He’s vibrant, confident, super talented and still only 17. Is Yan Bingtao snooker’s next big thing?

Chinese teenaged sensation has been setting the table on fire with incredible victories over Higgins and O’Sullivan in a ranking tournament in Daqing, China

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 November, 2017, 4:54pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 November, 2017, 12:03pm

He’s young, vibrant, confident and still only 17 – China’s Yan Bingtao is setting the snooker world alight with his sensational displays in reaching the semi-finals of the 2017 World Snooker International Championship in Daqing in Heilongjiang province, China.

Yan moved closer to his first ranking title triumph after thrilling victories against two former world champions – 6-1 against Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round and then 6-2 against John Higgins in the quarter-finals on Thursday. Between O’Sullivan and Higgins, they have nine Crucible titles and are considered the leading lights in the game but Yan made short work of the British pair to belie his tender years.

The manner in which Yan claimed his two latest scalps drew comparisons with a young Steve Davis, who ruled the baize during the early 1980s and went on to win six world titles.

Yan is the latest mainland player to have come through the ranks, following in the footsteps of China number one Ding Junhui and number two, Liang Wenbo, and the talented teenager is extremely likely to improve on his world ranking of 55 in his first season as a professional. Yan takes on Mark Allen in Saturday’s semi-final after the Northern Irishman defeated England’s Judd Trump 6-5 to set up an intriguing encounter.

Watch: Ronnie O’Sullivan v Yang Bingtao in the first round

“I think I can beat anyone, but I need to be calm and mature,” Yan told Eurosport after his win over O’Sullivan. “I learned a lot from my first year as a pro, and I need to be in control and to be consistent. I might beat a top 16 player and then lose the next match playing like a different person.”

But Yan said he was not about to take over the mantle from Ding just yet, saying: “Ding is a legend of China’s snooker and I think it’s almost impossible to surpass or be as good as him. I only can say that I’ll try hard to be a best Yan Bingtao.”

Higgins was impressed by Yan, saying the teenager could become a future star if he maintains his pulsating form. Yan is blazing a similar trail as one-time prodigy Ding, who reached the China Open final on his 18th birthday in 2005.

The four-time world champion says Yan’s game is standing out. And the teenager’s choice of attire is also turning heads with his vibrant red and black checked suit causing a stir at the Daqing tournament.

“He totally outplayed me, and he plays fantastically. He is superb,” said Scotsman Higgins, whose son, Oliver, is only a year younger than Yan. “He is clever when he is in trouble, he’s got everything.”

“[He’s] maybe [like] a younger Steve Davis. He will be a future world champion, no problem.”

A few days earlier, five-time world champion O’Sullivan also spoke highly of the young mainlander from Zibo in Shandong province.

O’Sullivan normally takes control of the table from the get go, blasting off like the “Rocket” he is known as, but he was reduced to a spectator as Yan won a spectacular first-round match that included breaks of 68, 89, 91, 52 and 73, and failed to register a single point in the final four frames of the match.

“If Yan plays like that he’ll be very difficult to beat in this tournament,” said 41-year-old O’Sullivan. “If he can play like that consistently he’ll win a lot of tournaments. He has an all round game, a good temperament and he carries himself well.

“He has presence around the table – to be a champion you need to portray that image. All the great players won tournaments when they were 17 or 18 so if he’s going to be a great player then he’ll win one soon.”