Drago caught cold by O'Sullivan

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The Independent Online
No-one could accuse Tony Drago of pessimism. "There's still a lot of mileage left in this match," he said going into yesterday's conclusion of his second-round match against Ronnie O'Sullivan in the Embassy World Championships. What he failed to mention was that he would be travelling by foot while his opponent was flying.

Drago, from Malta, is a hot and cold player. When the mood is with him no pot seems impossible, but there are enough temperate sessions to suppress his ranking to 14th in the world. At 6-2 down overnight, he could hope for one of his sublime days; instead he met O'Sullivan in one of his and sank 13-4.

Having insulted his first round opponent, Alain Robidoux, by playing left handed and making derogatory comments, O'Sullivan belittled Drago in a more acceptable manner, sheer weight of scores. From 7-4, the third seed put his foot on the pedal and accelerated away with breaks of 78, 73, 61, 72 and 56. The were rattled off at a frightening rate, too, no frame lasting 13 minutes.

By the time the smoke had cleared O'Sullivan was in a quarter-final against either Alan McManus or the second favourite, John Higgins, and talking bullishly. "No-one likes playing me," he said. "It's the unexpected. They wake up in the morning wonder 'what's he going to do today'. I can put them under pressure.''

Referring to the Robidoux rumpus, he apologised. "It wasn't the right thing to to say and I'm sorry," he said. "It was in the heat of the moment. I don't know why.''

Terry Griffiths had prefaced his contest with Steve Davis by saying it might take the rest of the tournament to complete it. It was a joke, although after their first session the fear is it might feel like the thing has lasted 11 days by the time it finishes.

Davis, 38, and Griffiths, 48, are not what you would describe as sprightly round the table and now their snooker seems to be more safety than play. Ages of thought was applied before every shot; the foolhardy option was was discarded, the semi-bold rejected, the barest of daring jettisoned and caution prevailed. Prevailed? It grabbed hold of proceedings with an iron grip.

The first frame was warning enough that the scheduled Saturday night finish could well stretch into Sunday morning. It lasted 54min 28sec which was relatively quick compared to the slowest ever frame at The Crucible, which also involved Davis, at 69 minutes but was slow enough.

On that occasion Davis was involved in the most famous frame in the history of the sport, the deciding one in the 1985 final against Dennis Taylor, and like that one he finished on the losing side, giving Griffiths his opportunity by screwing the cueball back into the pocket off the blue.

Davis then rattled off the next in an alarmingly fast 11 minutes before the match resumed its languid pace, the eight frames completed yesterday taking 3 hrs 32 min, longer than some completed matches. At 4-4 the players are deadlocked as well as gridlocked.

By then Stephen Hendry ought to be within three matches of winning his fifth successive title and a record equalling sixth overall. He leads Gary Wilkinson 10-6 and requires only three frames this afternoon to make it to the quarter-finals.

As in his previous match, against Jason Ferguson, Hendry looked less than his commanding best but after being pegged back to 6-6 from 6-3 he shot off into the night with four successive frames.

EMBASSY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (Sheffield): Second round: R O'Sullivan (Eng) bt T Drago (Malta) 13-4; D Harold (Eng) leads R Lawler (Eng) 11-5; T Griffiths (Wal) level with S Davis (Eng) 4-4; S Hendry (Sco) leads G Wilkinson (Eng) 10-6. (matches resume today at 10.30).