Ronnie O'Sullivan has described Zhao Xintong as snooker's "Roger Federer" but believes it is time he turned his potential into titles on the green baize.
Zhao joined O'Sullivan – a 6-3 winner against Noppon Saengkham in the last 16 at the York Barbican – in the quarter-finals of the UK Championship with a 6-4 win over Peter Lines on Wednesday after evergreen Leeds potter Lines threatened an upset by recovering from 4-1 behind to level at 4-4.
The 24-year-old Zhao will face Jack Lisowski or Hossein Vafaei in the last eight on Friday night with O'Sullivan meeting Kyren Wilson earlier in the day.
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Despite being tipped to follow in the footsteps of three-times UK winner Ding Junhui as a future champion from China, Zhao's best performance of his five-year career remains his run to the last four of the China Championship in 2018 when he lost 6-4 to Mark Selby in the semi-finals.
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"I think he is amazing. I think he is our [Roger] Federer," said O'Sullivan, who is chasing a record eighth UK crown 28 years after his first.
I've never seen a more talented snooker player.
O'Sullivan benefited from the tactical nous of six-times world champion Ray Reardon to help him develop as a player before he claimed the second of his six world titles in 2004 – and feels Zhao could benefit from a similar experience.
"He could do with maybe tightening up. I watch him sometimes and I was a bit like that, but then I got Reardon around me for a couple of years and you start to play a better defensive game," commented O'Sullivan.
"He needs that because when those frames go a bit scrappy, he looks like he is always going to come off second best.
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"He is good, he is unbelievable, but he is 24, he's got to do it at some point. [Seven-times world champion] Stephen Hendry was winning tournaments at 17.
How long can you keep saying he's got potential? At the end of the day, you've got to do the business on the table.
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