Yan makes Masters history in Milton Keynes - and it's all down to living in Sheffield

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Yan struck a magical 141 to become the youngest player to reach a Masters semi-final since Ding Junhui 14 years ago
Yan struck a magical 141 to become the youngest player to reach a Masters semi-final since Ding Junhui 14 years ago

Chinese sensation Yan Bingtao is rapidly emerging as the golden boy of snooker and revealed the key to his searing rise – living in Sheffield, writes Will Jennings.

The 20-year-old prodigy toppled six-time ranking event winner Stephen Maguire 6-5 in a thrilling Masters quarter-final to become the youngest semi-finalist at the tournament since a certain Ding Junhui.

The world No.11 practices at Sheffield’s Vics Snooker Academy and reckons moving to the Steel City has catalysed his progression on the baize.

Yan, who sealed the victory with a stunning tournament-best break of 141 in the decider, said: “I love Sheffield.

“It’s definitely the best place for a Chinese player to practice because Ding Junhui also has his academy there.

Watch: Yan Bingtao upsets John Higgins to win Masters title

“We have really good resources and practice partners. We’re in a very difficult time, and everybody’s been locked in Sheffield for six months, which has never happened before. But in general, it’s really good.

“I’m absolutely over the moon and really excited about this result. This is my first Masters ever and I didn’t even expect to go through the first round, so I’m absolutely excited.

“I’ve won both matches on the decider so that’s quite an achievement for me. I also made the highest break of my four-year career so far, so I’m proud and excited about that.”

Yan stunned world No.2 Neil Robertson by the same scoreline in the first round and carried on where he left off at the Marshall Arena.

Maguire’s fourth frame break of 102 sent them into the interval level but three half-centuries from the Chinese meant the world No.8 was always playing catch-up.

The Scot made a tournament-best visit of 137 in the eighth frame but when the pair went to a nervy decider, Yan had other ideas.

The 2019 Riga Masters winner made a mesmerising 141 to pinch the £15,000 best-break prize from Maguire and book a semi-final date against defending champion Stuart Bingham.

Four-time world champion John Higgins latter bettered Yan's efforts with a 145 - the fourth highest break in Masters history - but the Asian ace held himself together remarkably well to edge over the line.

Yan is now the youngest player to reach the last four of the Masters since Ding in 2007, who is also based in Sheffield and opened his Ding Junhui Snooker Academy last year.

Yan was only six years old when his ‘hero’ reached the final 13 years ago and revelled in equalling his record in Milton Keynes.

“It’s a huge event, so it’s a big win for me,” he added.

“I absolutely feel proud of myself to level the record with Ding, who is my hero.

“I’m satisfied and happy about the result and achievement so far at my age, because I know people at my age don’t even get the chance to get into these kind of events. I’m just trying to do as best as I can.

“I’ll definitely use this as a boost to my confidence and put in more effort in practice in the future.”

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

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