Yan shows true grit to end Selby reign

By JAMES BOYLAN | (China Daily)| Updated : 2022-04-25

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Chinese star ousts defending champ after longest frame in Crucible history


Yan Bingtao sizes up a pot during his match against Mark Selby at the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield on Saturday. PA

Yan Bingtao declared himself good enough to lift this year's world title after prevailing in a historic Crucible encounter to oust defending champion Mark Selby on Saturday in Sheffield, England.

In an epic battle of two tactical masters of the game, Yan showed composure and grit beyond his 22 years to grind out a superb 13-10 victory in a match that featured the longest frame in 45 years of snooker played at the Crucible.

The 22nd frame lasted 85 minutes and 22 seconds, which was five minutes and 51 seconds longer than the previous record.

Yan will face three-time champion Mark Williams of Wales in the quarterfinals, starting on Thursday.

"It's an incredible win, I can't believe I have beaten Mark Selby, the defending champion, in a best-of-25 match," said Yan, who hails from Zibo, Shandong province, but is now based in Sheffield.

"It was very difficult today. It was a long match, there was a lot of safety (play). During the longest frame I was very tired. Mark missed the chance to make it 11-11. In the last frame I told myself I just need one more chance. I concentrated on every pot."

The 39-year-old Selby is renowned for his resilience and shrewd tactical play, but on this occasion he met his match in Yan, who continues to build on his 2021 Masters triumph.

Selby certainly thinks Yan has the game to become China's first world snooker champion.

"Yan is just a great all-round player. You have to beat him, he doesn't give anything to you. You have seen that from start to finish and he plays some very clever shots. I have a lot of respect for him," said Selby, a four-time world champion and the current world No 2.

"I wish I was as good at his age. For me, he has the game to go on and win it. Here, to not be scoring and not be at your best, you have to scrap it out and he showed that."

Yan led 9-7 at the start of the final session, and extended his advantage to three frames after Selby missed a pink. The next frame lasted 46 minutes, with Yan again coming out on top after a safety exchange on the brown.

Selby then rattled in breaks of 86,117 and 88 to close to 11-10. But with the pressure building, Yan showed incredible resolve to take the record-breaking 22nd frame to lead 12-10.He secured victory with a brilliant break of 112.

"A very long frame, one and a half hours," Yan told the BBC. "All the reds were on the cushion and we could only break out single reds.

"He had a very good chance to level at 11-11 but he missed the last pink and he was feeling the pressure and was nervous. He gave me an easy chance and at 12-10 I just needed one more chance."

Looking ahead to his quarterfinal with Williams, who outclassed fellow Welshman Jackson Page in the last 16, Yan said: "He has been playing very well at this year's world championship. He's very confident, very strong. But I'm the same, confident and strong."

Asked if he can go all the way and become world champion, Yan replied: "Maybe, who knows. If I play like I did in the last frame, I will win."

Selby has in recent times spoken about his battle with depression, and after defeat to Yan declared himself happy with his world championship campaign considering his mental-health issues.

"A few months ago I was not really enjoying the game and mentally I wasn't in a great place. To come here with a little bit of positivity and enjoying the game again, for me that's the biggest bonus I can take away from this," said the Englishman.

"I feel like I'm definitely on the right path and I can see improvements which is great. I am still working with doctors and the aim is to have more good days than bad.

"I came here having not played a match for six or seven weeks so I didn't know how I was going to play. Overall I have surprised myself with how I played."

Friday's second session was bizarrely interrupted when a pigeon flew into the arena, and Selby joked: "It nearly took my head off! I didn't know what was happening. I heard all the commotion, and then I got to the top of the steps and it flew by me at 100 miles per hour!"

Earlier, Yan's compatriot Zhao Xintong lost to Stephen Maguire 13-9 in the second round. Reigning UK champion Zhao had been tipped to contend for this year's title, but despite displaying his famed long-potting prowess, missed too many easy shots to surprisingly crash out to the Scottish veteran.

The other Chinese players in the main draw, Ding Junhui and Lyu Haotian, both failed to pass the first round.

Maguire will face Ronnie O'Sullivan after the 'Rocket' advanced with a 13-4 win over Mark Allen.

World No 1 O'Sullivan, who is aiming to tie Stephen Hendry's record of seven world titles, sealed a record-breaking 71st world championship victory. He had been tied with Hendry on most matches won in Sheffield before making two centuries and eight 50-plus breaks to oust Northern Ireland's Allen.