sport

Brecel awarded tour wild card

Luca Brecel was handed the consolation of a two-year tour card after the prodigious teenager was knocked out of the World Championship.

The Belgian, who at 17 years and 45 days yesterday became the youngest player to make a Crucible debut, was finished off 10-5 by Scotland's Stephen Maguire in the first round on Monday morning, but not before showing further glimpses of the talent which many expect will bring him world titles.

To survive on the tour by right, finishing in the top 64 ranking places, qualifier Brecel needed to reach the World Championship semi-finals.

But Maguire said it would be "a travesty" if Brecel was not given the chance to stay in the professional ranks next season, and World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn agreed, later announcing he and Malta's Tony Drago would be awarded wild cards.

"I'm never keen to keep a player unless it's justified and with Luca it's justified," said Hearn.

"I think it would have been a loss for the sport. Travesties sometimes happen. Cao Yupeng has to win his next match or he'll lose his tour card, and he is in the last 16 of the World Championships.

"You're never going to get it dead right. I think Luca is a prodigious talent but he hasn't shown enough of it over the year - one swallow doesn't make a summer. But for me he is the perfect image of a young player.

"He's potentially a huge ticket for me."

Maguire likened Brecel to last year's runner-up Judd Trump and predicted he would soon be a title contender.

Maguire said: "Giving him a wild card is a no-brainer really. To be on the tour next year with all the experience he's gained this year, the matches that he won to get here, he's got everything going for him and he looks like a nice kid as well.

"Good luck to him and I hope I don't draw him in the World Championship next year.

"So far everything is going right. I wouldn't be surprised if he won it soon."

Brecel left the arena grinning after Maguire wrapped up his win, and then said: "I know I can play so much better. But I want to be back next year and the future will be a different story."

Asked about the prospect of becoming world champion in future, Brecel said, "Yes, easy", before revising his answer, saying: "Yes, it's definitely possible."

Maguire agrees Brecel is a rare talent, the Glaswegian saying: "He's a potting machine isn't he. He's one of the fastest players I've seen and he's fearless.

"He plays the same shots as Judd does right now. Judd's obviously starting to get a bit of a safety game together, which Luca will eventually get. But in all honesty you don't want him getting a safety game just yet, you want him scaring the life out of people."