Snooker: Morgan makes Wattana struggle

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The Independent Online
WHEN James Wattana appears in his native Bangkok the locals can barely credit the evidence of their eyes. 'They cannot believe I walk in the street,' he says. The man is too famous to do something so mundane.

They were probably shaking their heads in disbelief in Thailand yesterday, too, when the national sporting icon trailed Brian Morgan 6-2 after the first session of their Embassy World Championship second-round match. To Stephen Hendry or Steve Davis they might have accepted it, but to Morgan?

Wattana, 6-1 to become only the second world champion from outside the United Kingdom and the fifth seed at the Crucible, had been confidently expected to sweep past his 37th-ranked opponent, particularly after the way he overcame a 5-3 handicap to beat Peter Ebdon 10-6 in the first round. In the event the Thai-phoon could barely muster a decent breeze.

Morgan, 25, won the World Junior Championship but as an adult he has hardly set the green baize blazing. Against Martin Clark on Thursday he won four frames in succession to wrest a 10-9 win from a 9-6 deficit and yesterday he effectively barred his opponent's way to the table. After losing the first frame 68-21 he kept Wattana pointless in three of the next five to establish a 5-1 lead that included breaks of 134 and 57.

Wattana reduced the arrears by taking the seventh and had opportunities to make the overnight score respectable but his potting was lacklustre all day and eventually he lost the last frame of the session 73-27. Morgan requires seven of today's 17 frames to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

You need to go back to 1983 for the last time Jimmy White, then 20, failed to reach the last eight but he hardly inspired confidence yesterday. Leading 6-2 from Saturday's session with Neal Foulds, the suggestion he was rising from the trough he has inhabited for much of the season seemed a distinctly hollow one.

White lost six of the eight frames yesterday to leave the match at 8-8.

Foulds set the tone for the session with a break of 45 that proved decisive. His visits to the table rarely yielded big breaks but he chipped away at his opponent. Their match will be concluded this afternoon.

Davis, six times the champion, won his second-round match with a session to spare with a 13-3 victory over the 13th seed, Steve James. Davis, top of the provisional world rankings, won all eight frames last night to turn his 5-3 overnight advantage into a conclusive result. He will meet either Wattana or Morgan in the quarter-finals.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 35