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Giant-Killer Yan Beats Higgins

Yan Bingtao kept his brilliant run going at the OPPO International Championship in Daqing by beating John Higgins 6-2 to reach the semi-finals.

China’s 17-year-old Yan thrashed Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-1 earlier in the week and has also knocked out Ricky Walden and Jack Lisowski, before another emphatic win over legend Higgins today.

Yan, who won the Rookie of the Year award last season, is through to the semi-finals of a ranking event for the first time. The world number 53 will face Mark Allen over 17 frames on Saturday.

If Yan goes on to lift the trophy on Sunday he would become the youngest ever winner of a ranking event, at 17 years 262 days, beating the record set by Ronnie O’Sullivan when he won the 1993 UK Championship at 17 years 358 days.

Yan Bingtao – Five Facts
– Won the World Cup for China alongside Zhou Yuelong in 2015 at the age of 15.
– Beat Shaun Murphy at the Champion of Champions when he was 15.
– During the season he lives in Sheffield.
– Last season he became the first pro player born in the year 2000.
– Reached the quarter-finals of the German Masters and the last 16 of five other events during his debut season.

Yan took a 3-0 lead with top breaks of 52 and 99 then four-time World Champion Higgins pulled one frame back. After the interval, Yan made a superb 123 to go 4-1 ahead. Higgins got the better of frame six but there would be no fight back from the Scot as his teenage opponent won the seventh and then sealed victory in the eighth with a run of 89.

“I’m happy with my performance and it’s a little break through for me,” said Yan, already guaranteed £32,000 for reaching the semis. “I coped with the pressure well. I got off to a very good start and after I built a 4-1 lead I knew the chances were there for me, as long as I could control myself. Luckily I held it together.

“I’ll stay calm and not think about winning the title just yet. I wanted to get to my first semi-final, so the pressure came from there. It doesn’t really matter who I play next, the key is to bring my best to the match table.”

Asked about comparisons with Ding Junhui – who won his first ranking title at the age of 18 in 2005 – Yan responded: “Ding is a legend for China, it would be so hard for anyone to achieve more than he did for the modern day young players. All I can do is to be the best Yan Bingtao.”

Allen won an exciting match against Judd Trump by a 6-5 scoreline, to reach his second consecutive semi-final in China having got to the same stage of the Yushan World Open.

Two of Allen’s three ranking titles have come in China

Northern Ireland’s Allen led 3-1 with a top break of 117 then Trump made 89 and 58 in getting back to 3-3. The next two were shared then Allen made a superb 60 clearance to take the ninth from 59-0 down. Trump made a 110 to set up the decider.

Both players had chances and it came down to the last few balls. Allen cleared from the last red to pink to clinch victory – the key shot coming when he potted the green and nudged the blue off the side cushion.

“I have showed all week that I’ve got good battling qualities,” said world number 11 Allen. “That’s the third decider in a row I have come through. To get one over on Judd in such a big tournament gives me a massive boost.

“Yan is an awesome talent. He’ll be a top 16 player and a tournament winner in no time – but hopefully not this week. He has no fear against the top players – having beaten Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins he’s not going to worry about me. He’ll bring a lot of support and it should be a good atmosphere. I’ll give it my best shot.”

In the other semi-final on Friday, Mark Selby will face Martin Gould.