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Zhao Xintong optimistic despite Crucible exit: “Next year, I can win this tournament”

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Methodical Maguire ends Zhao’s Crucible hopes: “The game plan unfolded perfectly”

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Ronnie O’Sullivan reflects on “emotionally tough” World Championship rout of Mark Allen

Zhao believes 2023 could be his year at the Crucible (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

Zhao Xintong believes he can win the 2023 World Championship after exiting this year’s tournament at the hands of Stephen Maguire.

The Cyclone bowed out in the second round on Saturday after going down 13-9 against the Scotsman in what was his first professional match contested over the best of 25 frames.

Meanwhile two-time semi-finalist Maguire drew on all his experience as he dominated the contest by combining solid scoring with a strong safety game.

Indeed, the world number 40 prevented the UK Championship and German Masters winner from truly settling into his exciting natural flow throughout the contest.

Zhao hailed the performance of Maguire, who will play either Ronnie O’Sullivan or Mark Allen in his seventh Crucible quarter-final.

And despite his disappointment, the world number seven is confident the setback will inspire him to go all the way here in 12 months’ time.

“[Stephen is] a great player. In the first two sessions, he played so well and put me under pressure. He deserved his win.” said Zhao.

“He’s played many years in the Crucible. I didn’t have many chances; he took his [chances].

“I need more experience. I’m a new player in the top 16 and I think next year, I will be better.

“It was my first time at the Crucible as a seeded player. It’s an important experience for me.

“This is the biggest tournament in snooker and it’s very important for every player.

“Maybe next year, I can win this tournament. I have confidence.”

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