The Masters final is an intriguing clash, with 25 years age difference between the players. Paul Krishnamurty predicts the youngster will not be overawed...
"I think Yan will hold his own. His safety is good enough to compete and he fares well in the sort of scrappy frames which Higgins invariably dominates."
20 year-old Yan Bingtao will become only the second Chinese player to compete in a major final this afternoon. He's beaten UK champion Neil Robertson, Stephen Maguire and defending Masters champion Stuart Bingham to get here. Now to finish the job, a nine-time major champion and unarguably the best player of the week.
Higgins rightly a firm favourite
Can the youngster upset the odds against John Higgins, in the pressure cooker of a major final? Not if the Scot reproduces his performance against Ronnie O'Sullivan. No player on earth could beat that standard.
In his two other matches though, Higgins was good if not spectacular. Scoring heavily and typically reliable in the safety department, but still making his share of mistakes. With minor twists, he could have lost to either Dave Gilbert or Mark Allen.
Bingtao leads the head-to-head
I don't think for a minute that Bingtao will be overawed, especially given the names he's beaten already on his Masters debut. In fact he leads Higgins 3-2 head-to-head, including the last two, one of which came in a major quarter-final.
We've seen already that he has bags of bottle and resilience. Most young players would have caved yesterday, going into a decider having lost three close frames and blown some golden opportunities. Yan stepped forward, potted a superb opening red, and held it together when it mattered.
Yan can hold his own in safety battles
Granted, Stuart Bingham did not play well and Higgins is sure to present a much sterner test. Nevertheless, I think Yan will hold his own. His safety is good enough to compete and he fares well in the sort of scrappy frames which Higgins invariably dominates.
If forced to choose at the odds, Bingtao appeals more at 2.89/5 from a trading perspective, but my likeliest outcome is a narrow Higgins victory. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Yan build up a big lead before getting overhauled late.
A preferable bet is Over 16.5 Frames at 1.855/6. We haven't needed a deciding frame in a Masters final since 2010. It would be a fitting end to a thoroughly enthralling week.
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