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English Open Final Preview: Long night expected in Brentwood

The English Open field has been whittled down to two and the best-of-17 frames final starts on Sunday afternoon with Mark Selby taking on Luca Brecel.

For Selby it is a great chance to end a disappointing 2022 on a high after reaching his first ranking final since he triumphed at the World Championship last year.

He is 1/2 to claim his 21st ranking tournament nearly 20 years after his first, but Brecel, who is 13/8 to get his hands on the trophy, will be feeling confident that he can claim a big prize as he looks for his third triumph at this level.

It promises to be an intriguing battle at the Brentwood Centre with both players having plenty to prove.

What: Mark Selby v Luca Brecel
Where: Brentwood Centre, Brentwood
When: 13:00, Sunday 18th December
How to watch: Eurosport 1 and bet365's Sports Live Streaming
Odds: Mark Selby 1/2, Luca Brecel 13/8

Selby has shown his battling qualities

It is a significant jump from the best-of-11 that decided the semi-finals, and that could mean Brecel finds Selby a really tough nut to crack.

The short format of previous rounds meant quick starts were essential, but Selby demonstrated the sort of fighting strength that will bode well for the challenge his Belgian opponent presents.

Selby, who won this tournament in 2019 with a thumping 9-1 success over Dave Gilbert in Crawley, found himself 3-2 down against Ali Carter in the quarter-finals before winning the final three frames to progress.

That must have given him a shot in the arm too as he got himself into a similar predicament when facing defending champion Neil Robertson in the last four.

Then, he was 3-1 down to the Aussie but lost just one of the next six frames, further boosting his confidence with a break of 136, the highest of his six centuries so far.

That was a strong performance and should give him all the optimism that his 31st ranking final will be a happy experience after he was knocked out at the quarter-final stage of the British Open, Northern Ireland Open and Scottish Open earlier this year.

Brecel should not be underestimated

Luca Brecel, however, is just the sort of player who will not simply allow Selby to dominate and he has demonstrated he has no fear of some of the big names at this tournament.

Seeded 11th, he has flown out of the blocks in his last two matches after victories over Oliver Lines, Scott Donaldson and Jamie Jones earned him a place in the last eight.

It was at the quarter-final stage where his tournament came to life when he stormed into a 4-0 lead against Judd Trump and even a 128 break from the 2019 world champion came too late for him to avoid a humbling 5-1 loss.

And the Belgian was in equally dynamic form in his semi-final against Mark Allen, winning the first five frames before posting a 6-2 success.

It is like he has suddenly flowered in Essex this week. He did win the Championship League at the start of the season and was a semi-finalist in last year’s Tour Championship, but there hasn’t been much success since he beat John Higgins 9-5 to win the Scottish Open just over 12 months ago.

There has instead mainly been a list of first and second-round exits, but he will no doubt be anxious to grab the opportunity when he wasn’t greatly fancied this week and he should not be underestimated.

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Final predictions

It would be fair to say that both of these players have grown into the tournament and it is little surprise to see Selby such a short favourite to get the job done.

It has been a while since he has been on the big stage on a Sunday, but his battling qualities came to the fore against Carter and Robertson.

And it is likely that may have to happen again, as we have a final where a player who has taken time to get into his stride is up against someone who has shown no early fear.

Brecel, who has beaten Selby in three of their ten meetings, took the game to both Trump and Allen and could make another swift start.

The longer format could aid Selby’s grinding qualities and he could be left with plenty of work to do late on, so the 8/11 that there will be more than 14.5 frames could be of interest. We could be in for a long night.

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