YORK, England (AP) — Zhao Xintong became the second Chinese player this year to capture one of snooker's three major titles when he won the UK Championship on Sunday.
Competing in the first final of his career, the 24-year-old Zhao beat Luca Brecel 10-5 in the northern English city of York to become only the fourth non-British winner of the event.
“It was the biggest match for me and it was my first time, so I tried my best,” Zhao said. “I feel very, very happy now. I am very excited.”
China has long been viewed as the country that will break Britain’s stranglehold on the table sport and another of its talented young players, Yao Bingtao, won the Masters in January.
The world championship is the biggest event in snooker and no Chinese has ever won it. Ding Junhui, the long-time star of Chinese snooker and a three-time winner of the UK Championship, was the runner-up at the worlds in 2016.
The manner of Zhao’s win suggested there might soon be a shift in balance of power in the sport toward China, with big names like Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan describing Zhao as the next big thing in snooker.
“He’s got the credentials to be the first Chinese world champion,” six-time world champion Steve Davis said. “Everyone thought it might be Ding but who is to say Zhao won’t be the one to do it?”
Zhao, who will move up to ninth in the world rankings, collected 200,000 pounds ($265,000) in prize money and earned a place in next month’s Masters tournament in London.
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