Yan Bingtao beats John Higgins in thrilling Masters final

Yan Bingtao won the Masters, beating John Higgins 10-8. Photo: Simon Cooper/PA WireYan Bingtao won the Masters, beating John Higgins 10-8. Photo: Simon Cooper/PA Wire
Yan Bingtao won the Masters, beating John Higgins 10-8. Photo: Simon Cooper/PA Wire
Yan Bingtao served up a Sunday night thriller to beat John Higgins 10-8 in an absorbing Masters final.

Twenty-five years separated the two players and Chinese sensation Yan, 20, launched a roaring evening comeback to level the scores at 7-7 after trailing 7-5 in Milton Keynes.

It was a see-saw contest at the behind-closed-doors Marshall Arena as Higgins, chasing a first tournament title since 2018, was unable to press home his advantage in the final of the second Triple Crown event of the season.

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The Scot led for large periods of the match but Yan, who is based in Sheffield, consistently pegged the four-time world champion back to tee up a classic in the Buckinghamshire bubble.

It was a true snooker generation game and the spectacle did not disappoint.

A topsy-turvy first session unfolded as Yan, playing in just his fourth final since turning professional, took the first frame after making a fluent break of 66.

Higgins, 45, was appearing in his 84th final – and fifth in the prestigious Masters – and showed all his experience in edging a scrappier second to level the scores.

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But back came the man they call the ‘Tiger’, who racked up 72 points to Higgins’s 66 in the third to edge back in front.

Thirty-time ranking event winner Higgins struck a steady break of 63 to take them into the mid-session interval all square – and it was game on in the final of the first event of 2021.

The Scot came out of the blocks all guns blazing after the break, rolling back the years with a fine visit of 98 to nudge himself into the lead for the first time in the match.

And he doubled his advantage in the sixth as a haul of 73 points put him in the driving seat and left Yan with a mountain to climb. The Asian ace rallied with a fluent 97 in the seventh but when Higgins won the eighth with a solid 52, the two-time champion was halfway towards his first piece of silverware for three years.

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The interval came at a good time for Yan – and the pair then played out a ninth frame thriller when they re-emerged under the evening session lights.

Higgins thought he’d opened up a 6-3 lead after holding a 67-0 lead with 67 points left on the table – but Yan had other ideas as he launched a stirring comeback.

The Chinese showed maturity beyond his years as a gutsy break of 67 forced a re-spotted black, which he duly dispatched to narrow the deficit and 
complete the frame of the tournament.

The 2019 Riga Masters champion had seized the evening momentum and carried on where he left off in the tenth, constructing a break of 76 to restore parity and tee up a grandstand finale.

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But Higgins, playing in his first Masters final since toppling Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9 in 2006, responded as a visit of 76 in the 11th edged him back in front.

And the Scot then regained his decisive hold on the contest as a brilliant break of 116 in the 12th put him three frames away from Masters nirvana.

The drama was far from over, however, as another absorbing frame unfolded in the 13th of this gripping final.

And it proved firmly unlucky for Higgins, who made a costly misjudgement when going in off before missing the final black – with an attempted double – to let Yan pinch the frame 73-67. Yan then made a fluent 103 in the 14th to level the scores once more and take the pair late into the evening in Milton Keynes.

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The Scot had several chances to reclaim the lead. A tremendous long red got Higgins back on the table, but he missed the blue, and was left shaking his head as Yan kept his cool to clear the three remaining balls.

Yan trains at Vics Snooker Academy in the Steel City, and revealed to The Yorkshire Post ahead of the final how he had spent much of lockdown in 2020 in his adopted home city.

“I love Sheffield,” said Yan.

But even he had to sit back and admire his opponent as Higgins made it 8-8 with a 63 break, before Yan – who won the World Cup, aged 15 – knocked in a 70 clearance to edge back in front.

And the 20-year-old cueman produced a 64 break to claim a 10-8 victory.

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Watch the London Masters live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from Jan 10

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