China’s Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong will contest the BildBet German Masters final, after Yan scored a 6-4 defeat of Mark Allen in the last four on Saturday evening in Berlin.
The title match will be a showdown between two players who have grown up practising together at Victoria’s Snooker Academy in Sheffield.
They both moved to the United Kingdom as teenagers seeking careers in snooker. Yan was only 15 years old when he turned professional in 2016, while Zhao was 18 when he earned a place on the World Snooker Tour in the same year.
Both have now reached the very top of the sport and landed maiden Triple Crown titles last year. Yan became 2021 Masters champion when he beat John Higgins in the final, while Zhao defeated Luca Brecel in the UK Championship final back in December.
With Yan now aged 21 and Zhao 24, tomorrow’s match will be the youngest ranking final since Neil Robertson beat Jamie Cope at the 2006 Grand Prix.
It is only the second ranking final between two players from mainland China in the history of the sport, after Ding Junhui’s win over Xiao Guodong at the 2013 Shanghai Masters.
They will do battle over the best of 17 frames tomorrow with the Brandon Parker Trophy and a top prize of £80,000 on the line.
When play got underway this evening, a break of 75 saw Allen claim the opener, before Yan won a cagey second to restore parity at 1-1.
Allen landed a cross double on the yellow in the third to set up a frame winning run of 20 to steal on the pink. However, Yan ensured they went into the mid-session locked level at 2-2, following a sublime run of 116.
When play resumed the Tiger took to the front for the first time with a break of 53 helping him to move 3-2 ahead. Yan then added his third on the bounce to establish a two-frame cushion at 4-2.
Antrim’s Allen refused to fade away and a century break of 104 saw him claw back within a single frame. Despite that, Yan won a 30-minute eighth on the black to move to the brink of victory at 5-3. Allen won the next to keep himself in contention, before a dramatic 10th frame.
It came down to the blue, where Allen managed to get a snooker to leave himself needing the final three balls to force a re-spot. However, he squandered a chance on the pink to the middle. Eventually, Yan deposited a long range pink to get over the line and clinch his place in the final.
“I am very good friends with Zhao, we have practised together and played phone games together for so many years. We are always together. We will both enjoy tomorrow,” said Yan, who won his maiden ranking title at the 2019 Riga Masters.
“I am very happy tonight, because Mark is a great player. He is always difficult to play because I have lost to him a few times. I knew tonight would be hard and I needed a lot of difficult pots to get the win.”
Allen said: “I struggled from start to finish. I should have gone 2-0 up and never recovered. I tried really hard, but nothing came easily to me. As much as I felt really confident in the first three matches and things were coming naturally, it was hard work today. I should have made it 5-5, but I was nowhere near my best and Yan thoroughly deserved to win.
“I think this season Yan and particularly Zhao Xintong have shown those levels of consistency. Everyone knew how good they were, but the consistency has come on. Everyone else has to catch up.”