The German Masters commences tomorrow, returning once again to the Tempodrom in Berlin, Germany.
The ranking event is, without doubt, one of the greatest success stories in recent years for the sport.
The German Masters had been in existence for four years during the mid-1990s but it took eleven years for its return to the calendar and, after an unbelievable week this time last year, it really was a wonder why it took so long.
Everyone involved in the game was always aware of the potential for growth in Central Europe but it is hard to imagine many, outside Germany itself of course, realising the enormous impact.
Last year, more than 2000 people packed the arena for each session, creating an incredible atmosphere that rivalled any of snooker’s more traditionally known venues in the UK or Ireland.
Mark Williams edged out Mark Selby in a close, dramatic final in 2011 and were both treated to a two-minute standing ovation when the encounter eventually ended.
The week has proved not to be a fluke either with two further Players Tour Championship events earlier this season reassuring that Germany is here to stay as a snooker force.
This year, there will be eight wildcard entries – each coming through various criteria and qualifying tournaments and boasting an array of different nationalities.
In truth, this can be seen as both positive and negative.
Firstly, the existence of wildcards is frustrating but often necessary to promote the game further – especially when an event is young and in a country that’s snooker population is growing.
However, it seems a little odd to have only one German player – and not a young, inexperienced one at that in Patrick Einsle – with the other seven being made up from different pockets across Europe.
That said, one of those players is Irish after Philip Arnold came through the amateur qualifying event at the Alex Higgins International Trophy last October to be granted a wildcard place in Berlin.
Arnold is up against the talented, but inconsistent, Tom Ford with a potential date with Ulster’s Mark Allen if he can cause an upset and progress into the first round proper.
Dubliner Ken Doherty is also in the draw having come from 4-0 down to edge Sam Craigie in qualifying at the tail end of 2011.
The 1997 world champion takes on Einsle, a former pro himself, with defending champion Williams awaiting the victor in the last 32.
Ronnie O’Sullivan will, as always be someone to keep a close eye on as he is in some desperate need of a run to the business end of a ranking tournament to safeguard his place among the Top 16 in the world rankings.
The former world number one is currently outside of the elite bracket in the provisional standings and faces the once unimaginable prospect of having to qualify for the World Championships in April if he fails to maintain his place before the next cut-off point.
As always, O’Sullivan will face stiff opposition from a host of other competitors with the usual contenders in Williams, Selby, John Higgins, Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy and Ding Junhui all expecting to mount a serious challenge.
Indeed, the level is so high at the moment that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see someone a little lower down the rankings, like Stuart Bingham in the Australian Open, emerging from the pack to surprise all of those above.
Either way, it should be another cracking week in Germany as the season-ending flurry of big ranking events gets under way.
Categories: Snooker News