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Murphy Edges Past Spirited Yan

Shaun Murphy managed to fight off China’s Yan Bingtao 10-8 in the match of this year’s Betfred World Championship so far.

Even in defeat, Yan’s performance will garner a huge amount of respect on his Crucible debut. The scoreline of 10-8 equals the best ever performance for a 17-year-old at the World Championship, drawing him level with Stephen Hendry who lost by the same margin to Willie Thorne in 1986.

The win for Murphy sets up a mouth-watering second round encounter with Ronnie O’Sullivan. The Magician will be desperate to improve his Crucible record against the Rocket, having lost their only two meetings so far at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams.

The 2005 World Champion had led 6-3 after the first session and he enhanced his lead this afternoon, before an admirable fightback from the Chinese teenager.

The pair shared the opening two frames, before Yan clinched the 12th on the black and moved within two at 7-5. From that moment, the level of scoring went to another level. Murphy made a contribution of 109 to re-establish his three frame cushion. He then moved to a seemingly unassailable lead at 9-5. However, Yan maintained his cool and embarked upon chipping away at Murphy’s advantage.

Runs of 94, 70 and 47 saw him catapult back into the match at 9-8. It seemed as if Murphy was beginning to feel the pressure, as Yan looked to force the issue and take the game to a decider. Yan established a lead of 65-23 when Murphy took on an ambitious long red to the top left corner, it rattled the jaws but found it’s way into the top right pocket. A huge piece of fortune, but the 34-year-old took full advantage. He kept his cool and taking out the clearance of 44 to seal the tie.

“My last victory here was the semis in 2015, so its been a while and I got beat in the first round last year and once he starts his comeback at 9-5 I’m just thinking that it is going to happen again,” said the seven-time ranking winner. “You just want to get in the second round and go home and feel like you’re in the tournament. I was bang under it and but for the fluked red and the decent clearance afterwards, it probably would have been a decider and then its a toss of a coin.

“You just know how good he is. I can’t praise him enough, his colleagues and his generation of Chinese players. Their commitment to pursuing a career in snooker is unbelievable, they’ve left their home countries and continent behind to come here and they play Snooker every hour that God sends and they deserve everything they get. I think he and his compatriots are going to do some serious damage over the years.

“Yan has got that certain something, where he’s got a bit of swagger. He actually believes he is as good as he is, and I remember one of the things that somebody said to me when I was younger, ‘If only you knew how good you are then you’d be it’. He knows how good he is and he’ll be around for a very long time.

“My next opponent Ronnie O’Sullivan definitely knows how good he is. He has no problems with self confidence. We’ve played each other a few times, last time here he gave me a good seeing to. Last time out I won, so I think it will be a good game.”

The 17-year-old Yan remained upbeat about his future World Championship prospects following the loss.

“I think it’s a great experience for me in many respects. I’ve learned a lot playing at the Crucible for the first time and I believe that I can do better next year.

“Had it went to the deciding frame, I wouldn’t have been under any pressure. I wasn’t thinking about winning when I was 9-5 down, I was thinking one frame at a time. I’m young and I have many more chances to come back to the Crucible. I would have stuck to my game which worked pretty well during the last few frames, I kept scoring well.”

John Higgins looked to be on red hot form as he charged to a 7-2 lead over world number 18 Martin Gould.

The Scot hasn’t made it beyond the quarter-finals since his last World Championship victory in 2011. However, the four-time World Champion has enjoyed a strong campaign in 2016/17, picking up silverware at the China Championship and Champion of Champions.

Higgins made breaks of 57, 50, 65,76, 57,90 and 53 as he blitzed to the five frame lead. The match will be played to a conclusion tomorrow morning.