Ronnie O’Sullivan shares the love for Chinese star Zhao Xintong

Posted on: 7 April 2022

Last edited on: 7 April 2022

Easily the most famous player in snooker, Ronnie “The Rocket” O’Sullivan has enjoyed a phenomenal career blessed with both success and longevity. Between the first of his record 38 ranking titles in 1993 and the most recent in 2021, the 46-year-old has quite literally been there and seen it all, yet one rising star is causing the most prolific break-builder in the game to pause in admiration.

Despite currently sitting pretty at the top of the official WST World Rankings, having earned the most prize money as we reach the conclusion of the 2021-22 professional snooker season, O’Sullivan has lavished glowing on one of his potential rivals at the World Snooker Championship.

After being seeded second in the draw for the World Snooker Championship, which is due to commence on 16 April at the iconic Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England, O’Sullivan will undoubtedly be setting his sights on claiming the £500,000 winner’s prize up for grabs. But if that ambition is to be achieved, he will have to beat a rival he considers to be an “unbelievable talent” along the way.

The rising star and phenomenal talent O’Sullivan is referring to is Zhao Xintong, who first emerged on the scene during the 2014-15 season, albeit as a raw but skilled youth with plenty of potential. After attaining a high Q School Order of Merit ranking during the 2015-16 season, Zhao earned a two-year card for the main tour, which led to him turning professional.

Nevertheless, over the following years Zhao found competitive life difficult and aside from demonstrating flashes of brilliance, the huge potential his early career had promised was failing to shine through. But he persevered and over the last three campaigns, gradually climbed steadily up the WST rankings.

Having now made his genuine breakthrough at long last, the 2021-22 season has marked an exceptional rise to prominence for Zhao, who beat Luca Brecel 10-5 to win the UK Championship and claim the first ranking title of his career. That was followed this year with triumph at German Masters in January, whitewashing his fellow countryman Yan Bingtao 9-0 in the final.

Speaking in a recent interview published by Eurosport, the progress Zhao has enjoyed over the last year has certainly caught the attention of O’Sullivan, who regularly practices with the rising star of Chinese snooker. “It’s just amazing to watch him play,” enthused O’Sullivan, albeit with some cautionary words of experience. “He has the same problem I had years ago, and that is consistency. Finding the level that you need to never really drop below.”

“I got so much joy out of spending time with him on the table,” added O’Sullivan, while pointing out “I cannot coach him,” and firm in the belief that “he is a better player than me, he is a better potter than me,” which is glowing praise indeed. O’Sullivan even revealed that while practicing together, they often shared ideas. “I learn from him; he learns from me. I get a lot of pleasure from helping him,” the current world number one highlighted.

This budding relationship between the two players will undoubtedly help both, although the growing friendship and sense of admiration will also be put to the test, should O’Sullivan and Zhao cross paths at the upcoming World Snooker Championship. Given they are both in the same half of the draw, that is a very real possibility, should they progress through the early rounds of the tournament.

O’Sullivan and Zhao will inevitably be two of the most popular players amongst punters, as they weigh up the odds and choose who to back at the World Snooker Championship. For the bigger picture about comparing odds, the experts at Arabian Betting have published useful tips and reviews covering the best betting sites, including how to stay safe and anonymous online whenever placing bets.

Neil Robertson has the shortest odds to win the 2022 World Snooker Championship, just ahead of Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan. Reigning champion Mark Selby is also expected to be in the mix, while John Higgins and Kyren Wilson are also considered to be genuine contenders. But amongst the best value odds are those for Zhao Xintong, valued as a 20/1 outside shot with most bookies, which could be worth backing if his recent form holds.

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