Gao Yang has defeated Sean Maddocks 5-2 to claim the inaugural WSF Junior Open title earlier this afternoon in Malta.
The15-year-old Chinese talent becomes the first winner of the prestigious new junior event and will earn a two-year main tour ticket to the World Snooker Tour from the start of the 2020/21 season. The competition saw 55 of the best young snooker players in the world aged 17 or under compete over six days to become champion.
Gao, who previously competed at the WSF Championship in 2018 and recently appeared as a wildcard at the 2019 World Open in Yushan, qualified from a tough group in second place before surviving deciding-frame encounters against Scotland’s Dean Young and later his compatriot Yi Ze Wu to progress to the final.
Awaiting him in the final was England’s Maddocks, who starred in the groups dropping just one frame before reaching the title match with victories against Bradley Tyson, Antoni Kowalski, Jovan Todorovic and Irish prospect Aaron Hill.
It was Maddocks who made the stronger start to the final, taking two of the opening three frames to lead 2-1 as he looked to go one better his performance at Q School last year which saw him narrowly miss out on joining the professional ranks.
The fourth frame would however prove to be a key turning point as trailing 54-26, Gao cleared the table in two visits to draw level at the mid-session interval. This would prove to be the start of a four-frame winning run as he hit the front for the first time with a match-high break of 72 on the resumption of play, before adding the next two to secure victory.
The snooker continues in Malta with the start of the WSF Open from tomorrow (10th January), with over 150 players set to battle for the second professional tour card on offer this week. View more information online HERE.
The semi-finalists for the 2020 World Snooker Federation Junior Open are now known following the completion of the opening knockout rounds in Malta over the past few days.
England’s Sean Maddocks, the Republic of Ireland’s Aaron Hill and Chinese pairing of Yi Ze Wu and Yang Gao remain in the event, where the winner will not only receive the prestigious title, but also a lucrative two-year professional tour card for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 seasons.
Maddocks, officially recognised as the youngest player to have made a 147 break in competitive play, will face Hill, the current European Under-18 Champion.
Both players qualified for the knockout stages after qualifying top of their groups with 100% records. Maddocks subsequently eliminated Bradley Tyson (Wales), Antoni Kowalski (Poland) and Jovan Todorovic (Serbia), while Hill ended the hopes of Lewis Ullah (England), Attila Horváth (Hungary) and Oliver Sykes (England).
Compatriots Yi and Yang will contest the other last four affair, both hoping to make the step up to the top tier of the sport and join the growing contingent of young Chinese players on the full-time circuit.
Like Maddocks and Hill, Yi is undefeated. After heading Group D, the 16-year-old saw off recent Beverly World Cup quarter-finalist Ben Mertens (Belgium) 3-1 in the last 32. Then, in arguably the match of the tournament so far, he ousted another Belgian in Julian Leclercq 3-2 during the last 16, where Yi compiled breaks of 106, 85 and 100 to counteract efforts of 83 and 55 from Leclercq. Yi then denied 2019 Snooker Shootout star Ryan Davies (England) 4-2 in the quarter-finals. Yang finished second in his group before defeating Mickey Joyce (England), recent Challenge Tour event winner Dean Young (Scotland) and Kreishh Gurbaxani (India).
Both semi-finals will be live streamed on the World Snooker Federation Facebook page with Maddocks v Hill scheduled for 14.00GMT and Yi v Yang set for 18.00GMT. The 2020 WSF Junior Open best-of-9-frames final will take place on Thursday at 11.00GMT; this too will be live streamed
For full results throughout the competition, please visit snookerscores.net here.