Drago, Souquet and Appleton advance

Tony Drago

Tony Drago, a winner of this event in Holland back in 2003, marched into the quarterfinals of the PartyPoker.net World Pool Masters following a comfortable 8-3 win over Dutchman Niels Feijen at the Riviera Hotel.

The speedy Malteser came into the match slightly under the weather as he struggled a little with jet lag but he showed no signs as he cashed in on some uncharacteristic errors from Feijen.

Feijen took an early lead as Drago missed the 7-ball and then left it on.  Drago had a stroke of luck as Feijen's legal break was incorrectly called illegal by referee Michaela Tabb, although it didn't prove critical as Drago put Feijen back in. However, the man from Malta emerged victorious to square it at 1-1.

Drago raced into a 2-1 lead and then made the most of an unforced error from Feijen when he missed the 3-ball. That made it 3-1 and he then took the next two as he made the most of some poor play from Feijen.

The Predator 10 Ball champ, stormed through the next and then reached the hill when Feijen, who was not enjoying his best game, missed the 8 ball.

A dry break from Drago got Feijen back to the table but he missed a bank attempt on the 2-ball. Drago had victory in sight but missed the red 3. Feijen cleared to get to 2-7 and when Drago scratched into the center pocket in the next to leave his opponent a 5-9 combination, Feijen nailed it to make it 3-7.

It was his last hurrah though as  Feijen left the 4-ball hanging over the pocket but Drago came up  short going from the 4-ball to the 6-ball. However, he later made up for it with one of the shots of the tournament, a flashing long pot on the 6 ball to gain perfect shape on the 8.

"It was good for me but very bad for Niels. I've known him a long time and don't remember him making that many mistakes for which reason I don't know,” said Drago.

"I played good so I'm not taking anything from me but there were three or four racks that Niels should've won.

"I'm as good as anyone here. There are 16 players and anyone can win it. It would be great to win it again and the last time was six years ago so it is about time I won it again.”

IN THE second match of the afternoon, Masters specialist Ralf Souquet had a comfortable ride as he dispatched young Russian Ruslan Chinakhov 8-1.

Souquet, 40, has won this tournament on five occasions, the last time being in 2006, and he looked in good form against the slightly nervous Russian.

Chinakhov, 17, a silver medalist at the recent European Championships, was victim to a Souquet masterclass as he claimed just the third rack.

The German star even recorded the first golden break of the tournament as the 8 ball nudged in the 9 in to claim the sixth rack. In the end a routine clearance took Souquet over the line and ended Chinakhov's involvement in the Masters.

"It probably looked better than I felt but generally I was quite happy with my performance. If on the outside it looks good to most people then I'm happy,” said Souquet.

"I didn't make many mistakes but it seemed like I had quite a hard time finding my rhythm. A win is a win and obviously happy with that but was 80 per cent happy with my performance.”

The final match of the afternoon session saw reigning World 10 Ball Champion Darren Appleton defeat old rival Raj Hundal of India in a match that saw the Englishman trailing in the early stages before winning eight racks on the spin to take the victory.

Hundal made a great start as he raced into a 3-0 lead; Appleton misjudged a safety on the 2-ball which cost him the opener before Hundal produced two near faultless racks.

However, Appleton took advantage of a missed pot on the 1-ball and that lead to the Englishman winning his first rack. Seconds later it was 3-2 as Appleton came up with a golden break as the 9-ball fell into the side pocket.

Appleton won his third rack in a row but then moved ahead with his fourth. The key moment came when Hundal, aiming for a thin contact on the 5-ball, missed it completely to give Appleton ball-in-hand. He capitalized and found himself in the lead for the first time.

Appleton missed a 5-7 combination to give Hundal a chance but he then failed with an attempted pot on the 8-ball into the side pocket. Appleton made it 5-3. He won the next as well and from being 3-0 down he went into a 6-3 lead.

Appleton then made it seven racks in a row in an amazing turnaround.  A good break from the Englishman put him right in line for a place in the quarter-finals and there were no problems as Hundal, stuck in his seat, could only watch on helplessly.

"My confidence was low coming into this as I played and lost a money match against Dennis Hatch and it was the worst pool I've played in my life,” said Appleton.

"It's always difficult to play a really good friend like Raj and I'd give myself seven and a half or eight out of ten. I didn't miss many balls, controlled the table and had a bunch of rolls.

"This is the first Matchroom event I've been in but I've only been playing American pool for three years so I'm happy to be in it.

"It's a race to eight, winner breaks and the last eight are all good enough to win. It's difficult to say you think you've a great chance but if I play my game and get a bit of luck then I can definitely win it.

"I've got Ralf next and it's 3-3. We've played six times, he's won three and I've won three. He just plays solidly all the time and even when he plays badly he's still difficult to beat."