Luca Brecel joins Zhao Xintong in aiming big after strong starts to the season

July 1, 2022
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Phil Haigh ✍️  

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Five
Luca Brecel is eyeing up big progress this season (Picture: Getty Images)

Luca Brecel is aiming to be in the top four in the world by the end of the season, while Zhao Xintong is eyeing up top spot in the rankings.

Two of the stars of the last campaign have started the new season in strong style, with Zhao topping his first Championship League group on Wednesday and Brecel doing the same on Friday.

The Cyclone won the UK Championship and German Masters last season, finishing the campaign at number six in the world, while the Belgian Bullet’s run to the UK final and then Scottish Open triumph helped him end at number 12.

Brecel reckons he can do some serious climbing in the months to come, setting himself a big challenge of catching the very elite in the top four of the rankings.

Speaking after winning his Championship League group, Brecel said: ‘I played some really good stuff today in all of my games made a lot of breaks and I felt like I was the best player in the group. I’m really happy to be top of the group.

‘I practice a lot during the summer, playing some really good stuff in practice so it’s not a surprise, but it’s always nice to do it on the match table.

‘I feel like I’m playing a lot better than last season so hopefully it’s going to be a good season again.

‘I don’t have many points to defend this season so the only way is up. If I can get some good results like last season, I could finish maybe top four by the end of the season, so a lot to play for/

‘I’m feeling really good, relaxed and playing good. It’s good.’

Zhao is slightly less bullish, but when asked if he is looking to sit atop the world rankings, he says it is something he is aiming for in the near future and he intends to improve on his memorable results of last campaign.

‘I want to be better than last year and I want to do my best. I will try as hard as I can to win the matches and the tournament,’ said the 25-year-old.

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Six
Zhao Xintong has been tipped as a future world number one (Picture: Getty Images)

‘The idea of aiming to become world number one in the future sounds good. Hopefully, I can do it.’

Another player to top their Championship League group this week was Anthony Hamilton, who celebrated his 51st birthday while picking up wins over Noppon Saengkham and Steven Hallworth.

The Sheriff of Pottingham reckons Zhao could even hit the top spot in the rankings this season, although admits that it will be tough.

‘Of course he’s good enough,’ Hamilton told ‘He could do it this season couldn’t he? Because he’s not got many points coming off, he starts in a strong position.

‘But he’d have to keep on winning tournaments to be world number one, look at Neil [Robertson], he wins like five tournaments a year and he’s not that often number one.

‘You need to win the Worlds or you’re in trouble, world number one-wise.’

International Championship 2016 - Day 3
Anthony Hamilton expects Zhao to reach the very top of snooker (Picture: Getty Images)

Hamilton has seen it all on the baize, still on tour after turning professional in 1991, and he rates Zhao as highly as anything he has seen for years.

‘I think he’s the best thing I’ve seen in snooker since Ding [Junhui]. It’s just a delight to watch Xintong play, it really is,’ said the Sheriff.

‘He makes the game look like…what are the rest of us playing at? He makes it look so easy. It’s natural talent.

‘He’s got the most simple cue action I think we’ve got in the game, that’s the best thing in all sports, the most simple actions that don’t go wrong.

‘He’s been around for a few years and us snooker players have been like, what are you doing? Just concentrate and you’ll start winning tournaments, and now he is.’

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