Ronnie O’Sullivan, one of the greatest snooker players of all time, has recently paid tribute to James Wattana’s influence on Thai snooker. Wattana, who is from Thailand, was a professional snooker player from 1989 to 2014. He was the first player from Asia to reach the final of the World Championship, which he did in 1993, where he lost to Stephen Hendry.

For O’Sullivan, who is known for his flashy playing style and his penchant for the unpredictable, Wattana’s influence on Thai snooker is undeniable. In an interview with the Bangkok Post, O’Sullivan said, “James Wattana is a massive figure in snooker, not just in Thailand but around the world. He’s had a huge influence on the game and has helped to bring snooker to new audiences.”

O’Sullivan went on to explain how Wattana’s success on the snooker circuit helped to inspire young players in Thailand to take up the sport. He spoke about how Wattana’s skill, determination, and passion for the game made him a role model for countless young people in the country.

“He really put Thailand on the map when it comes to snooker,” O’Sullivan said. “And his success helped to pave the way for other Thai players to follow in his footsteps.”

Wattana’s influence on Thai snooker is evident in the success of players like Noppon Saengkham and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, both of whom have made significant strides in the world rankings in recent years. Saengkham has been steadily climbing the rankings since turning professional in 2013, and in 2021 he reached the semifinals of the Welsh Open, where he lost to Jordan Brown. Meanwhile, Un-Nooh, who turned professional in 2009, has also been making waves on the circuit, and in 2019 he made a maximum break in just under nine minutes, becoming one of only a handful of players to achieve this feat.

Both Saengkham and Un-Nooh have spoken about the influence of Wattana on their careers. Saengkham, in particular, has been quite vocal about his admiration for his compatriot. In an interview with Thai PBS, he said, “James Wattana is a role model for me. He’s the one who inspired me to take up the sport. I used to watch him on TV and think, ‘I want to be like him.'”

Un-Nooh, too, has spoken about the influence of Wattana on his style of play. In an interview with the Thailand Tatler, he said, “I’ve always looked up to James Wattana. He was such a stylish player, and his technique was flawless. I’ve tried to incorporate some of his style into my game, and I think it’s helped me to be more successful.”

For O’Sullivan, the fact that players like Saengkham and Un-Nooh have been able to follow in Wattana’s footsteps and achieve success on the snooker circuit is a testament to his enduring legacy. O’Sullivan himself has experienced firsthand the impact that Wattana has had on the sport, having played against him several times during his career.

“I remember playing James back in the ’90s,” O’Sullivan said. “He was always a tough opponent, and you could tell he had a real love for the game. He was always working on his technique and trying to improve, and I think that’s something that young players today can learn from.”

As for Wattana himself, he remains an important figure in the snooker world, both in Thailand and beyond. In recent years, he has been involved in coaching young players, passing on his knowledge and experience to the next generation of snooker stars.

In an interview with the Bangkok Post in 2020, Wattana spoke about his hopes for the future of Thai snooker. “I want to see more young players taking up the sport and achieving success on the world stage,” he said. “And I hope that my own career can serve as an inspiration to them.”

With the likes of Saengkham and Un-Nooh continuing to make strides in the world rankings, it’s clear that Wattana’s influence on Thai snooker will endure for many years to come. And as O’Sullivan himself acknowledges, his legacy is something that the entire snooker community can be proud of.

“James Wattana is a true legend of the game,” O’Sullivan said. “And his impact on snooker, both in Thailand and around the world, will be felt for many years to come.”