Either Martin Gould or Luca Brecel will be crowned as the 2016 German Masters champion after both emerged from drab semi-final encounters on Saturday in Berlin.
20 year-old Brecel becomes only the second European – after Tony Drago – from outside the UK and Ireland to reach a ranking event final.
The Belgian saw off Kyren Wilson 6-3 while Gould embarked on his second ranking final appearance of the campaign after a 6-2 victory over Graeme Dott.
All four semi-finalists struggled to perform in the cauldron one table set-up in front of more than 2000 enthusiastic German fans.
While the atmosphere was electric, the standard was at times shocking, but neither man will care too much as they both go within one win of their maiden ranking triumph.
Gould, of course, came agonisingly close at the Australian Open last summer when he was narrowly defeated in a deciding frame thriller with John Higgins.
Meanwhile, Brecel is seeking to underline the potential that many expected of him from an extremely young age.
It’s remarkable how it feels like the youngster known as the Belgian Bullet has been around the circuit forever, yet he has only just left his teenage years behind him.
Snooker could do with a young star and Brecel, with his flashy game and good looks, could certainly fit that bill perfectly.
Gould, though, will be the marginal favourite given his greater experience and success for the Pinner Potter would be just reward for a competitor who has been knocking on the door for a long time now.
Once again, German follower Frank Halfar was at the venue on Saturday in his role as one of the hard-working stewards, and has kindly offered his insight into how the penultimate day unfolded.
By Frank Halfar
At the Tempodrom
“So there we had it, the famed one table set-up. While I stick to my case for the fascination of the early rounds at the Tempodrom (see yesterday), of course the updated scenario today didn’t fail to impress anyone, in particular since the audience was now packed with a capacity crowd.”
“On a side note, it is a marvel to watch one of these gigantic tables disappear, as I had the chance to the night before. They look, don’t they, as if unmovable and made to last during a nuclear impact. Yet, when two table fitters get to it, in an astonishingly short time they are half dismantled. These guys do a great job and clearly are among the unsung heroes of snooker. As are the stewards…just kidding, of course.
“Sessions with a sold-out audience at the Tempodrom start with the signature thunderous applause and, what do I say, floor shaking ruckus that the venue is famed for by now. Many players comment about this, ‘unique on the tour’, ‘as I went down the stairs, I had goosebumps and my neck hair stood up’, ‘best venue except for the Crucible’. Yes, we never tire to hear this!
“The matches today were, I have no other words, just a bit disappointing from a sheer sportive point of view. None of the four contenders managed to play nearly at the top of their potential. Could it be that this quartet, Gould, Dott, Brecel, Wilson were all so overwhelmed by the crowd as the idea of glory drew near? Not one century was seen here today, and even breaks above fifty were not exactly frequent.
“The closing of Martin Gould versus Graeme Dott compensated in suspense what it perhaps couldn’t offer in quality. Dott would just not give up, but time and again showed his frustration. He seemed to follow suit somewhat with fellow Scotsman Maguire, a weak outing following a very grand performance the day before. Dott surely isn’t one of the very extroverted persons on the tour, but the Tempodrom atmosphere worked on him without fail. By his standards, he was rather engaged with the audience.
“An amusing moment was when he got sick of the logo patch with the main sponsor on it, which kept getting loose, an issue several players experienced. He just tore it off, jammed it under the table and finished the last few strokes ‘unlabelled’. Or the smile with which he pointed to the pocket where referee Marcel Eckhardt had forgotten to take out the pink. Marcel had to grin as well about his very rare oversight. He’s known as a perfectionist.
“Martin Gould supposedly – it was not said to me- commented that the best thing he had to say about this match was that he got to six frames first. Later in the players lounge, clad in training wear, he once again looked as much at ease as anybody, not quite like a player on the verge of his biggest accomplishment.
“The evening session announced with a very scrappy, very long first frame that this would not be a quick match. Both players delivered some incredible strokes that produced that wall-shaking applause again, but both also made many mistakes. Frames won by a single visit to the table were not to be seen.
“Luca Brecel was the decisive bit more consistent. I know he is the Belgian Bullet, but to me he’s the Hercule Poirot of Snooker. Like Agatha Christie’s sleuth he is Belgian, a bit on the short side, and where the fictional detective has his moustache, Brecel sports a grungy, hip-hop-y chin beard. Both men also are very clever and do not suffer from a lack of self-esteem.
“Kyren Wilson may just have been less at ease, perhaps the strain of all his full-length matches did show at last. There was one moment, a split second only really, where he showed his annoyance when conceding a frame in the late phase of the match by putting a red back on the table with, shall we say, less than grace. The end came in anti-climactic fashion, as he looked sure to win frame number nine, possibly making it 4-5 and working towards yet another decider, when a kick on the yellow denied him, and Brecel coolly finished off the match. One of my fellow stewards, who is a successful player in the youth league, commented on the frequency of kicks Wilson produces, and opined that it may have something to do with his strokes and possibly not always be bad luck alone.
“Referee Alex Crisan had to raise his hand a bit more often than usual perhaps to ask for silence or stop the use of cameras with some annoying lights on them, but enjoyed himself clearly as much as anyone. The referees do get their share of the limelight, but when one listens to their stories and ways to the higher stages of the game, an easy path it is not. How did one of them put it to me during a free hour: sometimes you work for eight, nine hours at a tournament, with hardly a pause. You have been put up in a double room, your roommate has snored and you couldn’t sleep well. Your feet are killing you, you need to eat, you need to drink, you can’t do either. And at this point a decider is played, and the competitors expect you to deliver with enhanced concentration.
“This brings me to the end of my summing up the penultimate day here. Although sleep deprivation has reached alarming heights – having volunteered to write my bit in the wee hours after work doesn’t really help on this point- the thought that it will be all over tomorrow pains me. Whom will we crown as champion, Martin Gould or Luca Brecel? Your guess is as good as mine.”