2022 German Masters – Day 4 – Semi-Finals

There was just one table yesterday at an almost full Tempodrom. The ever great German crowd supported all four players as the semi-finals unfolded to lead to an all Chinese Final line-up and the youngest one too since 2006. Indeed it’s Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao facing each other today over a possible 17 frames in the battle for the Brandon Parker Trophy.

Here is how we got there

Zhao Xintong 6-3 Ricky Walden (WST report):

Zhao Fightback Floors Walden

World number nine Zhao Xintong came from behind to beat Ricky Walden 6-3 and reach the second ranking final of his career, at the BildBet German Masters in Berlin.

China’s Zhao has undergone a sharp ascension to the very top of the sport this season. Victory at the UK Championship saw him land a first ranking and Triple Crown title in December. The 24-year-old beat Belgian Luca Brecel in York to scoop the £200,000 top prize.

That came despite the fact his career was on the line just four years ago, when he was relegated from the professional circuit. He needed to come through Q School to regain his place and is only now showing the scope of his vast potential.

Walden will be disappointed to let a 3-1 advantage slip from his grasp this afternoon, but can take solace from the fact he has comfortably qualified for the upcoming Players Championship. The elite event is reserved for only the top 16 players on this season’s one-year money list.

The Chester cueman also made the last four of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open earlier in the campaign and has enjoyed a strong season thus far. Walden, a winner of three ranking titles, now appears to be reproducing his form from earlier in his career. He endured a barren spell on the baize after suffering back problems between 2016 and 2017.

Zhao will now face either Mark Allen or compatriot Yan Bingtao in tomorrow’s final over the best of 17 frames, with the Brandon Parker Trophy on the line.

It was Walden who made the early running this afternoon. He took the opening two frames, before Zhao compiled a run of 78 to pull within one at 2-1.

The last frame before the mid-session saw Zhao establish a 51-0 lead, before missing a pink to the middle. Walden pounced with 66 to head into the interval 3-1 ahead.

A crucial frame followed when play resumed, with Walden looking likely to establish a four frame cushion. He was in prime position, requiring just green and yellow, but a poor positional shot left himself a tricky frame ball. Walden spurned the green and allowed Zhao to steal on the black and make it 3-2.

Zhao showed no mercy in his punishment of the Walden error. The Cyclone surged to make it five on the bounce, including breaks of 65, 72 and 100, to wrap up the 6-3 win and book his place in the title match.

It is amazing to be in the final for a second time, I will enjoy it tomorrow,” said Zhao.”I want to play Bingtao, because it is very important to Chinese snooker. I want to play against him in the final.

Today we didn’t play very well and I was 3-1 down at the mid-session. The fifth frame was very important to me because he missed an easy green. It was very important to win that frame and when I made it 3-2 I thought I had a chance to win the match. I was really focussed, knew I needed to win and I did.

I liked it today. It is such a beautiful venue and there were lots of beautiful fans in there. I liked it, but it did put a bit of pressure on me.

Walden said: “If you pass up opportunities at this level it does seem to come back to bite you and losing that fifth frame was a bit of a body blow.

I think I have to look at it logically. If I could have five shots again in that game and I would probably win it. The balls don’t forgive you and the standard is too high. You get beat comfortably if you make those mistakes.

Winning events allows you to free roll. You can play shots that are more care free. It is different when you aren’t chasing rankings. It is a totally different way to come at it. He is playing great stuff and he has a great future ahead of him as well.”

It was a match in two halves really: before and after “that green”. It really turned on that single shot. It is true that neither was at his best in the first mini session, but the way Zhao took that unexpected opportunity and built on that afterwards is the mark of a champion.

He got his wich … he will face Yan Bingtao in the final.

Yan Bingtao 6-4 Mark Allen (WST report):

Yan Sets Up All-Chinese Final

China’s Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong will contest the BildBet German Masters final, after Yan scored a 6-4 defeat of Mark Allen in the last four on Saturday evening in Berlin.

The title match will be a showdown between two players who have grown up practising together at Victoria’s Snooker Academy in Sheffield.

They both moved to the United Kingdom as teenagers seeking careers in snooker. Yan was only 15 years old when he turned professional in 2016, while Zhao was 18 when he earned a place on the World Snooker Tour in the same year.

Both have now reached the very top of the sport and landed maiden Triple Crown titles last year. Yan became 2021 Masters champion when he beat John Higgins in the final, while Zhao defeated Luca Brecel in the UK Championship final back in December.

With Yan now aged 21 and Zhao 24, tomorrow’s match will be the youngest ranking final since Neil Robertson beat Jamie Cope at the 2006 Grand Prix.

It is only the second ranking final between two players from mainland China in the history of the sport, after Ding Junhui’s win over Xiao Guodong at the 2013 Shanghai Masters.

They will do battle over the best of 17 frames tomorrow with the Brandon Parker Trophy and a top prize of £80,000 on the line.

When play got underway this evening, a break of 75 saw Allen claim the opener, before Yan won a cagey second to restore parity at 1-1.

Allen landed a cross double on the yellow in the third to set up a frame winning run of 20 to steal on the pink. However, Yan ensured they went into the mid-session locked level at 2-2, following a sublime run of 116.

When play resumed the Tiger took to the front for the first time with a break of 53 helping him to move 3-2 ahead. Yan then added his third on the bounce to establish a two-frame cushion at 4-2.

Antrim’s Allen refused to fade away and a century break of 104 saw him claw back within a single frame. Despite that, Yan won a 30-minute eighth on the black to move to the brink of victory at 5-3. Allen won the next to keep himself in contention, before a dramatic 10th frame.

It came down to the blue, where Allen managed to get a snooker to leave himself needing the final three balls to force a re-spot. However, he squandered a chance on the pink to the middle. Eventually, Yan deposited a long range pink to get over the line and clinch his place in the final.

I am very good friends with Zhao, we have practised together and played phone games together for so many years. We are always together. We will both enjoy tomorrow,” said Yan, who won his maiden ranking title at the 2019 Riga Masters.

I am very happy tonight, because Mark is a great player. He is always difficult to play because I have lost to him a few times. I knew tonight would be hard and I needed a lot of difficult pots to get the win.”

Allen said: “I struggled from start to finish. I should have gone 2-0 up and never recovered. I tried really hard, but nothing came easily to me. As much as I felt really confident in the first three matches and things were coming naturally, it was hard work today. I should have made it 5-5, but I was nowhere near my best and Yan thoroughly deserved to win.

I think this season Yan and particularly Zhao Xintong have shown those levels of consistency. Everyone knew how good they were, but the consistency has come on. Everyone else has to catch up.

Actually, it wasn’t a great match, neither of them was at his best. It was to be expected from Yan because he had been involved in two really hard-fought, long matches on the previous day. He had certainly spent a lot of energy en route to the semi-final. Mark however had a rather easy passage and it’s hard to explain why he couldn’t reproduce the form he had shown in the previous days. Every day is different and form is not a tap you can turn at will.

There was however a comical element to this match as Alan McManus was in the commentary box really struggling to predict Yan’s “next shot”. Obviously their minds don’t work in the same way and the usually excellent “Angles” sounded baffled and mystified at the mike…

Today’s final is a clash of styles but those two know each-other’s game inside-out. Zhao will be the fresher of the two but it would be foolish to write Yan off because he has such a strong, stubborn will to win …

Tomorrow we enter the “Year of the Tiger” as China will celebrate its New Year. Is it a sign? We shall see. Whoever wins tonight, this match is indeed important for snooker in China. It is important because it gives hope to all the young aspiring Chinese players. Ding has been the trailblazer but he has been a bit of a “mental block” for many of the Chinese players that are currently in their late twenties/early thirties. Such is his status in China that they didn’t really believe they could beat him, or even emulate his successes. Zhao and Yan are currently breaking that invisible barrier. Their successes should actually be seen as a tribute to Ding. They wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for him.

Good luck to both players!

Yesterday’s results mean that, unless something unexpected happens, Ronnie is due to face Judd Trump in the first round of the Players Championship.

 

One thought on “2022 German Masters – Day 4 – Semi-Finals

  1. In many ways it’s an even more interesting final than the UK Championship. Zhao and Yan may both be young Chinese players, but they couldn’t be more different – they are exact opposites in almost every way.

    I agree with Alan McManus. Yan Bingtao is almost impossible to predict. That’s OK for a 21-year old, as in time nodoubt all his ‘experimental’ shots will give him deep experience. I keep thinking that he can’t have any energy left, but somehow he manages to find a way to win. His opponents seem to lose their sharpness.

    So yes, it should be a fascinating match, perhaps being the first big clash of a great rivalry. People have made parallels to Higgins-O’Sullivan (27 years ago). It’s also a triumph for Victoria, who also manages Fan Zhengyi and Si Jiahui, who are also progressing. She had to work very hard even to get her 5 players to Berlin.

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