Snooker’s biggest invitational event kicks off Sunday night and China’s Yan Bingtao will be out to prove his 2021 Masters snooker title was no one-hit wonder. The 21-year-old steps into London’s famed Alexandra Palace to defend his Paul Hunter Trophy against two-time Masters champion Mark Williams, with the pair locking horns on in the first round of the eight-day event, which starts at 9pm on Sunday, Hong Kong time. Yan, who stunned the snooker world with a sensational victory over John Higgins in 2021, becoming the first Chinese player in a decade to win the coveted title, admitted he was nervous going into the tournament, but said he was looking forward to it. “I know about the venue and I know it carries an even better atmosphere than the World Championship,” he said. “It is huge, yet it only has one table in it. You get all the attention out there and everyone’s eyes are on you, that worries me a little bit.” In @CazooUK Masters action at 1pm... pic.twitter.com/epx90ve58B — World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) January 9, 2022 Last year the tournament was played in a makeshift venue without a live audience as the sport navigated itself through the coronavirus pandemic. This year, Yan will have the added pressure of a crowd to contend with and admitted that could play a part in how he performs. History will also be working against him, as only four players have defended their Masters title since the tournament’s inauguration in 1975, and Yan knows he will have to pull out all the stops. “I wish I could have won last year in front of a crowd, as it is such a prestigious event,” he said. “However, it could have been a very different story with a big audience and I might have lost. I will feel more pressure this time trying to get over the line in matches. When I was 9-8 up in last year’s final I felt so calm. The emotions only kicked in at the very last moment.” A healthy US$340,000 cheque awaits this year’s winner with another US$135,000 up for grabs for the runner-up.