Malta is a popular stopping off point for the snooker circuit. The Mediterranean setting makes a pleasant change from the UK events and everyone is well looked after by the promoters, Richard Balani and Joe Zammit.
This year’s Malta Cup is not a ranking tournament because World Snooker would not fund it sufficiently.
However, any snooker is better than none and the field in Portomaso is fiercely competitive with only two members of the top 16, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Steve Davis, missing.
It could be an emotional week – when isn’t it? – for Tony Drago, who seems certain to be relegated from the professional circuit at the end of the season.
Drago, Malta’s no.1 sportsman, is out of all of the campaign’s other events so his home tournament looks like being his swansong.
He’s landed in the toughest possible group – alongside Shaun Murphy, Stephen Hendry, Stephen Maguire and Mark Selby.
Tony is still great to watch when he’s playing well. He won a frame in the 888.com World Championship qualifiers last month in less than four minutes.
Unfortunately for him, though, he has become much more inconsistent as he’s got older. The difference between his best and worst form is probably wider than any player on the circuit.
However, at his best he was one of the most naturally gifted players ever to pick up a cue – up there with O’Sullivan and Jimmy White.
They call him the ‘Star of Malta.’ That star has waned in recent years but I’m sure his home supporters will be out in force to cheer him one last time.