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James Wattana at 2013 German Masters
January 17, 1970 |
The Thai Tornado
Tong Sit Choi (in Thailand)
|Professional||1989–2008 & 2009–2014|
|Highest ranking||3 (1994/95)|
|Highest break||147 (3 times)|
|Asian Indoor Games|
Wattana won his first major tournament, the Camus Thailand Masters, in 1986, aged only 16. He turned professional in 1989, after winning the 1988 World Amateur Championship. His career peaked in the mid-1990s, when he twice won the Thailand Open and rose to number three in the world rankings. Prior to Wattana becoming a professional, snooker had been dominated by British (and to a lesser extent Irish, Canadian and Australian) players.
He was the eighth professional player to earn more than £1 million in prize money, and with three maximums he is one of only seven players to have scored more than two maximum breaks in competition. He scored his first one in 1991 at the World Masters and the second at the 1992 British Open, which was then, at six minutes and nine seconds, the fastest ever made.
Wattana's success caught the imagination of the Thai public, and he became the most popular sportsman in his home country. He helped raise the profile of the game in the Far East, and has been followed into the game by many players from Thailand, Hong Kong and China, the most successful ones being Marco Fu and Ding Junhui. He is a Commander Third Class of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand, only the second sportsman to get the country's most prestigious civilian honour.
He reached the semi-finals of the World Snooker Championship in 1993 and 1997, in the latter losing narrowly to Stephen Hendry. After a strong 2004/2005 season he returned to the top 32 of the world rankings, despite being the first player since 1992 to lose a World Championship match 10–0 — he did this in the final qualifying round against Allister Carter. By 2007 he continued poor form meant that he dropped off the main tour in 2008. He continued to play however and in 2008 he entered the World Amateur Championships in Wels, Austria where he lost to eventual champion Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in last 16. He won the 2009 Asian Championships in Tangshan, China after beating Mei Xiwen 7–3 in the final.
His position on the current provisional rankings received a huge boost with a run to the venue stage of the China Open thanks to four straight qualifying victories.
The 2011/12 season proved to be relatively good managing to qualify 2 of the 8 ranking events, the Shanghai Masters losing to Ronnie O'Sullivan 1–5 and the German Masters, beating Stephen Hendry 5–1 in the qualifiers but then losing to Graeme Dott in the first round. At the end of the season he finished ranked 63, just inside the top 64.
In 2014, he lost his place on the professional snooker circuit, as he finished outside the top 64 on the official world rankings list at the end of the 2013/2014 season.
Ranking finals: 8 (3 titles, 5 runner-up)
Non-ranking wins: (7)