Snooker: Asian trips no holiday for Drago

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TONY DRAGO registered a stirring win over the newly crowned British Open champion, Fergal O'Brien, at the World Championship in Sheffield yesterday, but used his victory platform to launch a bitter attack on playing conditions at some overseas events.

Drago defeated the jaded Irishman 10-4 to keep alive his hopes of retaining a place in the top 16 elite next season. But the Maltese player said he is ready to boycott next season's overseas tournaments after experiencing difficulties on trips to Thailand and China during the last month.

Drago described a tournament hotel in Bangkok as "like a prison" and went on to add: "Whoever is organising these trips is doing a bad job. They don't consider our health or that we could be homesick. Instead of trying to save a few quid they should put us up in a decent hotel like they used to. I have had enough. Even if it means losing money and ranking points I will not be playing in these long distance overseas events. Whoever is doing this job is doing it poorly."

Drago's complaints come at a time when the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, the sport's governing body, is considering staging a world-ranking event in India next season. Already some of the game's leading players, including John Higgins, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan, are planning to boycott the trip.

Nigel Oldfield, the operations executive for the WPBSA, confirmed: "We are considering a number of overseas options, including India."

Drago's home country of Malta is also in the frame as a tournament location, having staged ranking events in 1996 and 1997. Yesterday, Drago resumed with a 7-2 lead and never looked like wasting his advantage.

Nigel Bond was on the receiving end of a record yesterday but still took his place in the last 16. The 1995 runner-up at the Crucible survived a determined second-session recovery by Dominic Dale to complete a 10- 6 victory. But Dale chalked up 167 points in the 15th frame, the highest- ever individual total in a single frame.

The Welshman's aggregate came from a red, a break of 122 and 11 successive misses by his Derbyshire rival, just one short of another record. Mark King gave away 12 misses against Stephen Lee at the 1997 UK Championship.

Bond, who survived the attack of nerves to whitewash Dale in frame 16 and move into the second round, drew inner strength from confidence-building sessions with Derek Hill, Ronnie O'Sullivan's coach.

"He's been a great help," Bond said. "For the last 18 months to two years I've been jabbing at the ball. But Del has got me hitting straight through it again and I feel much more confident. I wish I'd gone to him sooner."

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