By Frank Halfar
At the Tempodrom in Berlin
Coming home from the after show party of the German Masters is a weird feeling. Can it really be that it’s all over? A whole year until it’s time again for this festival of snooker in my home town?
While it sure is great to get more sleep, attend to the sensible tasks of life, and wear denim again, I shall miss those daily commutes to the Tempodrom, being surrounded by fellow snooker maniacs all day, and foremost, be in the presence of the sport’s greats as I watch them battle for glory from close up.
You all know the result by now, so I’ll keep it short and simple. The final was an affair of distinct phases in my view. Both players starting off shaky, Gould looking at his first ranking event victory after more than one near miss, and Brecel seeking to become the first non-UK, non-Irish European competitor to win such a crown ever, in his first final of such rank.
The first phase thus was mutual initial nervousness, which Brecel overcame sooner and quicker than his opponent. The second was an even game, both players struggling to reach their potential, and Gould having the better end of it. What I admired once more about him was his ability to stay calm and focused. The bad start he had – long pots that wouldn’t disappear and the loss of the opening frame – didn’t derail him significantly at all. He came across much like he did in the previous days, on and off the table. Calm, concentrated, easy going, friendly.
Phase three was Gould finding his form, ending the first session with a century, and never looking back to that shaky start, as he seemed to explode in the first part of the evening session. His long pots then were breathtaking, and he had a great penchant to convert difficult situations into frames won the hard working way. For a period, there were doubts that we would live to see the mid-session interval, but Luca Brecel did not leave his opponent so easily off the hook.
When, after the briefest flicker of doubt in the last two frames, it was over and Gould was the German Masters Champion, I doubt anyone begrudged him his success. Both his performance in the last days and his lifetime achievement made him a very worthy winner. And if that wasn’t enough, then his attitude won him all the hearts, a mix of modesty, assuredness, and generosity when he praised Luca Brecel and admitted his own flaws. The thunderous applause at the Tempodrom possessed an emotional quality it didn’t have before.
There was a third person at the table for whom this was a premiere, referee Maike Kesseler in her maiden ranking final. She officiated as if she never had done anything else, and reacted calmly and sovereign when a minor medical emergency in the audience briefly interrupted the encounter.
The cup presented to Martin Gould was, many of us felt, a great improvement to the plastic and plexiglass contraptions of the last years. This year a Waterford Crystal trophy that may be somewhat conventional, but sparkled and shone. Perhaps in the Gould household, there now is a rather glamorous new salad bowl…
So I look back on five exciting days of snooker, my third time as a steward in the Tempodrom. As an aspiring referee, I again saw many best practice examples, and a standard that I can only hope to live up to one day. Perhaps. But apart from that, any snooker fan will understand the thrill of experiencing their heroes up close, have moments when none other than Mark Selby holds the door open for me….yes, it should be the other way around, but I had my arms full and he just happened to be there. Kudos to his first class manners.
The big difference this year obviously was writing to the readers of SnookerHQ about the experience. Very many thanks to David Caulfield for tolerating me here, for his editing and encouragement. Irish readers may note that when the MC asked the audience about visitors form far afield, the first to raise their hands were a couple from the Emerald Isle. And only today at the final, I saw a shamrock jersey sported in the audience.
I hope a couple of readers enjoyed following this, and that perhaps I managed to get the unique atmosphere here at the Tempodrom across, and provide a bit of a different angle. For now from Berlin and the Tempodrom, it’s Auf Wiedersehen.
A special thanks to Frank for his dedicated input this week, providing a terrific insight into one of the sport’s most loved events. Go raibh maith agat!