Snooker: Drago on `auto-pilot' to beat Hendry again

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TONY DRAGO proved in Dublin yesterday that last week's first victory over Stephen Hendry was no fluke, when he beat the former world champion again.

The Maltese followed up his 5-2 German Masters triumph with a 5-4 victory in the Irish Open at the National Basketball Arena. Drago plays another Scot - Alan McManus or Billy Snaddon - for a place in Sunday's best-of- 17 frames final.

"Don't ask me what happened because I don't know," said Drago, who won two of the last three frames on the black and a third on the pink. "But I'm so tired after playing in Malta and Germany that I'm on autopilot. My brain is not allowing me to feel pressure."

Hendry seemed certain to avenge his Bingen slip-up when he led 2-0 and 4-2. But with victory in sight a combination of ill luck and some missed shots cost him a place in the last four.

On Wednesday night, Hendry achieved a confidence-boosting win over Paul Hunter after the Welsh Open champion threatened to add to the Scot's recent career doubts. Hendry recovered from 3-1 down to reach the quarter-finals with a 5-3 success."It was probably one of my best displays of the season, but I'm not getting carried away," he said. "I'm certainly not saying I'm back."

After yesterday's performance against Drago those proved wise words.

Another unhappy player was Hendry's stablemate Ken Doherty. The former world champion went down for the first time in five matches to Welshman Mark Williams.

Doherty couldn't match Williams' superb break building and went out 5- 1. Williams awaits the winner of the last quarter-final between another former world champion John Parrott and Stephen Lee.