Ronnie O'Sullivan backs protege for greatness at his expense: 'Probably not wise'

May 3, 2022
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Phil Haigh ✍️  

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Seventeen
Ronnie O’Sullivan is back at the top of snooker and is hoping Zhao Xintong will join him (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan is loving his work with Zhao Xintong, but admits it might not be the wisest move as he expects the Cyclone and his Chinese compatriots to be winning world titles in the very near future.

The Rocket soared to his seventh world title on Monday night, equalling Stephen Hendry’s record for Crucible triumphs thanks to an 18-13 win over Judd Trump.

The beaten finalist is backing the 46-year-old to add at least one more title to his immense collection, but O’Sullivan is expecting the competition to become all the more fierce in the coming years.

The world number one has been mentoring Zhao, helping develop the UK champion from stunning talent into a more rounded player.

O’Sullivan says he has also been helping out Yan Bingtao, who also plays at Victoria’s Academy in Sheffield, and he expects either Zhao, Yan or the great Ding Junhui to become China’s first world champion in the next four years.

‘Xintong is a special, special talent. It was frustrating to watch him not fulfil his potential, so I wanted to try and help him if I could,’ O’Sullivan told a press conference after winning a seventh world title.

‘We’ve been working, only for a month or so and I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve got more enjoyment out of helping him than actually playing, so that would be something nice to continue to do.

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Six
Zhao Xintong is expected to be a serious contender next season (Picture: Getty Images)

‘I’m helping Xintong and Bingtao, it’s probably not a wise thing to do, but at some point it’s important to look at the bigger picture and help people.

‘It’s a nice feeling to help other players and it’s good for snooker.

‘I think there will be a Chinese world champion within the next three or four years, possibly. Maybe Ding, Xintong, Bingtao. The talent’s there, the ability is there, it’s just a matter of time, really.’

Zhao picked up his first ever win at the Crucible this year, thrashing Jamie Clarke in round one, but fell to Stephen Maguire in the last 16 in Sheffield.

He ends the season as world number six and the 25-year-old will be fancied to add to the two ranking titles he won over the last campaign with the help of the Rocket.

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