Yan Bingtao dismisses ‘impossible’ mission to break Stephen Hendry’s Crucible record

YAN BINGTAO insists it is ‘impossible’ he will break Stephen Hendry’s record and become snooker’s youngest ever world champion.

Yan Bingtao plays a shot during the Betfred World Snooker Championship in front of a limited crowd at the Crucible. Pictures: PA

But the Sheffield-based snooker sensation says he’s relishing life in Yorkshire as lockdown restrictions ease.

Chinese ‘Tiger’ Yan shot to global fame by being crowned Masters champion in January and kicked off his pursuit of Crucible glory with a 10-6 win over Martin Gould.

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The world No 10 only turned 21 in February and would become the youngest ever winner if he soared to Sheffield nirvana – breaking Hendry’s long-standing record by a month.

Yan Bingtao could beat Stephen Hendry's record if he wins the World Championship next month.

The seven-time Crucible king first lifted the storied trophy in 1990 but hotly-tipped Yan played down his chances – and reckons his prospects of following in the Scot’s footsteps are next to nothing.

Asked if he can emulate his memorable Masters triumph come May 3, Yan said: “It’s impossible.

“It’s very difficult and I have little chance. I’m working hard every day from this match but it’s impossible – 17 days [at the Crucible] is a long time.

“I played good, had many very good breaks and hit back-to-back centuries. I had good breaks to give me the confidence in the match.

Ronnie O'Sullivan.

“Any Chinese player can win the title – not just me or Ding [Junhui]. But [Ding] has the best chance.

“It was very difficult today and [Martin] is a very dangerous player. At 4-4 it was a difficult match, but I relaxed more, enjoyed it and didn’t think too much. I played good.

“Winning the Masters has given me very big confidence. It changed my life but every day is practice, practice for the World Championship.”

Yan practices at Sheffield’s Vic Snooker Academy and blew away Gould in a thrilling Sunday session.

The 2019 Riga Masters champion hit his potting straps after a slow first session as breaks of 130, 116, 70 and 67 saw off the world No 27 and booked a second round date with either Shaun Murphy or Mark Davis.

Yan has hailed living in Sheffield a shot in the arm to his career and says he’s loving immersing himself in such a famous snooker city.

The Asian ace, who toppled four-time world champion John Higgins in a thrilling Masters final in January, added: “We’ve finished the lockdown and there are people in restaurants and having coffee, tea and drinks.

“There are so many people out and I’m so happy. For such a long time there were no people in the street. I’ve practised at home, gone to the supermarket and then back to home every day.

“I enjoy living [in Sheffield] here – it’s a good city and I’m enjoying the club.”

Elsewhere over the weekend, defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan breezed past World Championship debutant Mark Joyce 10-4.

The Rocket turned on the style and cracked in three consecutive century breaks to finish with a flourish – only the eighth time the feat had been achieved in Crucible history.

On Sunday, David Gilbert beat Chris Wakelin 10-4 while Neil Robertson toppled Liang Wenbo 10-3. The 2010 world champion Robertson knocked in three century breaks – and five of 50-plus – to topple former English Open winner Liang, while Welsh player Jamie Jones shocked world No 8 Stephen Maguire 10-4 in the final result of the day.

Watch the World Snooker Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from April 17- May 3

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