Ebdon turns on style

SNOOKER

Peter Ebdon showed no ill-effects from a recent bout of bronchitis to head towards the second round of the Embassy World Championship in Sheffield.

Ebdon, who was put on antibiotics after feeling ill during his loss to James Wattana in last week's British Open, pepped up his performance to win eight frames in a row after dropping the first frame to Rod Lawler from Liverpool.

Lawler, the world No 45, looked to have a reasonable shot at pushing Ebdon close, but the 1994 Benson & Hedges Championship finalist faltered after his encouraging start. Ebdon, the Irish Masters champion, levelled at 1-1 with a break of 107.

Although he was unable to score as heavily again, Ebdon managed another half-century in frame three before opening up an 8-1 overnight advantage.

Tony Drago, the holder of three snooker speed records, is heading for another landmark this morning. The 29-year-old Maltese showed no mercy to Paul Cavney, claiming eight of the nine frames against a player ranked 147 places below him in just 112 minutes. If he can quickly add the two frames he requires to reach the second round, he will establish a new best for the fastest finish to a best-of-19 frames match.

Drago already holds the records for fastest frame (three minutes), fastest best-of-nine frames wins (5-0 in 34 minutes) and fastest best-of-17 frames win (9-0 and 81 minutes).

Fighting to ensure automatic qualification for the Crucible next season, Drago was on course for another milestone when 8-0 up. Only Eddie Charlton has been whitewashed 10-0 at the Crucible - by John Parrott, who was making the defence of his world title in 1992.

However, Cavney, who won five matches at Blackpool to qualify for the finals, clinched the last frame of the sesson 88-2 to spare his blushes.

Stephen Hendry gave another Crucible rookie, Stefan Maz-rocis, a tough time in getting the defence of his title off to a flying start. The 26- year-old Scot leads Mazrocis 8-1 after the opening session.

Mazrocis, based in Leicester, discovered it was going to be difficult from the very first frame. Hendry carved out a 90 break to begin his defence in the best possible fashion, and it was soon 2-0 as the champion made a 128 clearance to notch the 283rd century break of his 10-year professional career.

Hendry was in danger of losing the third frame, but took full advantage when his nervous rival missed the last red. A break of 69 then sent him into the mid-session interval 4-0 up in just 72 minutes. Mazrocis was facing a whitewash when Hendry took his tally to six without reply, before he finally broke his duck in frame seven.

The audience reserved their biggest cheer of the morning when a break of 74 enabled Mazrocis to take the frame 92-0, and he should have gone on to reduce the deficit further.

Meanwhile, it was a different story for Ken Doherty, who was involved in a roller-coaster of a match against Mark Davis. The former world amateur champion from Dublin hit back from 2-0 and 3-1 down to lead 4-3, only for Davis, the world number 65, to take the last two frames of the session to move into a 5-4 overnight lead.

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