Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Wattana on the warpath

James Wattana is continuing his impressive start to the season in the Shanghai Masters this week.

Making the most of his wildcard pass to the professional tour this season, he's already won three matches and is now just one victory away from returning to a major venue.

Wins against experienced professionals Matt Couch, Andy Hicks and Dave Harold prove he's in good form this week and now a scalp against Joe Perry is all that separates him from a glamour tie in Shanghai with Ronnie O'Sullivan.

The former world number five is a real veteran of the circuit but has been cast into the wilderness needing four wins to make any venue this season. He's showed plenty of his baize wisdom though, adding to his one win in the Australian Open qualifiers last month.

Ironically it was Couch who stopped him going further towards Australia after he beat Daniel Wells in the first round, but it's still four wins out of six so far on the major ranking events this campaign, in arguably the most competitive year in the history of the sport.

Competition to break into the top 64, to cut down the number of games you need to win to qualify for events and guarantee a spot on the tour next season, is fierce. But by winning at least one match at each tournament, you stand a great chance. The Thai player has done it so far, and is playing with as much tenacity as ever.

He'll be the underdog tomorrow but Perry won't relish playing him either, for he knows all the tricks of the trade. It's great to see him back fighting and making the most of the lifeline he was thrown to gain a wildcard.

Wattana hasn't been the only player from the depths of the qualifiers shining this week.

Fellow Passakorn Suwannawat has also won three matches and only Stephen Lee stands in the way of his qualification for a first major ranking event.

Suwannawat has dispatched of Adam Duffy, Jimmy Robertson and Steve Davis this week, a vast improvement from being dumped out by David Gilbert at the first hurdle on route to Bendigo.

A lot of fans have been commenting on how well he's played this week with his balanced game being a great springboard for an assault.

We shouldn't forget about Norway's Kurt Maflin either, who is fast building a reputation as the most dangerous in his section of the rankings. Between here and the Australian qualifiers, he's won five of his six matches with only Michael Holt having beaten him. Today he smashed Mark Joyce 5-0, the biggest warning yet that he's a name that will sticking around on the circuit. Liang Wenbo is next on his hit list.

Then the final man with three wins this week is India's Aditya Mehta, who I blogged about earlier this week. I challenged him to go on and build on his opening day win, and he has. He's beaten Jamie Jones and Rod Lawler, although the waiting Ryan Day will be tougher.

While winning four matches to qualify for events remains a struggle, players are proving it can be done.We'll see how these players fare tomorrow.

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