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China's Yan Bingtao in action at the 2021 World Snooker Championship in Sheffield. Photo: Xinhua

Northern Ireland Open: Masters champ Yan Bingtao to face John Higgins in Belfast semi-final

  • Chinese No 14 seed romps past Mitchell Mann 5-0 to set up repeat of January’s Masters final
  • Home favourite Mark Allen and Ricky Walden face off in other semi-final at Northern Ireland Open

Masters champion Yan Bingtao is into the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Open snooker tournament where he will play veteran John Higgins in a repeat of this year’s Masters final

Yan followed up victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan with a quarter-finals win over Mitchell Mann, taking the tie 5-0 to march into the last four in Belfast.

The 21-year-old is the highest ranked Chinese player in Belfast after world No 9 Ding Junhui decided to stay away – the only one of the top 16 to steer clear of the ranking event.

O’Sullivan praised Yan after his win over Mann. “The kid’s got something different,” he told Eurosport after the whitewash.

China's Yan Bingtao kisses the Snooker Masters trophy after beating Scotland's John Higgins in the final in Milton Keynes in January 2021. Photo: Xinhua

Scottish veteran Higgins, 46, beat David Gilbert 5-3 in their quarter-final, coming back from 2-0 down to set up a meeting with Yan.

The Chinese world No 15 beat Higgins 10-8 in the Masters final in Milton Keynes back in January to win his first Triple Crown event.

The next Ding Junhui? ‘All I can do is be the best Yan Bingtao’

In the other semi-final, home favourite Mark Allen takes on Ricky Walden, who is into his first ranking event semi since the 2016 China Open, where he reached the final.

Allen beat Judd Trump – who had won in 2018, 2019 and 2020 – after being 3-0 down to the reigning champion while Walden won a deciding frame to beat No 5 seed Shaun Murphy 5-4.

Walden was 3-1 down before mounting his comeback.

Seventh seed Higgins is the highest seeded player left in the tournament, with the Chinese youngster seeded at No 14.

Ninth seed Allen, playing in his home tournament, will have the crowd when he faces the unfancied No 29 seed Walden.

The Northern Ireland Open is the third ranking event of the 2021-22 campaign and the first of the Home Nations tournaments of the snooker season.