James Wattana, Thailand's greatest ever player, will be relegated from the circuit after 19 years at the end of the season.

His 5-2 defeat to Rod Lawler in the final qualifying round of the Welsh Open yesterday was the last in a long line of disappointing reversals over the last couple of years.

Unless World Snooker award Wattana a discretionary wildcard he will be off the main tour as he can't now finish inside the top 64 in the two year rankings or among the top 8 of players on the one year list not already in the top 64.

What a great shame this is. Wattana is only 38 and, in the early 1990s, sparked a snooker boom in his home country on a par with what is now happening in China courtesy of Ding Junhui.

He had first risen to prominence as a teenager in 1986 when, invited to play on the Matchroom tours of Thailand, he won an invitation tournament, beating Terry Griffiths 2-1 in the final.

Wattana stunned snooker by reaching the final of the inaugural Asian Open in Bangkok in 1989, losing to Stephen Hendry.

He soon became one of the leading players of the next decade, reaching a highest ranking of no.3 and winning three ranking titles.

Two of these came in his native Thailand (the other was the 1992 Strachan Open) and he also won the prestigious World Matchplay in 1992.

Wattana was certainly good enough to be world champion but lost twice in the semi-finals, in 1993 and 1997.

He is perhaps best known for making a 147 at the 1992 British Open on the day he learned his father had been shot in Bangkok.

After constructing the break, then only the fourth maximum ever made on TV, Wattana was informed his father had died.

He lived in Bradford in the UK for many years and his grasp of English improved through games of scrabble.

Just two years ago, he beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 5-0 in the China Open but, like many a former great, found the Prestatyn qualifying scramble almost impossible.

Wattana's contribution to snooker has been immense. He has business interests in Thailand to keep him occupied but I can't help feeling his professional career has ended far too early.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

I agree with your verdict on James Wattana. What a shame to see that he is at the hands of the WPBSA to grant him a lifeline. The same could be said of Jimmy White though, as well.

Wattana really was the forefather of being the first great Asian prodigy and, maybe if he hadn't come along, we wouldn't be in awe of the Chinese, Hong Kong and Thailand players.

But, like you said in your earlier post, the more experienced players are suffering in qualifying now, and it really is a war of attrition to see if they can overcome Prestatyn even before they make the first round of a tournament.

I notice White failed yesterday to Higginson at the Welsh after bailing out the Chinese qualifying last week. All he has left now is the World qualifier, and how big could that be.

Dave, can you explain two things to me. Firstly, why do some tournaments only have 3 qualifying events and then call the final qualifying round the last 48 and then move it to the venue itself. Northern Ireland Trophy and the Welsh Open will be doing this, and I just wondered why?

Secondly, why, when the WPBSA only have a very limited amount of world ranking tournaments, move the Malta Open from one to invitational? And, where did all the wildcards come for, for the event. I can understand the Maltese contigent of Borg and Drago to appease Malta Snooker, but who replaced O'Sullivan, and why was Joe Perry picked to play?

Thanks, Joe

Anonymous said...

Has Wattana said whether he will keep playing? Might be worth his while if the mutterings about an Asian tour come to anything.

Dave H said...

Joe - the number of qualifying rounds depends on how many players they take to the venue.

For the Grand Prix, Northern Ireland Trophy and Welsh Open it's the top 32 plus 16 qualifies at the venue, so 48 players, which needs three qualifying rounds.

For the other events it'sthe top 16 plus 16 qualifiers so four qualifying rounds are needed.

As for Malta, the WPBSA were trying to get an event on in Bahrain and wanted to fund this rather than the Malta Cup. Why they didn't plough the money into Malta when Bahrain failed to come off I've no idea.

Because Ronnie O'Sullivan and Steve Davis haven't entered, the next two players from the rankings - Joe Swail and Joe Perry - have been picked. Marco Fu and Dominic Dale, as ranking event winners this season, have also been added.