The greatest session of snooker ever?
That’s certainly what the German fans who were lucky enough to be present at the Tempodrom auditorium on Friday evening will be thinking as they awake from their well-deserved slumber this morning.
For yesterday evening’s set of quarter-finals must surely go down as one of the most dramatic nights the game has ever seen.
Not since 1996 (hat-tip to Matt over at ProSnookerBlog), had all four last eight bouts gone the distance.
Yet this rare happening was made all the more special as it featured no fewer than six multi-ranking event champions and was displayed on an open-plan arena in front of a massive overwhelmed crowd.
Throw in a 147 maximum break and a decider won from the snookers required stage, and you begin to get the idea of how much of a special occasion it really was.
The most natural place to begin is inevitable with the favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan, who suffered a maiden ranking defeat to Shaun Murphy in an absolute thriller.
Masters champion Murphy had earlier in the day come from behind – needing a snooker in the eighth frame while trailing 4-3 – to overcome Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen and buoyed by that got off to a confident start against the ‘Rocket’, making breaks of 77 and 59 for an early 2-0 cushion.
However, with runs of 74, 134 and 73, it appeared as though O’Sullivan had turned things around as he went within a frame of booking his place in the semi-finals.
But the 2012 champion was to be denied as Murphy’s never-say-die attitude continued and, after fighting back to force the decider, he cleared from the final red in the ninth frame to pip the UK champion on the final black.
That alone would have proved drama plenty enough for most on a regular day at the baize but the three other ties were just as tantalising.
Murphy’s last four opponent will be the surprising figure of Liang Wenbo, with the Chinese making his first appearance at this late stage of a ranking event since he finished runner-up in the 2009 Shanghai Masters.
Liang pipped Welshman Ryan Day 5-4 in a high-scoring affair that never had more than a single frame between the pair.
They shared breaks of 91, 67, 52, 132, 57 and 85 before Liang had the last laugh with bursts of 90 and 57.
Chinese snooker has often been left disappointed by the lack of support for their talisman Ding Junhui so it is fitting that another competitor from the Far East nation is raising his game just when the current world no.1 is struggling.
The bottom half of the draw featured two mouth-watering clashes between four of this generations biggest names.
A 147 from Judd Trump was not sufficient in helping him continue his excellent season so far as world champion Mark Selby returned to form with a defining victory that will do his confidence a world of good.
The sizable breaks were again coming thick and fast in this one as Selby took a 3-1 lead at the interval with tallies of 87, 83 and 95 to Trump’s 94.
Trump responded after the break with his second career maximum – ironically his first came against his fellow Englishman as well – to the delight of the crowd as play stopped on the other tables for a moment to allow for the inevitable roar.
The 25 year-old will take home £5000 for the feat as well as €4000 for the high break prize should nobody else match the break over the weekend – never say never!
More important, though, was winning the match itself but it was Selby who kept edging a frame in front, duly knocking in a 60 in the last for an important success.
It marks only the second ranking event semi-final appearance this season for the ‘Jester’ and it comes at the perfect time as he attempts to build momentum ahead of his defence at the Crucible in April.
Last, but certainly not least, was Stephen Maguire’s 5-4 triumph over Australian Neil Robertson.
This encounter followed a slightly different pattern and, while also close throughout, didn’t boast as many impressive contributions as the other battles.
That said, it arguably conjured the most dramatic conclusion of them all as Maguire, needing two snookers at 4-4, came back to rattle Robertson by a single point.
Robertson will be bemoaning his poor luck as an unusual safety on the last red careered into the black ball which then found its way into the middle pocket, gifting the Scottish challenger his reprieve – one that he would ultimately take with a break of 34 to clinch it.
A truly memorable evening then that could potentially have a far-reaching effect for the sport in the Europe as Inside Snooker reported that journalists from eight continental countries had been invited by broadcaster Eurosport for some VIP treatment on Friday to help promote the game.
Well, there was no better advert and it’s indeed apt that it came at the German Masters in Berlin – a tournament that has in four short years become one of the ultimate favourites on the calendar.
Liang Wenbo vs Shaun Murphy
Stephen Maguire vs Mark Selby
Shaun Murphy’s pink into the middle pocket, and amazing screw off the baulk cushion to get on the black to win the 8th frame after requiring a snooker, would have been superb if he had already won the frame and was playing exhibition shots. But he needed it to stay in the tournament!!! I think we will be talking about this session of snooker (and that shot in particular) for many years to come, much like the Charity Challenge Final when O’Sullivan came back from 8-2 down, only for Hendry to then step up and make a 147 in the decider.
Indeed Pete, so much happened to write about. That shot against Allen was brilliant. Hopefully the weekend provides the same drama.