The 2022 German Masters final will be contested between Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao at the Tempodrom Arena in Berlin on Sunday.
Zhao won the last five frames to beat Ricky Walden 6-3 in the semi-finals on Saturday, with Yan pipping Mark Allen later in the day courtesy of a 6-4 scoreline.
A fascinating climax to the popular ranking event offers another signal that there is indeed a gradual changing of the guard in process within the sport.
These young stars have long been heralded as players who could succeed at the very top of the game, and so it is beginning to prove itself.
By winning two out of the three Triple Crown titles between them in 2021, 21 year-old Yan and 24 year-old Zhao have already announced themselves as major protagonists.
This German Masters final represents only the second time a title-deciding showdown will be determined between two Chinese competitors – following Ding Junhui’s clash with Xiao Guodong at the 2013 Shanghai Masters.
Back then, Yan and Zhao were young hopeful teenagers who were flourishing on the international amateur scene.
Zhao’s runner-up finishes in that year’s IBSF World Amateur Championship and again two years later sandwiched Yan’s triumph in 2014.
The latter subsequently made a more immediate impact on the professional scene and reached his first ranking event final in 2017, then captured a maiden individual title at the 2019 Riga Masters.
Yan’s Masters glory just over a year ago underlined that this new wave of talent from China marked a more genuine threat to the established order, following prior false dawns in which groundbreaking flagbearer Ding supported the weight of a nation’s expectations mostly on his own for more than a decade.
However, it was Zhao’s recent victory in the UK Championship that really opened up people’s eyes to the prospect of an impending new order.
Boasting a charismatic personality and a stylish game to match it, Zhao’s breakthrough in York in which he overcame fellow young pretender Luca Brecel was just what snooker was yearning for.
Yes we are looking forward to it Ashley!! Even though we see this match in the academy every day! 🏆😀👍🏻 https://t.co/arah9mENUs
— Vic Snooker Academy (@Vics_Snooker) January 29, 2022
Indeed, the sport as a whole wins regardless of what the outcome is in the German Masters final on Sunday, where a top prize of £80,000 is on offer.
For what it’s worth, the pair has encountered each other only twice before with one win apiece, but this battle over the best-of-17 frames will be an entirely different prospect.
Yan possesses the more polished all-round attributes, but Zhao’s natural scoring ability is arguably the stronger, so it promises to be a fascinating clash of styles as well.
A first of many possible duels between the duo, this German Masters final is an encounter not to be missed.
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Featured photo credit: WST