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Masters snooker 2021: John Higgins to face Yan Bingtao in final

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Dates: 10-17 January Venue: Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and the BBC Sport app. Highlights on BBC Two and online.

Scotland’s John Higgins will face Chinese debutant Yan Bingtao in the final of the Masters on Sunday.

Higgins defeated David Gilbert 6-4, while Yan recovered to stun defending champion Stuart Bingham 6-5.

Yan, 20, can now become the youngest player to lift the trophy since Ronnie O’Sullivan, who won aged 19 in 1995 and Higgins is aiming for a third title.

The best-of-19 final starts at 13:00 GMT, with the winner collecting the trophy and £250,000 in prize money.

It will be the first Masters final without spectators in attendance, being played behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.

‘Yan believes he can win’

The vastly experienced Higgins will start the final as heavy favourite having won this event in 1999 and 2006, as well as being beaten in the showpiece in 1995 and 2005.

If he triumphs 45-year-old Higgins will become the oldest player to win the Masters, surpassing Bingham who was 43 with his success last year.

The world number six was in sublime scoring form when he knocked out world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the previous round and he stroked in 106, 66, 107 and 55 to lead Gilbert 4-2.

The Englishman pulled one back and Higgins missed a frame-ball pink, allowing his opponent to level, but the Scot delivered a break of 56 before then claiming a nervy 10th frame to seal victory.

Higgins said: “I personally think semi-finals are the worst game, you are close to being in a showpiece and David did not play great.

“I am delighted to get through. I knew it was going to be a hard game just to get through to the final and can get better.

“Yan is a brilliant player and he has an old head on young shoulders but we all know that. He is starting to come through now and he believes he can win compared to previous years.”

Analysis – A final between ‘experience v youth’

Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry on BBC Two: “It was a tough match for John but he showed what a battler he is and why he has won so many tournaments and done so much in the game. Even though he was not in the flow of breaks he got the job done and was too strong for David.

“If you think about what he has done in the game, how good a player he is and with only the top 16 players in the world in this tournament, it is mystery why he has not won it more.”

Six-time world champion Steve Davis: “Try and pick a winner from those two, experience against youth and every chance Yan can beat John, he is going to have to play well to beat him. It is nicely set up.

“He has a relatively poor record at the Masters and he can put it right if he wins. A lot of people thought John was past his best and maybe thought he was never going to win a major again so he is proving them wrong.”

‘Today I played very good’

Earlier on Saturday, Yan compiled 94 to start and should have taken control but Bingham stole two frames and made 87 for a 3-1 advantage.

He extended it to 4-2 but Yan took three in a row to lead 5-4, holding himself together with 65 in the deciding frame.

He has a solid but unspectacular style of play with an assured and unfazed presence around the table.

Yan has displayed incredible resolve by winning all three of his matches in a final-frame decider, including a shock victory over world number two Neil Robertson in the first round and edging past Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals.

The world number 11 fell behind once more against Bingham but seemingly improves when trailing and under pressure, doing significant damage by leaving his opponent without a pot for over an hour.

Yan said: “Today I played very good and made so many excellent long pots. I controlled the table and cueball and the safety was good too.”

Asked if he can go on to win it, he replied: “Maybe. This is a big tournament with only the top 16 players.”

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