The 2013 German Masters resumes on Wednesday as one of the calendar’s best tournaments returns to Berlin for a third straight year.
The Tempodrom has played host to two fabulous and well attended events and the same is to be expected this year.
With a capacity of well over 2000 people, the venue and indeed the tournament itself has been one of the big success stories of the Barry Hearn era.
Its popularity has led to more PTC events being staged in the country and Germany is quickly establishing itself as one of the hottest properties the sport boasts.
Not only do the fans come out to show their support in their droves, but they do so with an unrivaled sense of enthusiasm for the game and its stars.
The two-minute standing ovation that Marks Williams and Selby received in the inaugural staging two years ago upon the conclusion of their close match will live long in the memory.
The German community has proven that they are in love with snooker and because of that the German Masters is quickly establishing itself as a ranking event that all the top players want to triumph in.
This year saw the introduction of a new format that ensured there were only two qualifying rounds instead of the traditional four – not to mention the fact that members of the top 16 had to play in one of those qualifying rounds themselves.
This led to criticism from some circles of the elite bracket but in fact all of the players should try to acclimatize to the conditions because it’ll only get more drastic next season with everyone starting in the round of 128 for most tournaments.
What was perhaps unfair was the fact that some of the top 16 had to play the qualifying round in the cubicles in Sheffield’s World Snooker Academy while others gained the exception of being held over to the venue stage.
That means that several of the last 64 encounters are still to played with the likes of Mark Selby, Judd Trump, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Mark Allen and Ding Junhui not technically qualified yet.
However, the plus side of this is that Daniel Wells and Martin O’Donnell, who face Robbo and Williams respectively, now have the added bonus of experiencing top-level snooker at a packed auditorium for the first time in their careers.
Michael Wasley will also be making his debut at the final stages of a ranking event having impressively beaten Jack Lisowski and Peter Ebdon to book his flight.
Somebody to look out for is Scotland’s Fraser Patrick, an amateur who only was allowed to compete to make up the numbers but made light work of Michael White and Shoot-Out champion Martin Gould in the qualifiers – his reward being that he now faces two-time World Championship runner-up Ali Carter.
Ireland’s Ken Doherty is already in the last 32 and awaits the winner of the Higgins versus Peter Lines tie.
The other good thing about this format is that this year there are no wildcards – an absence of which we will hopefully see a lot more of in the future.
As ever, it is difficult to predict who will emerge victorious from what will inevitably be a highly competitive week.
World no.1 Selby has won the last two big trophies in the UK Championship and the Masters.
The 29 year-old has also already claimed a brace of victories in Germany this season by capturing the Paul Hunter Classic and the Munich Open.
His apparent dominance in recent months has not necessarily come through outstanding form but grit and determination.
It has been very rare in the last decade to see anyone reel off a succession of triumphs so to see Selby’s name etched on the trophy come Sunday would be extremely impressive.
He faces stiff competition from the usual band of pretenders with Mark Allen looking a particularly dangerous opponent of late.
The Northern Irishman was very unlucky to lose to Robertson in the quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace and, though played behind closed doors, excelled in the recent Championship League meet at Crondon Park.
Allen is the type of player who thrives in energetic conditions so the atmosphere in Germany should suit him.
The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.