Ronnie O'Sullivan tips trio of young stars to become world champions

June 13, 2022
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Phil Haigh ✍️  

Betfred World Snooker Championship 2022 - Day 16
Ronnie O’Sullivan believes a first Chinese world champion is not far away (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan believes the trio of Zhao Xintong, Yan Bingtao and Fan Zhengyi all have what it takes to become world champions as he predicts a very bright future for the Chinese stars.

All three have won ranking events, with Zhao, 25, enjoying a breakout season over the last year, winning the UK Championship and German Masters, while Fan, 21, stunned O’Sullivan to beat him in the European Masters final.

Yan, 22, had already made his own breakthrough, winning the Riga Masters in 2019 before his amazing Masters win in 2021 in his debut in the historic tournament.

The current world champion thinks there is plenty more success to come for them, with Zhao and Yan ahead of Fan at the moment, but with the youngest of the three not too far behind.

‘There’s three really special young Chinese players coming through at the moment: Zhao Xintong, Yan Bingtao and Fan Zhengyi,’ O’Sullivan told CGTN Sports Scene.

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Six
Zhao Xintong will start the new season at number six in the world rankings (Picture: Getty Images)

‘They practice together every day in the same environment. I think between one of them three…Xintong or Bingtao will be the first Chinese world champion.

‘Then not long after that, maybe Fan Zhengyi because he’s only young at the moment. But then there’s many, many more younger ones coming in behind.’

Betfred World Snooker Championships 2022 - Day 11
Yan Bingtao narrowly lost to Mark Williams in this year’s World Snooker Championship (Picture: Getty Images)

The Rocket has been in Singapore at the launch of his Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy (Rossa), playing exhibitions with Zhao and current women’s world champion Nutcharut Wongharuthai (Mink).

The 46-year-old believes Asia will continue to grow in influence in snooker, with more champions ready to emerge from the continent.

‘China’s in a very strong position to produce the first Asian world champion,’ the Rocket continued.

‘But there’s Thailand as well and here we are in Singapore. Who knows, in 10 years we might have a Singapore guy playin on the main tour.

‘Who knows, we may be talking about him being a world champion. That’s the plan, to see what we can do.’

Zhao was delighted to be involved in the project and continue his work with O’Sullivan, who has become something of a mentor for the 25-year-old.

‘It’s amazing how I’m now getting tips from my childhood hero, and how he will show up to help us in times of need, even when it comes to issues with travel documents,’ Zhao told TNP.

‘He is a great guy and a great inspiration and I really want to repay his kindness by doing as well as I can.’

O’Sullivan is due to be back in competitive action for the first time since winning a seventh World Championship when he embarks on a Championship League campaign on 4 July at the Morningside Arena in Leicester in a group alongside Alexander Ursenbacher, Alfie Burden and Farakh Ajaib.

Zhao plays on 29 June, with Yan in action on the opening day of the event on 28 June.

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