The German Masters continued to spring up surprises on Friday as the four remaining contenders booked their semi-final spots in Berlin.
Effectively since the conclusion of last year’s edition and staging of the Welsh Open, it has become customary for ranking events to feature unexpected competitors at the business end of proceedings.
However, not many would have foreseen a final quartet that consists of nobody ranked inside the world’s top 16.
That said, it isn’t as though there couldn’t have been an argument made for each of the foursome who will battle it out for the title this weekend.
Graeme Dott is a former world champion and, despite a mediocre few campaigns, his tenacious approach always provides him with an opportunity to upset the odds and emerge on a good run.
His opponent in the penultimate stage, Martin Gould, has been knocking on the door of success for a number of years and was narrowly pipped to the Australian Open crown earlier this season.
Meanwhile, Kyren Wilson and Luca Brecel represent two of the sport’s leading lights in terms of young potential stars.
Wilson is already in the winners’ enclosure having tasted glory at the recent Shanghai Masters, while everybody expects that it’s only a matter of time for Belgium’s Brecel to join the illustrious band of players who have collected ranking trophies.
Still, for a big tournament like this to not feature a single name from the elite bracket of the rankings is almost astounding.
German snooker enthusiast had a bird’s-eye view of Friday’s busy happenings through his role as one of the volunteering stewards and is again on hand to give his excellent account of how the third day unfolded.
By Frank Halfar
At the Tempodrom
“The last day of the full table setup saw two impressive sessions of four matches each. When people marvel about the German Masters and the Tempodrom as its setting, it is often heard ‘particularly when it gets to the one table only stage.’ Now there can be no doubt that this is very dramatic, and most desirable for the players to reach, but I have a special liking for those first three days, when there is the clock face of tables in the circus-tent like arena. This not only produces a unique viewing opportunity (see my report on the first day), but also a very special atmosphere of both a top notch tournament merged with a kind of extravagant snooker club, to which the Tempodrom lends itself to being the Woodstock of Snooker.”
“This setup, it is my belief, has actually influenced the way the sport is televised nowadays. No longer is it de rigeur to have total partitions that block any view to a parallel game, Crucible style, but much rather another match going on in the background is perceived now as an enhancement, not a distraction. After all, this is much more like snooker is played in daily life when you and I play, and are not necessarily the best in the world.
“In this arena the four pairs of second round match-ups all faced a double feature day, as the winners had to play their quarter-finals the same evening. There was the continental table with Belgium’s Luca Brecel and Norway’s Kurt Maflin, who opened right away with a very impressive break of 90. The balls seemed to travel to the pockets on invisible rails, hardly ever even touching a corner of the pocket. But unlike his first match, he could not keep up this supreme standard and allowed Brecel more and more into the game. For a long time the pair played at breakneck speed, as if competing for a prize for the fastest match. Then they had a re-rack and ended up not even being the first to finish of the afternoon’s play. Luca Brecel had the better end to himself, winning 5-3.
“At the next table was yet another battle of two Marks, this time Joyce against King. Joyce became stronger and stronger as the match went on, and ended it with a rather clear win, 5-2, now able to lay claim to being the last Mark standing. At the other side of the arena was the match of Kyren Wilson and Michael Holt, who clearly both had a good time, often exchanging grins or brief remarks. The audience in the block closest to their table found frequent reason for laughter. Holt was at it again, and seemed to inspire Wilson to some comedic moments of his own. Theirs was the only full length match of this session, with Holt in the penultimate frame being more than once in the snookers required realm, and allowing his opponent to come within reach again. Holt saved the frame, only to lose the decider. At the TV table, we saw the demise of the world champion, as Stuart Bingham was ousted by a very relaxed looking Ryan Day, 5-3.
“After a short dinner break for us stewards it was back to the hall, where we now saw the champion of Sunday evening for certain among the assembled competitors. Only who would it be?
“I dare say few would have successfully forecast the outcome. Not Stephen Maguire, who seemed an altogether different player from the day before in the battle of the Scots with Graeme Dott. At times he almost came across as a bit listless. When he conceded a frame being only one or two fouls short, the end was near. Graeme Dott seized the opportunity and won the Scottish ticket to the semis by an unexpectedly clear 5-1.
“And not Judd Trump either, who displayed some of his customary spectacular shots, but also a number of misses, and was up against a Martin Gould not only in great shape, but very much at ease for most of the match. At times he would scratch his head when faced with a tricky situation, but all in a manner as if at a training table, not the TV baize in the very middle of the Tempodrom. This frame of mind won him the night in a 5-4 thriller that would just not perturb him.
“The other two matches also went the distance. Table number two saw Luca Brecel and Mark Joyce battle for glory, thus two players for whom advancing to the single table stage surely would be very special. It was a very even affair, for which a respotted black was appropriately symbolic. Joyce won that frame, but Brecel kept his nerve and secured the final three for a precious 5-4 victory.
“The last match to end, midnight approaching and the subdued sounds of one of the three practice tables backstage already being dismantled (the table fitters are so efficient!) was the battle of Kyren Wilson and Ryan Day. It was a back and forth struggle that both might have deserved to win. Each player seemed to have a particularly diehard fan in the audience, who would stoically clap after every single scored point in the deciding frame. When Wilson gave his groupie a thumbs-up in acknowledgement, the single clapping changed into amused applause by the entire crowd. The final ovation was Wilson’s as he dominated the decider and took the last ticket into the final four.
“So we have Graeme Dott and Martin Gould in the first semi tomorrow, a fight between experienced hands. Kyren Wilson and Luca Brecel subsequently go to battle in the evening, in the semi-final of the young guns. I have always been terrible at guessing, so I won’t even try. But one of the four as champion of the German Masters, who would have thought?
“Yesterday’s assassination of MC Rolf Kalb’s tie was still made a topic, as he kept recounting this traumatic experience to the audience in his friendly banter before the sessions. He was adamant that tie-cutting was not allowed anymore, apparently worried about his silken neckwear. He better watch out as, the lady with the scissors, Maike Kesseler, is none other than the very one chosen to officiate the final!”