Defending Champion Luca Brecel Crashes Out

The Belgian had won the first tournament after the lockdown restrictions were relaxed in June.

Reigning champion Luca Brecel is out of the Championship League at the first hurdle after losing to Tom Ford on Friday in Milton Keynes.

The former China Championship winner looked in good shape early on in Group 27, winning his opening two fixtures against Mitchell Mann and Ashley Hugill.

However, with Ford also unbeaten following his first couple of ties, it resulted in a head-to-head for the top spot between the pair.

Brecel only needed a draw to progress and got off to the perfect start when he won the first frame of their contest.

But Ford clinched a pivotal second frame and subsequently shifted through the gears in emphatic fashion, taking both of the last two frames with impressive contributions of 98 and 123.

Luca Brecel was the champion of this event at the start of the summer when the players returned from their coronavirus-related hiatus.

The 25 year-old will play no further part in this edition of the Championship League, though, as Ford advances to the next stage of the competition instead.

Also reaching the last 32 was Jamie Clarke, who memorably embarked on a run to the second round of the World Championship last month as a qualifier in Sheffield.

Clarke took advantage of fellow Welshman Mark Williams’ withdrawal earlier this week to comprehensively see off the challenges of Mark Joyce and replacement amateur Hayden Pinhey.

There were only three players competing in Group 28 after Lei Peifan returned an invalid COVID-19 test result and was therefore unable to participate.

Instead, the three remaining players encountered each other twice and Clarke dominated with a hat-trick of victories and one draw.

Ford and Clarke move forward to the next group stage and will feature in another round-robin league alongside former champions John Higgins and Martin Gould at the end of October.

Kyren Wilson and Ali Carter are among the competitors set to enter the fray on Saturday.

Daniel Wells was supposed to be involved in Group 24 with Wilson but returned a positive COVID-19 test and will be unable to take part.

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