Luca Brecel admits he’s glad to lose Crucible crown in defeat to refocussed Dave Gilbert

Luca Brecel became the latest victim of the Crucible curse (Picture: Getty Images)

Luca Brecel’s reign as world champion is over and he admits he is glad of it, looking forward to being out of the spotlight again next season.

The Belgian Bullet was beaten 10-9 by Dave Gilbert in a dramatic opener to the tournament on Saturday, which saw the champion struck down by the Crucible curse.

The 29-year-old looked very good early on, knocking in breaks of 91 and 134 in the opening two frames and was in a very strong position at 8-5 and 9-6 ahead.

However, the Angry Farmer reeled off the final four frames in impressive style to oust the champion and set up a second round meeting with either Rob Milkins or Pang Junxu,

Brecel clearly felt a heavy head while wearing the crown and quickly looked at the positives of relinquishing his title.

‘It was a good year, enjoyable, but to be honest I look forward to being a non-world champion again,’ he said. ‘I’ve been wanting this season to end for a long time, so quite relieved. I don’t like all the attention, it’s not my kind of thing.’

Asked if he would want to be world champion again, he said: ‘I don’t set those goals. It just happens. If it happens it’s good, I enjoy it. But if it doesn’t happen then life is the same, it’s all in balance.’

Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2024 - Day One

Dave Gilbert thoroughly entertained the Crucible crowd (Picture: Getty Images)

Brecel is a philosophical character and tends not to get too up or down after wins or losses as he continues the ‘infinite game’ of snooker.

‘I’m in a good place mentally, everything’s good so I’ll try to work hard for next season,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t make a difference to me, even if I win you will never see me like “oh my god I won!” It’s an infinite game, this snooker life, so why should you be happy if you win and sad if you lose? It’s about long-term vision, it’s all good.’

The Bullet was clearly suffering with a throat infection which he has been struggling with for weeks, his voice hoarse in the post-match press conference, but he was not making excuses.

‘I’ve been ill since Saudi, to be honest, it’s been a tough few weeks, it’s just an infection, it will pass,’ he said.

‘It’s just an infection I’ve been coughing all day, it gives me a headache, but it’s no excuse, it’s not the reason because I played well in the game, I’ll never make that an excuse. If you make that an excuse you should stay home. Just not good enough, I missed too many balls. He capitalised, played well, he kept fighting which was good to see.’

Gilbert is into the second round for the first time since 2021 (Picture: Getty Images)

Gilbert scored one of the finest wins of his career in beating Brecel on the biggest stage, with four half-centuries in the final four frames to get over the line in style.

After a quiet season, the 42-year-old has refocussed and his time on the practice table and in the gym is paying off, even if he admits frustration was setting in at points.

‘I was out there and I wanted to play,’ he said. ‘I got frustrated at times, but that’s me. I don’t mind showing a bit of emotion, having the hump, it helps me at times if I channel it right.

‘Even at 8-5, I went in the dressing room with Andy [Lee, friend and fellow player] and he had to dodge a few apples, bananas and biscuits flying around the room. I was angry, I felt like I’d chucked it away and could be ahead. But I did say I was getting chances, if I can find my rhythm I can win and that’s how it’s played out.’

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Gilbert hit something of a low just last month when he pulled out of the World Open in Yushan at the last minute, despite qualifying for the event.

He did not want to go into why he was at a low ebb, but he credits his friend and now former professional player Andy Lee for turning things around for him.

‘I didn’t go to China. I’ve got to thank Andy Lee for turning up at my club and having a bit of a chat with me,’ he said. ‘We’ve practiced every day, he’s got me back in the gym, I’ve loved it. I’ve practiced hard.

‘I was going to China and then I just didn’t. I’m not going to bore people with that, World Snooker know all about it. But I feel a hell of a lot better just for the gym and I’ve enjoyed the practice.

‘I was actually practicing the first day when I was supposed to be playing in China. Some geezer come in the club and I served him the balls and he asked if I was supposed to be playing in China. I looked at the time and said, “yeah in about 20 minutes I’m supposed to be kicking off mate.” Then I went upstairs and practiced. He thought I was an absolute loon, but it was the best thing I did.’

Brecel is hoping Gilbert can continue his resurgence all the way to the world title.

‘I really hope so,’ said the Bullet. ‘I just like Dave, he’s a bit like me, he’s very down to earth, says it how it is, doesn’t take himself too seriously which is fantastic. I really love him, he’s a good guy.’


MORE : Dave Gilbert reckons Luca Brecel is not getting what he deserves: ‘I find that unbelievable’


MORE : Luca Brecel hungry for more success after wild year as world champion

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