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Luca Brecel battles into last 16 of UK Championship

World champion Luca Brecel kicked off his UK Championship campaign with a gruelling 6-4 victory over Yuan Sijun in York.

The Belgian celebrated his shock Crucible success six months ago by spending half his winnings on a £250,000 Ferrari and revealed he drained his bank balance further this week by adding a Range Rover and a Porsche Taycan to his growing garage.

“I bought two more cars this week so I went from a millionaire to a non-millionaire,” said Brecel. “It was a conscious decision to buy the cars and maybe feel that bit of pressure again, to recreate the feeling I had of just starting my career.”

Brecel, who will replenish his ailing balance by a Ferrari-sized £250,000 if he goes on to claim his first UK title next Sunday, said he struggled in the aftermath of his epic triumph over Mark Selby, having achieved a dream that drove him since he first picked up a cue at the age of nine.

“I didn’t go lazy, but I just didn’t feel that hunger or motivation going from tournament to tournament,” added Brecel.

“I don’t like that feeling and I had to change something. I wasn’t feeling any pressure any more. I was just playing and if I lost I was happy to be home. It’s not a good mindset to have.

“If you feel like that it’s impossible to change, but in the last few weeks I’ve been tired of losing in early rounds and I want to have that hunger to go deep again in tournaments.”

Brecel’s post-world title winning campaign has been far from a write-off, having reached the final of the Shanghai Masters in September and the third round of two ranking tournaments, and there were glimpses in his win over Yuan of the player who could ascend to the world number one ranking for the first time this week.

Two centuries and a further break of 86 proved enough for the Belgian, who twice came back from behind then was pegged back to 4-4 before raising his game to progress to the last 16 of a tournament where he reached the final two years ago.

Brecel must repeat the feat in order to stand any chance of reaching the top spot but he conceded that task alone does not provide the boost he needs to buckle down: “I’m still young and I feel like one day I’m going to get to number one anyway.

“I’ve been one match away and one frame away from world number one. I think my best chance was going to the Wuhan Open and I didn’t, so that shows you how much it keeps me busy.

“But it would be nice to tick it off, I’m not going to lie.”

The start of Sunday’s evening session was delayed by an hour after a small fire was discovered in the venue foyer, prompting an evacuation by the fire brigade.

When play finally got under way, it was 2008 champion Shaun Murphy who felt the heat as he was beaten 6-4 by Iran’s Hossein Vafaei in a match that ticked just beyond midnight.

Matt Selt racked up two centuries in a 6-3 win over 10th seed Ali Carter, while China’s in-form Zhang Anda ground out an attritional 6-5 win over Elliot Slessor to book a second-round meeting with Brecel.

READ MORE: 2023/24 Snooker Calendar: Every major televised tournament, dates, results and where to watch

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