Luca Brecel became only the fourth non-British winner to be crowned world champion at the Crucible Theatre thanks to his thrilling 18-15 win over Mark Selby on Monday evening and the Belgian is 12/1 to defend his title next year.
Cliff Thorburn, Ken Doherty and Neil Robertson were the only three other non-British world champions and now Brecel has followed in their footsteps, with his victory likely to see snooker spark into life in Belgium.
Having led 15-10, the Belgian had to manage the Selby fightback as the four-time world champion rallied and won five frames in a row to take the score to 16-15. But Brecel handled the pressure exceptionally well and breaks of 51 and 112 saw him close out the match, making him the first overseas player to triumph in Sheffield since Robertson in 2010.
It’s a fourth ranking title in the career of Brecel and his second of the season, having won the Championship League at the start of the campaign.
The £500,000 first prize sees him move from tenth to second in the world rankings, behind only Ronnie O'Sullivan, who he defeated 13-10 in the quarter-finals.
Selby, having won the title four times, is 5/1 to go one better next year while seven-time champion O'Sullivan is 4/1 to regain the trophy he won in 2022.
|What||World Championship 2024|
|Where||Crucible Theatre, Sheffield|
|When||20th April 2024 – 6th May 2024|
|How to watch||bet365 Sports Live Streaming, BBC & Eurosport|
|Odds||Ronnie O'Sullivan 4/1, Mark Selby 5/1, Judd Trump 13/2, Neil Robertson 15/2, Luca Brecel 12/1|
's natural talent has never been questioned and he became the youngest ever player to play at the World Championship at the age of 17 in 2012.
Now 28, the Belgian has taken time to live up to that promise but his performances in Sheffield this year have been truly astonishing.
Despite stating he had put in little preparation for this event and with him electing to drive back home to Belgium through the night in between matches, Brecel thrived on the biggest stage of them all.
It was a second Triple Crown final for Brecel as he finished runner-up to Zhao Xintong at the 2021 UK Championship, but he had won only three ranking titles before and his record at Sheffield had been abysmal.
All five of Brecel's previous visits to the Crucible Theatre ended in the opening round and it could have been another early exit for the Belgian as he only just came through a nervy first-round clash with Ricky Walden, prevailing 10-9.
But that victory sparked something from within for Brecel and subsequent wins over Mark Williams, O'Sullivan, Si Jiahui and Selby made him a truly deserving champion.
Brecel trailed O'Sullivan 10-6 in his quarter-final and looked on his way out until reeling off seven consecutive frames to win 13-10, while he had been 14-5 down in his semi-final showdown with Si until an even more dramatic turnaround saw him prevail 17-15.
The Belgian was always in the ascendancy against Selby and was not behind at any point in the match, with his 18-15 win featuring five centuries and two more breaks of 90-plus.
Brecel's swashbuckling style has earned rave reviews but this victory showed he had the temperament to match his skill, something that had once come under scrutiny.
The 28-year-old must now show that this win was not a flash in the pan and continue to lead the challenge of the younger generation.
Mark Selby went into this final with Brecel as a strong favourite, courtesy of his past experiences of high-pressure situations and him already being a four-time world champion.
Not only that but 'the Jester from Leicester' is arguably the toughest competitor of his generation and over such a long format, his tactical nous was expected to come to the fore.
Brecel's long-potting and excellent break-building won the day but Selby showed great character, particularly in the final session as he won five frames in a row to put real pressure on the front-running Belgian.
While it wasn't to be this year for Selby, it highlighted that there should be many more opportunities for him to add to his four world titles at the Crucible Theatre.
The 39-year-old is the true definition of a Crucible specialist and not only did he outclass fellow four-time champion John Higgins 13-7 in the quarter-final, but he ground out a 17-15 win over the season's form man Mark Allen in the semi-final too.
That gruelling semi-final with Allen may have taken something out of Selby but it should still be considered an excellent season for the Leicester cueman, who took his ranking title tally to 22 with his win at the WST Classic in January.