding frame by 73 points to 72 in a 4–3 defeat. He finished 39th on the European Order of Merit and inside the top 64 in the world ranking for the first time, at number 63.
The first ranking event Brecel qualified for in the 2014/2015 season was the Australian Goldfields Open where he was defeated by Matthew Stevens 5–3 in the opening round. He was whitewashed 6–0 by Mark Allen in the second round of the UK Championship. At the Welsh Open he defeated world number 15 Robert Milkins 4–0 in the opening round, Tian Pengfei 4–1 and Oliver Brown 4–0. In the Pengfei match he made a break of 140, the highest in his professional career and ultimately the highest in the tournament. Furthermore, he would go on to beat reigning world champion and world number one Mark Selby in the fourth round after a deciding frame (4–3), having been 2–0 and 3–2 down, to reach the quarter-finals. There, Brecel met Ricky Walden, another top 16 player (ranked number 9 at the time). Brecel lost the first three frames, but he followed this up by winning the next five on the trot in order to reach the first ranking semi-final ever of his professional career. Four-time world champion John Higgins beat him 6–4. A pair of quarter-final exits in the European Tour events during the year saw Brecel finish 16th on the Order of Merit to make his debut in the Grand Final, where he lost 4–0 to Judd Trump in the opening round. His good season saw him climb 19 places in the rankings to end it at a career-high 44th in the world.