Yan Bingtao became the first teenager to win a ranking title for 13 years by beating Mark Joyce 5-2 in the final of the Kaspersky Riga Masters.
China’s 19-year-old Yan always looked in control of the final against Joyce in Latvia as he took the £50,000 top prize at the first ranking event of the season.
He becomes the third Chinese player to win a ranking title, joining Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo. Not since Ding won the Northern Ireland Open in 2006 has a player aged under 20 won a ranking event, and Yan is also the first Chinese winner of a ranking title since Ding landed the Yushan World Open in 2017.
The comparisons with Ding, now aged 32, do not stop there. Both were was tipped for the top from their early teens; Yan won the world amateur title at the age of 14, and a year later partnered Zhou Yuelong to victory for China at the World Cup.
In 2017, age 17, Yan came within a frame of eclipsing Ronnie O’Sullivan’s long-standing record as the youngest ever winner of a ranking title, but lost 9-8 to Mark Williams in the Northern Ireland Open final.
Last season, Yan seemed to take a step backwards as he failed to reach a ranking event quarter-final. But having now landed his first piece of individual silverware he has taken a huge leap forwards. It will surely be the first of many.
Yan earns a place at the ManBetX Champion of Champions in November and goes to the top of the 2019-20 one-year ranking list, and may already have earned enough to qualify for the Coral World Grand Prix in February. He climbs three places up the official world ranking list to 18th.
Walsall’s Joyce, who had never previously been beyond the quarter-finals of a ranking event, earns £25,000 and moves up from 54th to 47th.
Yan took the opening frame of the final by clearing from brown to black, then dominated the second with breaks of 48 and 38. Joyce pulled one back with a 103, before Yan made a 53 in taking the fourth to lead 3-1 at the interval.
A tight fifth frame went Joyce’s way, but Yan made a 65 in the sixth as he went 4-2 up. And a superb 66 clearance, from 45-5 behind, saw Yan seal the title.
“I’m excited because it’s the first time I have won a ranking final,” said Yan, via a translator. “I’m so happy to win the title. I was a little bit lucky. Ding is still the best Chinese player, I have to improve.
“There are a lot of teenage Chinese players getting better and better, especially those who come to play in the UK. Hopefully more of them can win titles, and of course I hope I can win a lot of ranking events. I will keep practising.
“After I lost the Northern Ireland Open final two years ago I was upset because I thought it might be my only chance to win a title. I have improved a lot since then. Tonight I thought I had an advantage because Mark had never played in a final before. I played shots one by one without hurrying, and I think that’s why I won.”
Joyce said: “The first frame was massive, I should have won it and that set me back. He was more solid on the night. The clearance he made in the last frame to win the tournament was fantastic.
“I won a pro-am tournament in Vienna over the summer and had a 147, which gave me some belief because I have made some changes to my game. I was confident coming here and I’m pleased to have reached my first final.”
Earlier in the semi-finals, Joyce edged out Kurt Maflin 5-4 with a break of 126 in the deciding frame while Yan scored a 5-3 win over Matthew Selt.
The next tournament is the International Championship in Daqing, China, which starts on August 4th.