Ronnie O’Sullivan reckons Zhao Xintong should be studying his old rival Mark Selby in a bid to learn a different side of snooker that would help make him near unstoppable.
Zhao has been elevated to snooker stardom thanks to his UK Championship win on Sunday, leaping into the world’s top 16 and having pundits purr over his talents.
The 24-year-old’s 10-5 win over Luca Brecel was his first ever appearance in a final, but the Rocket has been talking up the Cyclone’s talents for some time, stunned by his talent but not blown away by his tactical nous.
His incredible potting and cue ball control looks to be good enough to see him compete with the best, but the Rocket thinks he could take a bit of Selby’s game and go right to the top of the sport.
O’Sullivan doesn’t want to see the Chinese star turn himself into the current world champion, but says there are some useful lessons on tactics to be learned from the Jester from Leicester.
‘I think he will get better from the matches but in some ways you could fast-track him a bit,’ Ronnie told Eurosport. ‘It just needs to learn to contain, not necessarily safe, watch a bit of Mark Selby for a bit. Don’t go as far as Selby but watch how he will put balls awkwardly and leave you horrible shots.
‘He won’t change, you can’t change that, what he has got is beautiful. You keep that and all the good bits but add a few little bits.
‘He will probably learn as he goes alone. He has to be dedicated and apply himself and if he does he could be number one in a few years, if he gets his head down.’
O’Sullivan has described Zhao’s performance in York as ‘inspiring’ while he thinks the entire tour is in trouble if he can keep up the form he showed at the Barbican.
‘It will be interesting to see if he can go on and do what his potential suggests he can, let’s hope it’s not a flash in the pan,’ said the Rocket.
‘Let’s hope he keeps going because he is like a throwback player in some ways, a lot of the modern players have a lot of players and split balls open, whereas he was just picking balls off and there was some beautiful stuff out there, it was quite inspiring to watch.
‘Luca [Brecel] made Kyren [Wilson] look second best [in the semi-finals] and Zhao made Luca look second best. It says a lot for Zhao but if he kicks on, let’s hope he does, then they are all in trouble.’
As for O’Sullivan, he beat Dominic Dale in the first round of the Scottish Open on Monday to set up a last 64 meetings with Michael Georgiou and he is in relaxed mood this week.
‘What drives me? Just being happy, having a good life and enjoying what I do,’ O’Sullivan told North Wales Live.
‘I have zero tolerance towards something I’m not enjoying anymore, so if it’s not right I’m going home.
‘I don’t feel like a slave to the game or the sport anymore, I just do it because I want to do it.
‘Years ago I’d have wanted to smash everyone up and win everything. Now I don’t really care, I just like swanning about enjoying it and just taking whatever there is to be taken.
‘It’s a good position to be in.’
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