Fan Zhengyi claimed a fairytale maiden ranking title at the European Masters after beating Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9 in a thrilling final.
The 21-year-old became the 71st different player to win a ranking event after prevailing in a deciding frame at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
Fan is also the fifth player from mainland China to achieve the feat after Ding Junhui, Liang Wenbo, Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong.
The world number 80, who was priced at 750-1 prior to the tournament like Jordan Brown ahead of last year’s Welsh Open, hit a top break of 135 – the highest of his career – on the way to pocketing the top prize of £80,000.
“Today, I just tried to play one frame at a time,” he told Eurosport via interpretation from manager Victoria.
“I know I wasn’t the favourite because it was my first time in a final. I was even happy to win one frame.
“Playing against Ronnie in the final already made my dream come true.
“Ronnie is every Chinese player’s idol including me. He’s always so generous to us and helps us all the time. I’m so happy.”
Like Brown, Fan was appearing in his maiden ranking showpiece having recently reached the German Masters quarter-finals, while facing an opponent ranked 78 places higher in O’Sullivan.
After the opening four frames were shared, the Chinese cueist moved two clear with breaks of 63 and 78, but a top run of 83 saw the Rocket level at 4-4 heading into the evening session.
Appearing in a record-extending 60th ranking final, O’Sullivan appeared unsettled as he complained of movement in the audience, while threatening to quit after objecting to a photographer’s lacking of a tripod.
Undeterred, Fan came flying out of the blocks in the evening with back-to-back centuries of 135 and 110 to go 6-4 ahead. But the six-time World champion responded again to square things up at 6-6.
Once more, the 21-year-old pulled two frames clear – taking the 13th on the pink – only to be pegged back by O’Sullivan, who compiled his 10th century of the week courtesy of a timely 107.
The 38-time ranking event had the first chance of frame 17, but a missed pink to the left centre saw Fan move to the brink of victory with 82.
O’Sullivan controlled the next to force a decider. Although, his opponent was not to be denied; a calm contribution of 92 sealing the deal.
“[He’s a] fantastic player. He played some great safety, great break-building, amazing pots, and good under pressure,” said a magnanimous O’Sullivan, who missed the chance to move top of the BetVictor European Series list.
“I just tried to hang onto him and make a game of it, which I did in the end, but he was the better player all day and deserved his victory.
“It was a pleasure to play a future World champion today.”