Phil Haigh ✍️
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Zhao Xintong seem like a match made in heaven, believes David Grace, as the Rocket continues to help the Cyclone develop his game.
The world number one was working with the UK champion last season, giving him general advice on the game and looking to impart some wisdom on shot selection and tactics.
The seven-time world champion thinks very highly of the 25-year-old, saying he has the talent to become the greatest player ever and wants to help him fulfil his potential.
With the greatest player in the game’s history in the corner of one of the most talented young stars in the sport, it is an exciting prospect and one that world number 55, Grace, reckons will work for all parties involved.
‘Seems like a match made in heaven, doesn’t it? I think Ronnie could only work with players as talented as Zhao,’ Grace told the Talking Snooker podcast.
‘He couldn’t come along and turn me into a heavy scorer or a 16 seconds-a-shot merchant, could he, let’s be honest.
‘He needs to be working with that level of player and that’s what will excite him. I think Ronnie will really enjoy it as well.’
Zhao began fulfilling his immense potential last season when he won the UK Championship and German Masters – his first two ranking events.
Much will be expected of him this campaign, but Grace has urged some caution and feels it will be a good season if the world number six can go deep in tournaments more consistently.
‘If he consolidates being a top 16 player and gets to the business end of a few tournaments, I think that’s fine for him,’ said the Yorkshireman.
‘He’s suddenly gone from where he was to winning two tournaments in such a short space of time, it’ll be difficult for him to do that again, I can’t see that happening again.
‘But you never know, that might be the breakthrough that he needed and he might go on to achieve things that people didn’t think he was capable of.’
O’Sullivan and Zhao’s great relationship has continued over the summer, with the Chinese star going with the world champion to Singapore to play exhibitions at the Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy.
The 46-year-old is a big fan of the Cyclone on and off the table and wants to do for Zhao what the legendary Ray Reardon did for him earlier in his career.
‘He could be the greatest of all time with his talent, his ability,’ said O’Sullivan ahead of the 2022 World Snooker Championship. ‘I always say he’s Roger Federer with a snooker cue in his hands. But he’s got to develop and learn, and he will learn. He’s like me, he’s a quick learner and he’s shown that he’s on it.
‘A bit like what Reardon done with me, he showed me how to defend better. Xintong attacks but it’s sometimes attacking because he’s forced to attack. I said to him, “If you do this better, you’ll always have the upper hand, the more you’ve got the upper hand the more you will feel comfortable. You don’t want to play snooker from desperation.”
‘That’s what I used to do, play from desperation. Attack because I don’t know how to get out of trouble and pot my way out of it. Let’s not do that, get the odds in our favour, but you need to go about it in a certain way for that to happen.’
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