Ronnie O'Sullivan explains why Zhao Xintong has to 'improve his game a lot'

October 21, 2022
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Phil Haigh ✍️  

Ronnie O'Sullivan and Zhao Xintong
Zhao Xintong has a lot of work to do on the table, believes Ronnie O’Sullivan (Pictures: Getty)

Ronnie O’Sullivan has been something of a mentor to rising star Zhao Xintong, but says the UK champion has a lot of work to do and must learn to deal with pressure better on the snooker table.

The 25-year-old enjoyed a breakout season last time around, winning the UK Championship and German Masters, bursting into the world’s top 16 for the first time as a result.

However, this campaign has not started particularly well. He had a good run at the Championship League, but has fallen early at the European Masters, British Open and the ongoing Northern Ireland Open where he lost in the opening round to Lyu Haotian.

O’Sullivan, who has spent time worth with Zhao on his game at Victoria’s Academy in Sheffield, still sees the Cyclone and his good friend Yan Bingtao as the brightest young talents in the sport, but says there is much work to be done.

Zhao may have the more natural flair for the game, but Yan has the more solid temperament and the Rocket feels Zhao has plenty to learn on the mental side of the game.

On the two Chinese stars climbing towards the top of the game, Ronnie told Eurosport: ‘They are still going to have to get the better of Judd.

‘I would imagine he [Xintong] is going to have to improve his game a lot, to learn how to win matches under pressure.

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Four
Yan Bingtao has become a force at the top of the game (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Bingtao has a better temperament than Xintong, so he is always going to be up for the fight like (Mark) Selby.

‘Judd is still a young player. These two [Bingtao and Xintong] are young and I think them three will be the top players once the older guys fade away.’

The Rocket and the Cyclone were working together ahead of the World Championship this year, with Zhao explaining then that O’Sullivan was trying to help him think like a winner on the table..

‘We talk like friends, just about thinking about snooker, he teaches me a lot and he’s a good man. He’s the best player, a legend,’ Zhao told

‘It’s how to think. I think this is very important. The top players are all so great, so thinking is important.’

O’Sullivan could not have been more complimentary towards Zhao at the time, saying: ‘He could be the greatest of all time with his talent, his ability.

‘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.’

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