Today John Higgins, 45 years old, will face Yan Bingtao, 20 years old, in the final of the the 2021 Masters. This is many ways is mind blowing.
John Higgins turned professional in 1992, probably in late spring. Yan Bingtao was born in February 2000, nearly eight years later. When Yan was born, John, 24 years old, had already won 13 ranking titles, including the World Championship (1998) and the UK Championship (1988). He had also won the Masters (1999), completing what is now known as the “Triple Crown”. In fact in those days the BBC was also airing a fourth “major” tournament, the Grand Prix. John had won that too, in 1994, It was actually his first ranking title. He was 19 years old. He had beaten Willie Thorne, Martin Clark, James Wattana, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Joe Swail and Dave Harold for the title. Yan was 19 years old when he won his first title, the 2019 Riga Masters.
Of the Class of 92, Mark Williams was the best potter, Ronnie the best break builder and the most flamboyant, John the best match player. John was the first of the three to become World Champion. Yan, in my view, is very similar to John by many aspects. It will be an interesting match. If Yan can win today, I expect him to become the first Chinese Snooker World Champion, in a not too distant future.
Whoever wins, it will be a great story.
Here are the reports by WST:
Yan Fightback Floors Bingham
Chinese 20-year-old Yan Bingtao stunned defending champion Stuart Bingham 6-5 to reach the Betfred Masters final in Milton Keynes.
The win makes Yan the youngest Masters finalist since compatriot Ding Junhui, who was runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2007. If he goes on to win the final, he will be the youngest Masters champion since O’Sullivan claimed the title in 1995 at the age of 19. Victory for Yan tomorrow would also see him become only the second Asian winner of a Triple Crown event after Ding.
It’s been a dream debut for Yan, who claimed his maiden ranking title at the 2019 Riga Masters and has since risen to world number 11, which secured his first ever Masters appearance.
All of Yan’s matches this week have been won by a 6-5 scoreline, beating Neil Robertson, Stephen Maguire and now Bingham in deciding frames. He’ll face either John Higgins or David Gilbert in tomorrow’s final, with the winner picking up £250,000 and the Paul Hunter Trophy.
A run of six consecutive Masters match wins for Bingham comes to an end. The Essex cueman defeated Ali Carter 10-8 in a thrilling final 12 months ago. However, defeat today sees him fall short of this year’s title match.
It was Bingham who stole this afternoon’s opening frame on the black, before Yan restored parity at 1-1 with a run of 94.
Yan had looked in position to win the third after composing a break of 67. However, a clearance of 47 saw Bingham steal on the black for the second time in the match. He went on to consolidate his lead with a run of 87 to hold a 3-1 advantage at the mid-session.
They then traded frames, as Bingham edged into a 4-2 lead. From there, the momentum in the match switched as Yan claimed three on the bounce, including breaks of 63 and 100, to move a frame from the final at 5-4.
A remarkable tenth frame twisted one way, then the other. Bingham had looked in position to take it, before falling out of position on the final brown. A poor safety afforded an opportunity to Yan, who deposited the brown before falling out of position himself. Eventually Bingham potted blue and pink to force a decider.
Yan steadied himself and fired in a fearless break of 65 in the final frame to seal a famous victory.
Yan said: “I didn’t expect to win another decider, but I was really pleased I got through. I was very nervous in the final frame. My body started shaking, but I’m happy I held my nerve.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I will take tomorrow in the same way as the other matches. I am already happy to reach this far.
“All my family and my girlfriend were watching and they have already sent their congratulations. They are very happy for me.”
Higgins Reaches Fifth Masters Final
John Higgins is through to the Betfred Masters final after a 6-4 defeat of David Gilbert in Milton Keynes.
Scotland’s two-time Masters winner Higgins hasn’t appeared in the final since he won the title in 2006, when he defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9 in an epic clash at the Wembley Conference Centre.
Higgins’ path to the title match this year has seen him beat Mark Allen 6-5, before defeating O’Sullivan 6-3 in a classic quarter-final and seeing off Gilbert this evening. He will now face Yan Bingtao over the best of 19 frames, with a £250,000 top prize and the Paul Hunter Trophy up for grabs.
Higgins, a four-time World Champion, last lifted Triple Crown silverware at the 2011 World Championship and his most recent individual title came at the 2018 Welsh Open.
For the second year in a row, Gilbert will have to settle for exiting at the semi-final stage. He reached the last four on his debut 12 months ago, where he was beaten by eventual winner Stuart Bingham.
This evening’s encounter got off to a high quality start, with Gilbert composing a break of 80 to claim the opener. Higgins replied with a century break of 107 to draw level at 1-1.
Gilbert regained the lead thanks to a break of 86 to lead 2-1, but Higgins responded to restore parity and head into the mid-session locked together at 2-2.
When they returned, breaks of 107 and 55 saw Higgins assume control and make it 4-2. However, Gilbert refused to wilt and claimed a hard fought seventh frame to claw back within one.
The Tamworth cueman then edged a dramatic eighth, after firing in a superb long range pink and depositing the black to make it 4-4.
Higgins edged one from the win after crafting a run of 56 in the following frame, before taking a tense 31-minute tenth to secure his place in the final.
“I’ve never enjoyed semi-finals. They are the worst games. You are so close to being in a big final. I’m over the moon to beat Dave,” said 45-year-old Higgins. “It would probably be one of my best ever wins, to win the Masters at this age. I will go in and enjoy it tomorrow and give it my best.
“Yan has a great all round game. He and Zhou Yuelong have the best all round games coming through from China. I think Yan believes he can win the event. He’s served his apprenticeship. He’s thinking he can win, I think I can win, so hopefully it will be a good match.
“I watched the UK Championship final between Judd and Neil. You are obviously a little bit jealous, because these guys are competing for the big events. To be honest I maybe wasn’t expecting to get to the final, but I went to the Championship League and played pretty well, it gave me a wee bit of extra confidence coming here. I’ll relish it tomorrow, I don’t know how many more big finals like this I’ll be in.”
Gilbert said: “I’ve got nothing but positives to take away. I didn’t know what would happen when I came here so I would have probably taken getting to the semi-finals. When you get here you want more. I am disappointed right now, I feel like I could have done a bit better.”