Ronnie O’Sullivan has likened the Chinese charge on snooker to the peak of men’s tennis over the past few decades, saying the top players are “pushing each other on like Federer, Djokovic and Nadal”.
The six-time world champion was beaten 10-9 by Fan Zhengyi in the final of the European Masters and he has heaped praise on his opponent - before warning the UK will fall behind China if it does not focus on the grassroots game.
O’Sullivan is moving with the rest of the tour from Milton Keynes to the Welsh Open, where he’ll open his campaign against James Cahill, live on Eurosport on Tuesday.
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“He was the better player all day, deserved his victory,” O’Sullivan said.
“I think they’re all being inspired by each other at the moment, you’ve got [Yan] Bingtao, [Zhao] Xintong, this lad [Zhengyi] here, there’s a couple more.
They’re pushing each other on a bit like Federer, Djokovic and Nadal have done, they all work hard because they know the competition’s that good.
“Great for Chinese snooker, great for these young guys, great for snooker and pleasure to watch and a pleasure to play a future world champion today.
“Chinese snooker do a fantastic job, it’s a shame the UK can’t copy the format. We’re going to get left behind, it would be a shame because we’ve had a lot of British players and European players.
“If we don’t do something about grassroots snooker it’ll be like table tennis, they’ll be batting us off the park.”
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OSullivan was playing in his 60th ranking event final - a record - but he says most landmarks do not matter if he does not match Stephen Hendry’s modern era record of winning seven World Championships.
“There’s only one more [record] left, people think unless I break that I can’t be considered the greatest. I never thought I’d win one world title. I’m just happy to be playing, I feel like every year’s like a testimonial. I enjoy it as much as I can.
“If I play rubbish, I get a bit down on myself but I’m a lot better at taking poor performances than I used to be. It’s a pleasure to play new talent, these guys are taking the game on to the next level. I can’t pot like these guys, it’s frightening.”
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