O’Sullivan And Wattana Make Knockout Stages
World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan won a clash of the titans with Thai legend James Wattana 5-2, but not before both players secured their places in the last 16 of the Six Red World Championship in Pathum Thani.
It was the first meeting between the pair for 12 years and a packed crowd savoured every minute. Wattana is seen by many as the founding father of Thai snooker. He retired as a professional back in 2020, after 30 seasons on the circuit. Wattana’s wins at the Thailand Open in 1994 and 1995 sparked huge interest for the sport in his country and he became a cult sporting figure.
This is seven-time Crucible king O’Sullivan’s first appearance in the Six Red World Championship, but he appeared to adapt to the short format of the sport very quickly by beating Jimmy Robertson 5-3 and Stan Moody 5-2 in his first two games.
Wattana beat Moody 5-1 yesterday and came through 5-4 on the final black to edge out Robertson and qualify for the knockout stages earlier today.
O’Sullivan top scored with a superb break of 71 this evening and was full of praise for his opponent, who he first faced in Thailand back in 1993. On that occasion O’Sullivan won 5-0, but Wattana had his revenge a year later when he prevailed by the same scoreline.
“I played James out here when he was at his peak and was in his prime. I played him in a match and we had to stop for the adverts, he was in them all, Nescafe and Thai Airways. I was sitting there thinking, this geezer is unbelievable. I’ve never ever hanged out with somebody so famous,” said 47-year-old O’Sullivan.
“When he was in his prime, he couldn’t go anywhere. He needed security and a police escort. He has been massive for Thai snooker. You see all the other Thai players coming through off the back of it. You talk about China, but Thai snooker is strong and they have some fantastic players. That is because of James doing what he has done.”
After clinching his place in the knockout phase this afternoon, 53-year-old Wattana said: “It is unbelievable, because I haven’t played with the top players for three or four years. This is the big arena and big event for Thai people. Even though it isn’t ranking, we feel this is the best event so far for the Thai people.
“You never get fed up or bored of lifting any trophy in front of your home crowd. It is anybody’s dream. Ronnie is here and he is very good for the tournament. We need somebody like him. Win or lose, we are good friends. He has done so much for the game and I have done a little bit in the far east.”
O’Sullivan now faces a mouth watering clash with Ding Junhui in the last 16, while Wattana is up against Zhang Anda.
Mark Williams set up a last 16 meeting with Judd Trump after winning two matches today. He had to rally from 4-3 down to beat Thailand’s Sunny Akani 5-4, before defeating Andres Petrov 5-2 to qualify.
Trump sealed top spot in Group D with a 5-4 win over WSF Champion Mai Hai Long. Ricky Walden finished in second after beating Kritsanut Lertsattaythorn 5-4.
Chris Wakelin tops Group E thanks to a 5-3 win over Robert Milkins. The Nuneaton cueman finished with three wins from three and now plays Tom Ford.
Dechwat Poomjaeng takes second spot on frame difference, despite losing 5-3 to Matthew Selt. Up next for Poomjaeng is fellow Thai Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.
Selt did have a moment to savour in the final frame, surpassing the maximum break of 75 with a run of 80, aided by a free ball.
For full day three results click here
For the last 16 draw click here