The Masters: Yan Bingtao hoping to repeat title feat in front of fans

Yan Bingtao defends his Masters crown (Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire)Yan Bingtao defends his Masters crown (Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire)
Yan Bingtao defends his Masters crown (Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire)
It will be something of a homecoming for Yan Bingtao when he opens his defence of the Cazoo Masters tomorrow.

For the Sheffield-based potter – who beat John Higgins 12 months ago to lift the Masters trophy – will belatedly be making his Alexandra Palace debut this weekend.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Yan won the Paul Hunter Trophy behind closed doors in Milton Keynes. So the 21-year-old – who trains at Victoria’s Snooker Academy in Sheffield – will be walking out at the iconic venue for the first time on Sunday when he faces two-time champion Mark Williams.

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It will cap a busy start to 2022 for Yan – to continue the homecoming theme – who has just moved into his first house in South Yorkshire, bought from his Masters winnings.

Masters champion Yan BingtaoMasters champion Yan Bingtao
Masters champion Yan Bingtao

“I’ll be nervous coming out into the arena, but I am looking forward to it.” said Yan. “I know about the venue and I know it carries an even better atmosphere than the World Championship.

“It is huge, yet it only has one table in it. You get all the attention out there and everyone’s eyes are on you, that worries me a little bit.

“I wish I could have won last year in front of a crowd, as it is such a prestigious event.

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“However, it could have been a very different story with a big audience and I might have lost.

“I will feel more pressure this time trying to get over the line in matches.

“When I was 9-8 up in last year’s final I felt so calm. The emotions only kicked in at the very last moment.”

Yan is joined in London by Zhao Xintong – the UK champion, who also trains at Victoria’s in Sheffield – who plays Higgins in his opening round. Stuart Bingham was the last player to win the Masters at Alexandra Palace, beating Ali Carter 10-8 in the 2020 final, and he has a special memento.

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Bingham had the moment captured on canvas, by artist John Donaldson, alongside his family and the trophy, and the painting will take pride of place in his snooker room.

“I’m putting it up in my snooker room,” said Bingham, who opens his Masters against Kyren Wilson. “I’ve got a trophy cabinet in there now, I used to keep my silverware in the toilet but I’ve moved it all into the snooker room!

“I’m trying to make it into a bit of a shrine.”

Masters draw: Yan Bingtao v Mark Williams, John Higgins v Zhao Xintong, Neil Robertson v Anthony McGill, Ronnie O’Sullivan v Jack Lisowski, Judd Trump v Mark Allen, Kyren Wilson v Stuart Bingham, Shaun Murphy v Barry Hawkins, Mark Selby v Stephen Maguire.