Ronnie O’Sullivan has described Zhao Xintong as potentially the best player in the world, and has offered advice on how he can get to the summit of the sport.
Zhao advanced to his first major final when crushing Barry Hawkins in the semi-finals of the UK Championship.
It was a blistering performance to set up a meeting with Luca Brecel in the final at the Barbican in York on Sunday.
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O’Sullivan has described Zhao as the Roger Federer of snooker in terms of his talent, but feels there are improvements to be made to take him to the top of the tree.
“He has got stronger and stronger in his body language,” O’Sullivan said on Eurosport. “Some of the matches he looked a bit red and under pressure.
So if this kid starts to go out there and play like he’s in his own front room, then he’s the best player in the world potentially very, very soon.
“He’s not flying, he’s just playing his normal game. As an opponent it is very difficult, because as soon as he’s in the balls it’s game over.
“I've said it for a long time, he's the Federer of snooker but he's got to go and do it and win the titles.”
O’Sullivan believes the 24-year-old would be wise to seek out the help of former Masters champion Alan McManus in order to learn the tactical side of the game.
“He is about 70% of the player he can be,” O’Sullivan said. “There’s another 30-40% of improvement. And the improvement he has got to do is very easy.
If someone like McManus gets hold of him for a year, he will turn him into someone who is unplayable.
“If I was his manager, I would pay £50,000 to McManus for the next year, two years and go ‘right, follow him and teach him.’ After two years, that’s it, you’re done you don’t have to teach him again it will be in his head.
“He has just got to learn that side of the game. It’s like a toolbox, and if you need it you can bring it up: I need those tools for today. Some days he won’t need it, but if you know it’s in there and you come up against someone that tries to get a bit tricky, you can play like that too. Then you are impregnable. They have nowhere to go against you.”
‘He is about 70% of the player he can be!’ – O’Sullivan on Federer-like Zhao
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