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Brilliant Yan Bingtao denies John Higgins to claim historic Masters title

Jamie Shaw in The Masters

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Higgins shakes hands with Yan (credit:Nigel French/PA Images)

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Yan Bingtao is the defending champion

Yan Bingtao became the youngest Masters champion in 26 years as he defeated veteran John Higgins 10-8 in the final to claim glory in Milton Keynes.

The 20-year-old sensation capped off a fairy-tale debut in the sport’s elite invitational by scooping the £250,000 top prize at the Marshall Arena.

Yan had come through three last-frame deciders on his way to the final – where he found himself 5-3 and 7-5 down to the two-time Masters champion.

However, he underlined his steely determination and maturity beyond his years to battle back and deny Higgins a first Masters title since 2006 and become the youngest winner of the event since Ronnie O’Sullivan in 1995.

Yan becomes only the second Asian winner of a Triple Crown event, behind compatriot Ding Junhui, and adds the Paul Hunter Trophy to his breakthrough success at the 2019 Riga Masters.

“I am very excited,” said Yan. “I have imagined how I would celebrate but I am very calm, even though in the last few frames I was not playing very well.

“At 5-3 down I just kept working and enjoyed the table, I did not give up.

“I want to say thank you to all my family and friends and my manager, they were all watching.”

Higgins had looked on course to end his 15-year wait for Masters glory but was left to rue a number of missed chances to close out frames in the second session.

The four-time World Champion, who defeated rival O’Sullivan en route to the final, admitted: “I had my chances and I’m sick.

“I should have gone 6-3 in front and been in control to go 8-5 in front. I’m gutted but every credit to Yan, it’s a great achievement winning it at such a young age.

“He has not got much to learn in the tactical department and he is scoring as well now.

“He’s going to be around in the game for longer than I have been.

“He could be a World Champion without a shadow of a doubt, so China is very lucky to have Yan.”

Having fallen 2-1 behind, Higgins opened up a 5-3 lead at the close of play in the first session, making breaks of 63, 98 and 52 to Yan’s 66 and 97.

A key moment came early in the second session as Yan recovered from 67 points behind to snatch frame nine on a re-spotted black and reduce the deficit.

Higgins then missed a yellow off the spot, allowing Yan to punish emphatically with a break of 76 for a level game.

Higgins hit back strongly with successive breaks of 74 and 116 to edge back in front at 7-5, but let frame 13 slip from his grasp as Yan snatched it on the final black.

The Chinese youngster then recorded his first century of the final with a 103 break to restore parity, before potting the three remaining colours to pinch frame 15 and take the lead.

Higgins responded well with a break of 63 to make it eight apiece, but a fine break of 70 moved Yan to within a frame of victory.

The former World Cup winner showed no sign of finish line fever as he made a 64 break to inflict the killer blow and eventually sealed the deal despite Higgins battling on for snookers.

A 50/1 outsider at the start of the week, Yan defied the odds to become an overnight superstar in China, rivalling Ding Junhui as his country’s new snooker talisman.

He is now 20/1 to follow up with a second Triple Crown title when he heads to The Crucible in April for the Betfred World Championship.