Yan Bingtao is the new superstar China and the sport of snooker needed, according to former Masters finalist Joe Perry.
Perry admits he was rooting for his friend John Higgins in the 47th Masters final on Sunday evening, but was not overly dejected by 20-year-old Yan’s epic 10-8 victory over the four-times world champion.
Perry – who lost 6-2 to David Gilbert in the first round of the Masters after world number one Judd Trump was ruled out due to a positive coronavirus test – feels China requires a figure to follow in the footsteps of three-times UK and 2011 Masters winner Ding Junhui.
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Speaking after finishing top of the eight-man Group M at the new WST Pro Series to qualify for the second phase alongside Xiao Guodong, Perry praised Yan’s recovery from 5-3 and 7-5 behind to edge out the two-times Masters champion Higgins.
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“Most finals are great. You get the odd one-sided one, but last night was fantastic,” said Perry, who lost 10-7 to Ronnie O'Sullivan in the 2017 Masters final.
“Honestly, I wanted John to win. I think it would have been great. His career is just phenomenal, but as he didn’t win it is fantastic for snooker.
It’s the new Chinese superstar, the one they’ve been waiting for to follow in Ding’s footsteps. It is great for China and for the future of snooker because China is so important to the sport.
“To get some reward for all the effort they’ve been putting in, nurturing their own stars and talent is fantastic.”
The man nicknamed ‘The Gentleman’ enjoyed six wins from seven matches suffering his only defeat in a 2-1 loss to Rod Lawler, who contributed the highest break of the day with a fine 140 in a 2-0 win over Daniel Wells.
Perry completed a 2-1 win over world number 35 Xiao, who won five of his seven games, after losing 2-1 to Wells.
Former world finalist Matthew Stevens suffered a 2-1 defeat to Allan Taylor in his final group match to finish third.
Perry and Xiao return for the second phase in March with the chance to qualify for the final group.
This will be the first edition of the WST Pro Series, which has arrived on the snooker scene for 2021.
The legendary Stephen Hendry was set to make his eagerly-anticipated comeback, but withdrew on Friday January 15 and was replaced by John Astley. Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Mark Selby are also in the draw.
The WST Pro Series will offer up total prize money of £420,500 and will take place at Arena MK in Milton Keynes.
What is the format?
The players have been split into 16 groups of eight for the initial round-robin phase. All matches are best-of-three frames, and the top two in each group will progress to the second group stage.
The second phase will feature 32 players split into four groups of eight, and the top two in each group will then progress.
The player who finishes top of the final group of eight players will be crowned the champion of the inaugural edition of the event.
- January 18-25: Groups 1-8
- March 9-16: Groups 9-16
- March 17-20: Second group stage
- March 21: Final group
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