Phil Haigh ✍️
Zhao Xintong was on the wrong end of a memorable John Higgins comeback on Monday evening at the Tour Championship, admitting that it was a painful night out, but taking the positives from the experience.
The Cyclone looked in fine fettle, and the four-time world champion was struggling badly, which added up to Zhao holding an 8-4 lead in the race to 10 frames.
The Scot looked doomed at that point but he dug in and found some form as the Chinese star started to fade away.
The Wizard of Wishaw won five frames on the spin, Zhao pinched the 18th to take it to a decider, but it was Higgins who got over the line in a tense and edgy final frame.
The 24-year-old was hurt by the experience, missing out on the chance to beat a legend in the quarter-final of a top event, but he says he learned a lot from the epic battle in Llandudno.
Zhao wrote on Chinese social media site, Weibo: ‘Playing best of 19 against one of the greatest players in the world, I learned a lot. Lost the deciding frame, it is very hurtful. This is what snooker is about, you enjoy winning and you are hurt losing.
‘I have a lot of people supporting me, this makes me feel better. I will work harder and become the best player I want to be. I hope at the Crucible I can have a better performance. Remember, be happy.’
Zhao’s next game will be at the Crucible, where he will be a top 16 player at the World Championship for the first time.
He has made just one Crucible appearance before, losing 10-7 to Mark Selby in the first round in 2019, but he will be going with far more expectation this year than he did then.
The reigning UK and German Masters champion, Zhao will be hoping for his first win in the historic arena, and plenty more on top of that. His stinging defeat to Higgins in north Wales may just help him achieve that.
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