China’s 19-year-old Yan Bingtao strengthened his reputation as the best teenager on the planet by beating John Higgins 6-3 in the quarter-finals of the Betway UK Championship.
Yan set up a meeting on Saturday with Ding Junhui, who saw off Liang Wenbo 6-2. It will be the first time that two Chinese players have clashed in the semi-finals of a Triple Crown event.
Defeat for three-time UK Champion Higgins means that 12 of the world’s top 13 players have now been knocked out, with number seven Mark Allen the highest ranked left in the field.
Higgins: “When you play as badly as that it’s pretty soul destroying.”
Yan won his first ranking title earlier this season at the Riga Masters, becoming the first teenager to win a ranking event since Ding in 2006. He had never previously been beyond the last 32 of a Triple Crown event but, in what seems to be his breakthrough season, he is thriving this week on the big stage in York.
In fact Yan was far from his best today – his top break was just 43 – but he took advantage of numerous errors from Scotland’s Higgins.
Three scrappy frames before the interval all went Yan’s way – Higgins taking the other with a run of 78. The next two were shared then a 43 from Yan put him 5-2 ahead.
Higgins sparked into life with a 123 in frame eight and had a clear opportunity in the ninth, but only made 31 and his opponent punished him with 40 and 35 to clinch victory.
“This is one of my best ever wins, although neither of us played well,” said Yan. “It was very scrappy with lots of balls missed. I didn’t expect to beat Neil Robertson (in the previous round) or John Higgins. This gives me a lot of confidence. When I looked at the draw before the tournament I never thought I would go this far. I’m looking forward to playing Ding – we have never met before in a pro tournament and the first time will be in the semi-finals of the UK Championship. I hope it will be a good match.”
Higgins said: “When you play as badly as that it’s pretty soul destroying but I get used to it. Yan dealt with the conditions a lot better and he only took chances on which he was favourite to get. His safety was top notch, he had me in all sorts of bother. The best man certainly won. He’s got a great all round game. He maybe has to score a little bit better to get right to the very top of the game but I’m sure that will come. He’s a lovely young boy as well, fair play to him.”
Ding Back On Track
Ding outplayed Liang in a Chinese derby to reach his first UK Championship semi-final since he won the the title for the second time in 2009.
It has been a barren two years for Ding since he won his 13th ranking title at the 2017 Yushan World Open – this is his first ranking event semi-final for 22 months. He has become a father for the first time during that period which has undoubtedly affected his priorities in life and form on that table. But the 32-year-old has shown signs this week of a return to his best.
Breaks of 79 and 101 helped give him a 4-1 lead over Liang. A 33 clearance gave Liang frame six, but Ding hit back to win the seventh then sealed the result in the eighth with a run of 76.
“I’m very pleased with the way I played,” said Ding. “I’m just trying to learn. Everyone is different at finding the best way to deal with the pressure. I don’t get upset or think negative thoughts, I just play the simple shots, play everything the same.
“If you don’t wake up and feel good it’s tough, but sometimes you feel very good. I just want to play like I did today, that was enough for me.
“Yan has talent and he is flying up the rankings. He has won a tournament already this season so he must be very confident. I think he’s ready for the top level.”
Liang’s hopes of a Masters place are now gone, but Yan still has a chance if he can reach the final. Follow that race here.