2021 WST Pro Series – Group K

Group K, played yesterday, was the first really tight group since the WST Pro Series.

Zhao Xintong topped the group and somehow, Dominic Dale snatchecd the second spot.

Here is the report by WST:

Spaceman Soars

Dominic Dale made a brilliant clearance in the last frame of the day to finish second in Group K and earn a place in the second phase of the WST Pro Series.

Zhao Xintong topped the group but it was Dale who provided the drama in a tense finish to his last match against Si Jiahui.

Andy Hicks could have taken second spot by beating Lee Walker, but lost 2-1. That left Dale needing to beat Si to qualify, and after losing the first frame the Welshman came from 44-1 down to take the second for 1-1. Dale then came from 41 points behind in the decider to make a superb break of 73.

Both Dale and Hicks finished the group with four wins out of seven and a frame difference of +2, but it was Dale who went through having won the head-to-head match with Hicks 2-1 at the start of the day. He joins Zhao in advancing to the second group stage in March in the new £420,500 world ranking event.

“The group was incredibly tight, every frame was so important. I was very lucky to get a chance to win in the last frame and I’ve no idea how I did it,” said two-time ranking event winner Dale. “I only had a couple of days practice before coming here. I started quite well today but then for my last four matches I couldn’t cue straight. I lost all my confidence, but just grafted away and used my experience to win frames. I made a lot of rudimentary mistakes. I don’t know how I finished second, I must be Dynamo the magician.”

This was the tightest group so far and after five of the seven rounds of matches, all eight players had either three or two wins. China’s Zhao rose to the occasion; he lost two of his first three games but then scored four wins in a row to top the group. The world number 28 made five centuries over the day including a 143.

NAME P W L FW FL P
Zhao Xintong 7 5 2 12 5 15
Dominic Dale 7 4 3 10 8 12
Andy Hicks 7 4 3 10 8 12
Si Jiahui 7 3 4 8 8 9
Lee Walker 7 3 4 8 10 9
Peter Devlin 7 3 4 7 9 9
Anthony McGill 7 3 4 7 10 9
Mark King 7 3 4 6 10 9

The  matches involving Lee Walker were unduly slow, unsurprisingly. At one  point during the afternoon, I was marking the scores for snooker.org, and, because of his match, that “session”  finished one full hour later than scheduled. How he can manage that in a best of three event is truly amazing, but not necessarily amusing. Against Zhao Xintong his AST was over 40 seconds… Now Mark Williams came out on twitter, saying that Lee has barely been able to walk for months, suffering from back issues and sciatica. So that explains it, and, all credit to Lee for trying. It must have been very hard. 

Dominc Dale reminded us that at the table he’s dead serious and hard as nails.

Watching Andy Hicks reminded me what  a capable player he is. Like many, he turned pro in 1991 when the game was opened, at the same time as Ken Doherty and Peter Ebdon, He reached the semi-finals  at the 1995 World Championship, beating Steve Davis, Willie Thorne and Peter Ebdon along the way.He was then beaten by  Nigel Bond, 11–16.  He also reached the semi-finals of the four “BBC events” in the span of 2 seasons: the 1994 Grand Prix, the 1995 UK Championship and the 1996 Masters (he was invited in that one as a wild card). His only profressional title came at the !997 Benson & Hedge Championship, back then a qualifying event for the Masters.  And basically, that was it. He reached two other semi-finals since: at the 2001 Masters and at the 2017 Shoot-0ut. It’s hard to explain really…

2021 WST Pro Series – Group C

Stuart Bingham dominated  Group C yesterday, and that’s an understatement. Judge by yourself…

This is WST report on Group C:

Bingham In Seventh Heaven

World number 12 Bingham hasn’t gone beyond the last 16 of a ranking event so far this season

Stuart Bingham won seven matches out of seven without conceding a frame as he romped into the second phase of the WST Pro Series.

Sam Craigie also made it through thanks to a 2-0 win over Billy Castle in his final match. They both advance to the second group stage in March in the new £420,500 world ranking event.

Former World Champion Bingham knocked in breaks of 70, 90, 65, 76, 50, 134, 124, 71, 75, 89 and 87 in winning 14 consecutive frames.

“When the draw came out I thought it would be a tough group because there are four or five good break-builders in there,” said Basildon’s Bingham. “I started off well and carried on all the way through. My game is in good shape.

“Losing in the semi-finals of the Masters last week (6-5 against Yan Bingtao) was hard to take, it hurt. You either win or you learn, and I will learn from it.”

Bingham is currently 21st in the Race to the Crucible and must get into the top 16 before the  Betfred World Championship to avoid having to go through qualifying. “I’ll need to get to the later stages of a few events to get into the top 16,” he added. “It’s tough now on tour – if I have to go to the qualifiers then that’s what I’ll do.”

Craigie won his first four matches, then lost against Scott Donaldson and Bingham to leave his progression in doubt. But the world number 51 rallied to beat Castle with breaks of 55 and 70.

NAME P W L FW FL P
Stuart Bingham 7 7 0 14 0 21
Sam Craigie 7 5 2 10 5 15
Jamie Clarke 7 4 3 9 8 12
Chris Wakelin 7 4 3 10 9 12
Scott Donaldson 7 3 4 7 9 9
Ashley Carty 7 3 4 7 10 9
Billy Castle 7 2 5 6 11 6
Jamie Curtis-Barrett 7 0 7 3 14 0

Scott Donaldson was surprisingly poor.

That Stuart is in such big danger to need to qualify for the Crucible is shocking really, but thinking about it, the truth is that his Masters win last season somehow made us overlook how poor his 2019/20 season actually was.

The amateur again didn’t win a match, although this is probably a slightly different case. Jamie Curtis-Barrett is a widower with two young children.  He loves his snooker but is unlikely to have the time and resources to prepare seriously for a professional event, especially in the current circumstances.

2021 WST Pro Series – Group G

Martin O’Donnell and Lu Ning topped the table in Group G

WSTProSeries2021GroupGTable

Here is the report by WST:

Lu And O’Donnell Top Group G

Martin O’Donnell came through a nervy final match to book his place in the second phase of the WST Pro Series, alongside Lu Ning.

O’Donnell won his first four matches in the eight-man group to stand on the brink of qualification, but then lost two in a row to leave his place in doubt. He needed one frame in his final tie against Rory McLeod to ensure his progress, and kept his cool to win 2-0 and top the group.

“I got off to a great start, winning my first four games while the others were beating each other,” said world number 49 O’Donnell. “After losing the next two I had a dressing down from my coach. So it was good to finish it off nicely. I had it in my head from the start that five wins would get me through. So even if you lose one or two early on, you just have to keep going and try to win the rest.

“I have played pretty well this season without going deep in anything. Christmas came at a good time for me to recharge and refocus. It’s nice to come here and get off to a good start to the year and hopefully I can kick on for the rest of the season.”

Betway UK Championship semi-finalist Lu lost his second match of the day but then won four in a row which ensured him a top-two spot.

They are both through to the second group stage in March in the new £420,500 world ranking event.

World number 20 Gary Wilson, the highest ranked player in the group, made a 147 and won four of his seven matches, but it wasn’t enough.

And this is WST reporting on Gary Wilson’s 147:

Gary Wilson scored the third maximum break of his career at the WST Pro Series, becoming the first player to make a 147 in the new world ranking event.

Wilson’s perfect break came in the second frame of his match with Liam Highfield, making the score 1-1. The world number 20 previously made 147s at the 2017 Betfred World Championship qualifiers and the 2013 German Masters qualifiers.

It’s the 166th maximum in snooker history and the ninth of the season.

Gary Wilson did well considering his recent struggles with depression. Here is the 147:

This time the amateur in the group didn’t finish last and won three matches. But then, of course, John Astley is 32 years old and has been a pro for some years in the past.

2021 WST Pro Series – Group B

Kyren Wilson and Sunny Akani made it through yesterday. 

Here is the report by WST:

Sunny Delight – And Kyren Shows Class

Kyren Wilson and Sunny Akani came through Group B to reach the second phase of the new WST Pro Series.

Sunny Akani

Kettering’s Wilson finished top of the eight-man group while Thailand’s Akani came second. They will head back to Milton Keynes in March when the field is reduced to 32 players, with four more groups of eight.

World number five Wilson won his first five matches of the day, and despite losing the last two against Yuan Sijun and Li Hang, he had done enough.

“It’s a cut-throat format but I played well though the day and I’m delighted to top the group,” said Wilson, who made five centuries in his seven matches. “All the players are adapting to the situation we are in and we just appreciate being able to play snooker. I’m still playing the game I love and earning money. I have scored heavily this season and my game is tightening up the more I play.”

Akani also won five times, and he ended up tied with China’s Pang Junxu on both number of wins and frame difference. However Akani had won the head-to-head game between those two players by a 2-1 scoreline in the first match of the day, and that result ended up being decisive as it meant the Thai was ranked higher in the final standings.

The event continues on Wednesday with Gary Wilson the highest ranked player in Group G. Fans can watch the action live on the Matchroom Live website.

For live scores click here and for the group tables click here.

Click here for all match fixtures

Click here for the revised group draw

NAME P W L FW FL P
Kyren Wilson 7 5 2 12 5 15
Sunny Akani 7 5 2 10 5 15
Junxu Pang 7 5 2 11 6 15
Hang Li 7 4 3 10 9 12
Yuan SiJun 7 4 3 9 8 12
Kacper Filipiak 7 3 4 8 10 9
Fan Zhengyi 7 2 5 6 11 6
Dean Young 7 0 7 2 14 0

I was glad to see that WST didn’t systematically put Kyren on the main table. It’s good to see different players.

Lewis reflected that this is a 21 days event, but for 3/4 of the players it’s just one day. Which is true. On the other hand, three weeks is what it takes to play three “normal” tournaments. In each of those, half of the players will go out in round one, having played a minimum of 4 frames and a maximum of 7,  and they will go with empty pockets. Here they are guaranteed a minimum of 14 frames, possibly as many as 21 even if they go out, and get more winnable matches. Also, only one in eight will earn nothing, So far all pros involved have earned something and I expect that to be the case in most goups that involve an amateur.

Today’s group “leader” is Gary Wilson, who has been struggling mentally in recent times.

He was interviewed by Phil Haigh:

Gary Wilson opens up on battle with depression: ‘I’ve got no motivation to play snooker or to get out of bed’

2020 Coral World Grand Prix - Day 4
Gary Wilson has been suffering but has identified the problem (Picture: VCG via Getty Images)

Gary Wilson’s recent struggles on the snooker table have been clear to see, but the unseen cause of his problems is the depression that has developed, sapping his motivation not only for the game, but just to get out of bed in the morning.

Form comes and goes and snooker fans may not have thought much of a run of poor results for Wilson, but his struggles were made plain at the Championship League this month.

The Tyneside Terror missed a pot against John Higgins then smashed the balls around the table, in a rare show of frustration on the table.

The sporting conseuquences of that outburst were quickly and fervently discussed, but they paled into insignificance when Gary revealed the reason behind his loss of discipline.

He tweeted after the incident: ‘I’m just totally gone, including snooker. I can’t play at all. Feel the worst I’ve ever felt and can’t see a way back anymore.

‘I let John back in and apologised for the foul as he was plumb in. All I could do.

‘First world problems. Although I do feel depressed generally and I’m not one, as many will know, to play on stuff like that or use them words lightly.’

It was a frank admission to make on Twitter, but it is something the 35-year-old is open to talk about as he looks to overcome mental health issues that he is suffering for the first time.

‘People who know me will know I’m the last person to sort of…I’m not like a snowflake. I’m one of the last people to moan about feelings and stuff,’ Wilson told Metro.co.uk.

‘Using the word “depression”…I don’t use that lightly, I respect people who have come out and said they’ve got that and how they feel.

‘I’m not the sort of person who would say I’ve got that unless I really, really thought about it long and hard. I don’t use them words lightly.

‘It’s just not me, I don’t moan about things, I just get on with stuff. But that’s probably part of the problem, bottling things up and thinking, “nah, it can’t be anything like that.”

‘I’ve probably been in denial for a while. But now I’ve thought, “there is something wrong and don’t be ashamed to admit it.”‘

Depression can manifest in a number of ways, and Wilson is finding it difficult to self-motivate, not only on the snooker table but in day-to-day life.

‘I’ve got no motivation to play snooker, to get out of bed, I’m struggling to see a purpose or an end goal,’ he explained.

‘I don’t know what the experts would say, but it sounds like depression and that’s what I’ve been going through.’

Wilson beleives his malaise stems from the long-running, and still ongoing problems he and his fiancee have had with building work on their house.

They began substantial work on the house in 2019, which should have taken well under six months, but nearly 18 months later there remain tasks to be complete and it has caused a huge amount of stress.

With the lockdowns over the last year, it is not a time for a house to be ‘upside down’ nor was 2020 good timing to be hit financially by problems with builders who have let Gary down.

‘All the building work on my house over the last year has been really stressful, we’ve had quite a few problems around it,’ Gary said. ‘We’ve lost a lot of money through it and it’s not panned out the way we hoped.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Anna Gowthorpe/BPI/REX (10215518bj) Gary Wilson of England at the table during his first round match Betfred World Championships, Snooker, Day Two, The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, UK, 21 Apr 2019
Wilson is not alone among snooker players in struggling with mental health in recent months (Picture: BPI/REX)

‘This Covid time we’ve had to stay in the house, but we haven’t even felt like we’ve got a house to stay in, it’s been pretty hard for me and my fiancée.

‘The whole project should have been four or five months at the absolute most, even with Covid, but it’s been nearly 18 months now.

‘Nearly every room in the house has been upside down and we’ve been living like that for a year and a half, and there’s still things to be done, that will probably still be a few more months.

‘It’s liveable now so the worst of it is over, but I think I’ve got a bit of a hangover effect from it. It’s hit us at the end of it how much it’s taken out of us. I think through the whole process I’ve had to be subconsciously quite strong mentally for me and Robyn, just getting on with things and keeping on top of things.

‘This was all obviously not helping snooker-wise as well. But now it’s pretty much finished I’ve thought “wow, I’ve had far too much attention and stress over that” and now I’m feeling even more down about the wasted time. I just feel depressed about it, despite it coming to an end.’

2020 Coral World Grand Prix - Day 3
Wilson is ranked number 20 in the world after enjoying two very good seasons before the current one (Picture: Getty Images)

The long, stressful time has been slowly weighing heavier on Wilson, until he recognised that it had gone beyond just worrying about the house and it was seriously impacting his mental health.

‘It’s built up over quite a period of time now and a month or two ago I really thought there’s something not right with us,’ Gary explained. ‘I had no motivation at all to do anything and I still don’t, really.

‘I’m struggling for motivation to even get out of bed, I’m thinking “what’s the point?” That’s when I had a lightbulb moment and thought, it’s not normal to be feeling like this, there’s something wrong and I need to speak to somebody about it.

‘I’ve spoke to a contact in sports psychology, I’ve been seeing him for a while so I’m back in touch with him, it was nice to talk to him. I’ve not rushed into anything else, but I’ve let everyone close to me know how I’m feeling and I even said it on Twitter anyway, so people know.

‘But I’m just trying to get a grasp of it in me own head and work out what to do because there is an underlying problem, but I just need to work out how to handle it.

‘I’ve talked to me fiancée, obviously, and me mum and dad. I’ve got a lovely family and friends so I know there are people I can talk to. Sometimes it takes a massive weight off your shoulders, to explain how you’re feeling and to hear they understand, it can help a lot.

‘People can relate to what you’re feeling and just knowing that they understand can help.’

The lethargy and inertia Wilson has been feeling was a clear sign that something was not right, but as was notable weight loss, which rang alarm bells for the man from Wallsend.

‘I’m 10 stone wet through anyway and my missus said that I’d lost weight, which was frightening,’ he said.

‘I’m one of the skinniest lads you could meet. I eat loads of food, I’ve just got that metabolism, and I’m quite fit. I did the Great North Run in two hours the other year after one training run.

‘I’ve just always been round about 10 stone but I weighed myself a few months ago and I was down at 9 stone 2 and I think it was the stress and depression. It helped me realise there was something not right. It’s a very strange thing.’

Gary Wilson
Wilson enjoyed a memorable run to the World Championship semi-finals in 2019 (Picture: VCG via Getty Images)

Thankfully Gary has recognised and identified the problem with the help of his family and friends, and been honest and brave enough to talk about it and look to improve his mental health.

He is glad that talking about the issue has helped make sense of it and knows he has the support of his sport to help deal with how he is feeling now and in the future.

‘World Snooker have been in contact to say that there is help there if I want it so I will probably talk to someone through them,’ he said.

‘I’m not rushing it, I’m trying to work through my problems in my own head without diving into all sorts straight away. I will talk to people when I’m ready, I feel I want to and I’m comfortable to do so.

‘I heard this from somewhere and it rang true with me. Just saying words rather than thinking them, describing how you’re feeling, gives another perspective on what you’re going through. Hearing yourself say it can give a different perspective and help clear things up in your head, you can understand it a bit better.’

Wilson is back on the snooker table on Wednesday in the WST Pro Series as he looks to rediscover some form and fight through the lack of motivation he has been struggling with.

It would be easy enough to stay in bed when your mind is making it difficult to get up, but he intends to keep working hard and thinking positively as he looks for brighter times on and off the table.

‘Looking forward to playing wouldn’t quite be right,’ Gary said. ‘I’m wanting to play and earn and do well, but at the moment the way I’ve been, I’ve not been looking forward to any snooker just because of how I’ve been playing.

‘I’ll look forward to playing again when my game’s in better shape. It’s hard to look forward to tournaments when you don’t feel like you’ve got much to give.

‘You really look forward to events when you’ve put all the work in, feeling good and can’t wait to show what you’ve got, but that time is not now, unfortunately.

‘But you never know with sport, things can change, you can find something from somewhere, things can click and set you off for the rest of the season. You’ve got to keep trying and keep battling on that’s all I can do.

‘I’ll be trying me best, don’t worry about that, however long it takes. Try and be positive about things, try not to let things get to me too much and try and slowly turn the corner. We’ll see how it goes.’

Everyone who has gone through a long sustained period of intense stress, will recognise what Gary is talking about, including the fact that it’s when things seem to improve that it hits you the hardest. Once you “relax” a bit, all of a sudden the emotional and mental exhaustion becomes overwhelming. It leaves you “empty”. It’s a bit like when you go hiking and you overdo it. As long as you walk, you might feel exhausted, but you somehow find a way to continue walking. If you sit to rest a bit  … it’s almost impossible to get up again!

2021 WST Pro Series – Group M

Here is WST report on what happened yesterday at the WST Pro Series:

Joe Perry and Xiao Guodong became the first two players to reach the second phase of the new WST Pro Series.

Englishman Perry and China’s Xiao finished first and second respectively out of the eight players in Group M. They will return to Milton Keynes for the second stage in March, with the chance to go through to the final group of the world ranking event which has total prize money of £420,500.

Perry won six of his seven matches; his only defeat a 2-1 reverse against Rod Lawler. In the last match to finish, Perry edged out Xiao 2-1 by clearing from green to black in the deciding frame.

“I didn’t know what to expect, with this format,” said world number 19 Perry. “I just tried to win every game. There are twists and turns all day long, you just have to keep winning to give yourself a chance at the end. I’ll be surprised if all the seeds get through in this first stage.”

Xiao won five of his seven games, having lost 2-1 to Daniel Wells. Matthew Stevens went into the final round of matches with a chance to qualify, having won four of his first six, but a 2-1 defeat against Allan Taylor ended his hopes and he finished third.

Seven centuries were made over the day, Lawler topping the charts with a 140.

The event continues on Tuesday with Kyren Wilson among the octet in Group B. Fans can watch the action live on the Matchroom Live website.

For live scores click here and for the group tables click here.

Click here for all match fixtures

Click here for the revised group draw

NAME P W L FW FL P
Joe Perry 7 6 1 13 6 18
Xiao Guodong 7 5 2 12 4 15
Matthew Stevens 7 4 3 10 6 12
Daniel Wells 7 4 3 9 8 12
Jak Jones 7 3 4 8 9 9
Rod Lawler 7 3 4 7 9 9
Allan Taylor 7 3 4 6 9 9
Haydon Pinhey 7 0 7 0 14 0

Watched a bit of it. After the thrills of the Masters, I really couldn’t get interested.

Haydon Pinhey reached the QF stage at the Q-school event 3. but didn’t win a frame here. Shows you the gap that currently exist between the level of the British young amateurs and the pros, even the lower ranked ones. The guy who beat him in that Q-school match, and qualified for the main tour, Jamie Wilson, hasn’t won a match yet on the main tour, despite his ambition to make Ronnie “eat his words”.

Maybe it’s time to accept that Ronnie is right about the general level of the young British amateurs coming through and to actually do something about it? Starting with a proper secondary tour and going back to less brutal tiered system?

 

Tour News and 2021 Shoot Out and Format

WST has updated their Ranking Points Schedule

2020:21 money cutting points

They have also published the draw and format for the first round of the 2021 Shoot Out.

BetVictor Shoot Out Draw

The draw and format for the first round of next month’s BetVictor Shoot Out is now available.

Click here for the draw 

Click here for the format

Michael Holt beat Zhou Yuelong in the final last year to win his first ranking title

Michael Holt will begin the defence of his title against Jamie Jones, at the world ranking event which runs from February 4 to 7 in Milton Keynes.

Reanne Evans will face China’s Si Jiahui while the other woman in the field, debutant Rebecca Kenna, will be up against Germany’s Simon Lichtenberg.

Former World Champions Ken Doherty and Graeme Dott will go head to head while John Higgins will face a tartan tussle againt Scott Donaldson.

Other notable first round ties include Mark Williams against Ali Carter and Shaun Murphy taking on Luca Brecel.

The popular tournament, which was first staged in 2011, has a unique set of rules, with matches lasting a maximum of ten minutes and a shot clock of 15 seconds for the first five minutes and ten seconds for the last five.

Televised live by Eurosport, the event is part of the BetVictor European Series.

No Ronnie, no Judd Trump, no Neil Robertson, no Ding Junhui, no Stephen Maguire, but Reanne Evans and Bex Kenna will fly the flag for the ladies.

I would be highly amused if Reanne or Bex went on to win it. They have as good a chance as anyone… or maybe Amine Amiri, or Brian Ochoiski?

The Masters 2021 – Yan Bingtao is your Champion!

Yan Bingtao beat John Higgins by 10-8 to win the 2021 Masters.

Congratulations Yan Bingtao!

Yan-Bingtao-MastersTrophy2021

Yan Bingtao once again came from behind to win, not just the match but the whole tournament! At 20, he became the youngest player to win the Masters since Ronnie in 1995 – that’s 26 years ago – and the only Asian player other than Ding Junhui to win a triple crown event.  Unless I’m mistaken, he’s only the fifth player to win the tournament on their debut. To my knowledge, only Cliff Thorburn, Stephen Hendry, Paul Hunter and Mark Selby had done it before. A star is born! 

Here are the reports by WST

Afternoon session

Higgins Leads Yan In Final

John Higgins holds a 5-3 advantage over debutant Yan Bingtao after the first session of the Betfred Masters final.

Scotland’s 45-year-old Higgins is bidding to become the oldest ever winner of the Masters with victory tonight. The four-time World Champion would surpass Stuart Bingham, who set the record last year at the age of 43.

Chinese 20-year-old Yan would be the youngest winner since Ronnie O’Sullivan lifted the title at the age of 19 back in 1995.

The pair will return to play out the remainder of the best of 19 encounter at 7pm, with the winner taking home £250,000 and the Paul Hunter Trophy.

It was the less experienced Yan who took an early lead this afternoon, composing runs of 66 and 33 to go 1-0 up. However, two-time Masters winner Higgins responded by taking the second to restore parity.

Both players had chances in a scrappy third, but Yan eventually edged it on the black to regain his lead at 2-1. Crucially Higgins made it 2-2 at the mid-session after a break of 63

When play resumed, Higgins gained the lead for the first time with a contribution of 98 and the Glaswegian then added a third frame on the bounce to make it 4-2.

Yan fired in a break of 97 to pull within a frame, before a tense final frame of the session. It came down to the green, where a safety error from Yan allowed Higgins to secure the frame and end the session 5-3 in front.

Evening session

Yan Secures Thrilling Masters Victory

Chinese 20-year-old Yan Bingtao came from behind to secure a sensational Betfred Masters victory, beating four-time World Champion John Higgins 10-8 in the final.

Debutant Yan becomes the youngest winner of the Masters since Ronnie O’Sullivan claimed the title at the age of 19 in 1995. He’s only the second Asian player, after compatriot Ding Junhui, to lift Triple Crown silverware.

The prodigious talent has shown considerable mental toughness this week. Yan defeated Neil Robertson, Stephen Maguire and Stuart Bingham, all by 6-5 scorelines, to clinch his place in the final.

World number 11 Yan rose to prominence as a 15-year-old, by winning the 2015 World Cup for China alongside Zhou Yuelong, beating a Scotland team of Higgins and Maguire in the final. He won his maiden ranking title at the 2019 Riga Masters and has since earned his place in the top 16 to appear at the Masters for the first time.

In lifting the Paul Hunter Trophy and claiming the £250,000 top prize, Yan has secured the biggest payday of his fledgling career. Higgins will have to settle for the £100,000 runner-up prize, he also pockets £15,000 for the high break of 145, which he made in his quarter-final win over Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Higgins’ ten-year wait for a first Triple Crown title since the 2011 World Championship goes on. The Scot last won the Masters in 2006, when he defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9 in an epic final.

Higgins secured a 5-3 advantage from this afternoon’s opening session and he looked set to take the opener tonight. However, he missed a red at 67-0 up, with just 67 left on the table. Yan stepped up and produced a phenomenal clearance of 67 to force a re-spot, which he won to make it 5-4.

Higgins also led in the tenth frame, after establishing a 31-0 advantage. A missed yellow allowed Yan in again and he cleared with 76 to draw level at 5-5.

It was roles reversed in the following frame. Yan led 51-0 before Higgins composed a run of 74 to stop the rot. Higgins then made a break of 116, the first century of the match, to lead 7-5 at the mid-session.

When they returned, Yan edged a dramatic 13th frame. It went all the way down to the black, with Higgins narrowly missing a double to the baulk corner. Yan deposited it and clawed within a frame at 7-6. He then fired in a superb run of 103 to draw level once more.

Yan took to the front by clearing from blue to the black to take a tense 15th frame and go 8-7 ahead. However, Higgins refused to wilt and crafted a gutsy break of 63 to make it 8-8.

Higgins had the first opportunity in the 17th frame, but it was Yan who pounced with a contribution of 70, to move one from glory at 9-8. He then made a break of 64 in the following frame to leave Higgins needing snookers to keep his chances alive. After an extended period of safety, Yan got himself over the line for the momentous victory.

“After watching John’s quarter-final game against Ronnie, he looked like he was in his peak. I felt very tired in the last moments tonight,” said Chinese number two Yan. “My heart was beating out on the last red, I was so close to the winning line and he kept fighting. That was the moment that I felt the most pressure.

“I just told myself to keep working and not give up. I controlled the cue ball. I just slowly finished the last three or four balls after potting the red.

“My mum and dad were watching on TV. They probably didn’t sleep tonight. They have always told me to never give up and to enjoy my life.”

Higgins said: “It is incredible for someone so young. He just goes about his business. He is like a one off, the way he patrols about the table and you can’t fluster him at all. It is a great achievement winning the Masters at 20 years old. The sky is the limit for him.”

This was endearing with Ronnie in the studio…

And here is Ronnie assessing Yan’s victory as reported by Phil Haigh

Ronnie O’Sullivan compares Yan Bingtao to snooker legends after Masters win

Yan-Bingtao-Masters2021
Yan Bingtao claimed the Masters title on Sunday night (Picture: Eurosport)

Ronnie O’Sullivan believes Yan Bingtao’s Masters title is reminiscent of when snooker legends like Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Mark Williams first claimed a major trophy, because you knew there would be many more to come.

The 20-year-old beat Higgins 10-8 in Sunday’s final at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, producing a superb, battling performance to down the 45-year-old two-time former champion.

Yan was on his Masters debut this year and produced an incredible run of results, beating Neil Robertson, Stephen Maguire and Stuart Bingham before seeing off Higgins in the finale.

The Rocket was suitably impressed by the young Chinese star and is in no doubt that Yan will be adding plenty more trophies and big cheques to his collection after trousering £250,000 this weekend.

‘Bingtao winning this tournament, the way he’s come through is fantastic,’ O’Sullivan told Eurosport.

‘Not just to see a new winner but someone that you think he’s going to go on and win a lot more.

‘It’s like when Hendry come along, them type of players, John Higgins, Mark Williams, you thought, “this could go on for a while.”

‘To do it young and in the manner he does, it’s been a fantastic tournament and he’s done it the hard way, he’s had the hardest draw you could possibly get.’

Immediately talk has turned to whether Yan can become the first Chinese player to win the World Championship title, with flag bearer Ding Junhui, so far, unable to do so in his glittering career.

There is still plenty of time for Ding at just 33-year-old, but O’Sullivan now gives Yan a better chance of beating his countryman to the biggest prize in the sport and expects him to triumph in Sheffield at least once.

‘I think he’s got more chance of doing it because he’s got a lot more time on his side,’ Ronnie said of Yan surpassing Ding. ‘I think it’s a good time to be coming into snooker.

‘It’s hard to say because there might be another three or four come out the woodwork in one or two years and we might be saying the same about them.

‘But at the moment he is the most mature, we’ve seen him do it under extreme pressure and you need to be able to perform under pressure to win the Crucible.

‘I just think he’s going to get stronger and stronger and it will bring other players through as well.

‘I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t win at least one or two world titles.’

Gracious in defeat, Higgins also predicted that Yan would claim the sport’s biggest prize, in fact he said it is guaranteed.

‘Definite world champion, without a shadow of a doubt,’ said the Scot. ‘China’s very lucky to have Yan as a player.’

This win is obviously very important for Yan’s career, but it could prove equally important for the future of snooker in China. What Yan has done last night will inspire all the young Chinese players, it has shown them that it is possible, that THEY can do it too.

It will also boost China’s interest in snooker, which is particularly important at this time as tournaments in China have been canceled for the near future, and the travel restrictions have made it even harder for the young Chinese players, those who current live as expats in the UK away from their families, as well as those whose future and careers are in jeopardy as they are stranded in China. China has invested a lot in the sport in recent years, injected a lot of money in it too. Keeping the Chinese fans on board is crucial for the future of the sport. Ding now being on the WPBSA board and Yan’s successes are massive in that respect.