Yan Bingtao Masters
Finals, Non-Ranking, Snooker Headlines

Yan Bingtao Secures Memorable Masters Success

The 20 year-old becomes the youngest winner of the event in 26 years.

Yan Bingtao has won the 2021 Masters after a battling 10-8 triumph over John Higgins on Sunday at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.

The underdog produced a nerveless performance that defied his modest years to fight back and deny the two-time former champion.

By lifting the Paul Hunter Trophy, Yan also earned the biggest payday of his career – a whopping £250,000 champion’s cheque.

The former world amateur champion emulates fellow Chinese competitor Ding Junhui as a Masters winner, and he becomes only the second player from China to capture a Triple Crown title to boot.

Victory will be huge news in the Asian country, which in the early hours of Monday morning would have celebrated a rising star that looks set to challenge Ding’s 15-year reign as China’s top contender in the sport.

Just like his previous three matches in the prestigious invitational tournament that all lasted the distance, Yan’s final showdown had numerous twists and turns.

Higgins, attempting to secure a first Masters success since 2006 and a third overall, generally appeared to have control after establishing a 3-2 lead during the opening session.

There were no fireworks, but the 45 year-old would have been relatively content to establish a 5-3 buffer heading into the evening’s bout of play.

However, the outcome of the entire match hinged on three significant frames in the second session.

Higgins twice looked certain to establish a three-frame cushion, including in the first frame after the resumption of play when he squandered a 67-point lead to lose it on a re-spotted black.

After parity was subsequently restored at 5-5, the “Wizard of Wishaw” regained control with breaks of 74 and 116 but let slip another golden opportunity in the 13th frame as Yan again remained in touch thanks to a black-ball finish.

A terrific 103 century break from the young contender brought the scores level once more, and Yan duly moved in front for the first time since the third frame by pinching the 15th frame on the black as well.

To his credit, Higgins continued to battle, and when he made it 8-8 a fourth deciding-frame climax of the week looked to be on the cards for Yan.

Yet, Yan rarely looked like wilting under the pressure and contributions of 70 and 64 helped him to deservedly cross the winning post.

It was a desperately disappointing conclusion for Higgins, who produced the display of the season so far to overcome Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals but couldn’t replicate that kind of level on Sunday.

The former world number one has gone almost three years since winning an individual title and it’s ten years since his last glory in one of the traditional ‘Big Three’ events.

For Yan Bingtao, the future after his Masters triumph looks very bright indeed for a player who has already experienced a meteoric rise in the game.

A World Cup winner with Zhou Yuelong in 2015 at the age of 15, it took Yan only three years to break into the top 16 of the world rankings as a professional.

The former Riga Masters champion can now add one of most important pieces of silverware to his growing collection, having become the first debutant since Mark Selby in 2008 to capture the illustrious Masters crown.

It was a pity that there couldn’t be a crowd to welcome and appreciate his amazing achievement, but there’ll certainly be no asterisk next to his name in the record books.

Indeed, this Masters win could very well be the first of many.

Featured photo credit: WST