James Wattana knew he faced a challenge from Ding Junhui – and was bitterly disappointed not to step up to it at the UK Championships.

Wattana, who saw off Ian Burns in the first round at the Barbican Centre in York, earned a match with the man who idolised him as a youngster.

But experience did not prove vital on the day as the world No 65, who is based in Bradford, put in a disjointed performance and lost 6-1.

Wattana met Ding at the International Championship in the latter player’s native China at the end of October and provided a tough contest, eventually losing 6-3.

But he was out of form in York against the world No 3, missing opportunities and not helping his chances of finishing the year in the top 64.

“It is a bit disappointing because when you come up against someone like Ding, you expect to play better,” said Wattana.

“The arena is great, the people are great – just the player was not good.

“I didn’t play well – neither did Ding. It was a strange match but I think both of us agree the table was a bit strange – the cushions, I don’t know.

“Plus the game didn’t help – Ding didn’t play well, I didn’t play well, it was scrappy.

“I was hoping that it would be a close game because I played him in China and I gave him a better game.

“I’m struggling to get to the top 64 now, it depends on my results in the rest of the season. I have to beat a few top players to get back in. Now it’s down to prize money.”

Wattana had expected in-form Ding to be at his clinical best but the two-time UK champion was not firing on all cylinders either.

But with each mistake 43-year-old Wattana made, his frustration grew and led to further errors, although he is convinced Ding can win an historic fourth ranking event on the bounce.

He said: “When you make a mistake more than one time, it puts you off. My concentration wasn’t there at all.

“Even Ding lost his concentration – sometimes the game just went funny, you know?

“I made him play badly as well but he is a man in form and it is not easy to beat him. He can go all the way.”

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