Phil Haigh ✍️
Ronnie O’Sullivan has urged young British snooker players to join their Chinese rivals in one of Sheffield’s snooker academies as they are being left behind on the baize.
The Rocket saw first hand the development of Fan Zhengyi on Sunday as the 21-year-old stunned him in the final of the European Masters.
Fan’s success has come out of nowhere in terms of previous results, but he is part of Victoria’s Academy in Sheffield where he plays alongside the likes of Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong, who have also won big titles in recent months.
Both Victoria’s and the Ding Junhui Academy in Sheffield see a string of great players practicing long hours and, while there are mostly Chinese players there now, O’Sullivan has encouraged young British players to get involved if they want to keep up.
‘Its going to be like table tennis one day, all Chinese and Asian players in another 10 years,’ O’Sullivan told Eurosport of Chinese progress in snooker.
‘The way they’re set up in China with their academies, and they’ve got their academies in Sheffield and they’re just there all the time.
‘You look around at where the British players are and they haven’t got the set-ups. They just go [to the academies] for the odd few days, can you really get that much out of a few days.
‘You’ve got to do like what Ken Doherty done when he came to the UK [from Ireland], he planted himself in Ilford, knew he had to be around the best amateurs playing week-in-week-out.
‘I always say to a young kid that if they want to make it, go and play in one of the Sheffield academies and you’re right amongst it, top quality opposition around you all day.
‘I think that’s how you develop as a player, being around better players and people that you can learn from.’
Zhao and Yan are now firmly inside the world’s top 16, while Fan leapt from number 80 in the world to #31 with his incredible European Masters triumph.
Zhou Yuelong, Liang Wenbo and Ding Junhui are the only other Chinese players in the top 32, so the Chinese takeover is not here just yet, but O’Sullivan reckons it is coming.
19-year-old Si Jiahui could be the next to make strides up the world rankings after securing his place on the professional tour by winning the WSF Open at the weekend.
The teenager is also resident at Victoria’s Academy and has been on tour already, but famously beat Shaun Murphy as an amateur at the UK Championship this season.
He will be back on tour and full of confidence next season, looking to replicate the success of his pals Zhao, Yan and Fan.
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