Ronnie O’Sullivan tips the trio of young stars to become world champions

Betfred World Snooker Championship 2022 - Day 16

Ronnie O’Sullivan believes a first Chinese world champion isn’t far away (Image: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan believes the trio of Zhao Xintong, Yan Bingtao and Fan Zhengyi all have what it takes to become world champions as he predicts a bright future for Chinese stars.

All three have won ranked events, with Zhao, 25, enjoying a breakout season last year, winning the UK Championship and German Masters, while 21-year-old fan O’Sullivan stunned when he beat him in the final of the European Masters defeated.

22-year-old Yan had already made his own breakthrough, winning the Riga Masters in 2019 before claiming an amazing Masters win on his debut at the historic tournament in 2021.

The current world champion believes they still have a lot of success ahead of them, with Zhao and Yan currently ahead of Fan but the youngest of the three not too far behind.

“At the moment three very special young Chinese players are coming through: Zhao Xintong, Yan Bingtao and Fan Zhengyi,” O’Sullivan told CGTN Sports Scene.

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Six

Zhao Xintong starts the new season as number six in the world (Image: Getty Images)

“They practice together in the same environment every day. I think between one of them three… Xintong or Bingtao will be the first Chinese world champion.

“Then, not long after, maybe Fan Zhengyi because he’s young at the moment. But then many, many more younger people will follow.’

Yan Bingtao narrowly lost to Mark Williams at this year’s World Snooker Championship (Image: Getty Images)

The Rocket was in Singapore for the opening of its Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy (Rossa) and played shows with Zhao and reigning Women’s World Champion Nutcharut Wongharuthai (Mink).

The 46-year-old believes Asia will continue to gain influence in snooker as more champions emerge across the continent.

“China is in a very strong position to produce the first Asian World Champion,” continued The Rocket.

“But there is also Thailand and here we are in Singapore. Who knows, maybe 10 years from now a guy from Singapore will be playing on the main tour.

“Who knows, maybe we’re talking about him being a world champion. That’s the plan to see what we can do.’

Zhao was delighted to be involved in the project and continue his work with O’Sullivan, who has become a mentor of sorts to the 25-year-old.

“It’s amazing how I now get tips from my childhood hero and how he shows up to help us in times of need, even when it comes to travel document issues,” Zhao told TNP.

“He’s a great guy and a great inspiration and I really want to repay his kindness by doing my best.”

O’Sullivan will be back in contention for the first time since winning a seventh World Championship when he starts a Championship League season on July 4 at Leicester’s Morningside Arena in a group featuring Alexander Ursenbacher, Alfie Burden and Farakh Ajaib.

Zhao will play on June 29, while Yan will play on the opening day of the event on June 28.

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snooker Ronnie O'Sullivan tips the trio of young stars to become world champions

Nate Jones

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