Preview: German Masters

The first ranking event of 2017 begins on Wednesday with the eagerly anticipated German Masters in Berlin.

Gould beat Brecel 9-5 last year. Photo credit: World Snooker

Since the reincarnation of the German Masters in 2011, the tournament has been consistently hailed as one of the very best on the annual calendar.

The format reverts to the traditional best of nines up until the last four, in contrast to the best of seven guise which is prevalent on the Main Tour at present, while the atmosphere generated inside the 2,500-strong Tempodrom arena is always electric.

32 qualifiers, including five out of the six former champions, have already booked their spots in the first round in what will be a busy five days of action.

Defending champion Martin Gould returns to the scene of his greatest triumph when he overcame Luca Brecel a year ago to capture his maiden ranking event title.

The 35 year-old has struggled for form during this campaign but features in a top quarter of the draw which looks decidedly open.

Gould faces Welshman Jamie Jones at the opening stage with Mark Allen, Ryan Day, and Ricky Walden the other obvious contenders from that section.

That’s not to completely discount fan favourite Jimmy White, who in taking on Robin Hull has a genuine opportunity to continue his resurgence in form this season.

The Whirlwind, who is fighting to maintain his professional card, has already one quarter-final appearance in Germany to his name this term following an excellent run at the Paul Hunter Classic last summer in Furth.

“I’m happy with my form and I’m confident I can keep getting results,” said White – winner of just one match in the entire 2015/16 season.

“When I look back on last year, my game was in bad shape and I was four stone heavier. I have lost a lot of weight and my snooker has come on leaps and bounds since then.

“Last year in Germany, I started working for Eurosport as a pundit. I wasn’t sure at first how I would do, but I have really enjoyed it.

“It has been great to be involved in tournaments on that side, and this time I’ll be there as a player as well.

“My main goal for the season is to qualify for the final stages of the World Championship in April.

“I want to keep my tour place of course but as long as I qualify for the Crucible I should achieve that as well.”

The second quarter of the draw has recently crowned Masters champion Ronnie O’Sullivan up against Mark King.

O’Sullivan often attributes the success he achieved at the 2012 German Masters as the springboard for his sustained glory on the circuit over the last number of years.

This is only the second time he has returned to the Tempodrom since then but he’ll be among the heavy favourites once again.

The ‘Rocket’ could face old foe Peter Ebdon in the last 16 while a potential clash with either Ali Carter and Stephen Maguire awaits in the quarter-finals.

2013 champ Carter and Scotland’s Maguire, who narrowly lost to O’Sullivan in that final five years ago, clash in a mouthwatering last 32 fixture.

Maguire has suffered a damaging drop down the rankings of late, highlighted by a first absence at the Masters in over a decade, but at 35 is still more than capable of mixing it at the business end of tournaments more regularly.

Meanwhile, the bottom half of the draw consists of the remaining two former winners, Marks Selby and Williams.

The pair, who fought a titanic tussle at Alexandra Palace a fortnight ago which went the distance, could meet in the second round if they can manoeuvre their way beyond Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Anthony Hamilton respectively.

Also in that quarter are Neil Robertson, Barry Hawkins, Michael White, and Ben Woollaston, ensuring that the eventual semi-finalist from that crop will have truly earned it.

Stuart Bingham and Marco Fu are the high-profile faces which contest the other quarter of the draw, with the duo up against Zhang Yong and David Gilbert respectively.

Scottish Open champion Fu has produced some immense snooker over the last couple of months but did suffer a surprising 5-3 defeat to Daniel Wells in the China Open qualifiers last week.

16 year-old Yan Bingtao from China could be one to look out for in the same section, with Dominic Dale representing the teenage talent’s opening challenge.

Coverage of the German Masters will be on Eurosport but, for Sky customers in Ireland and the UK, you might have to sign up for the Eurosport Player if you want full access.

This is because a financial disagreement between Sky and Discovery Communications, which owns Eurosport, has resulted in the latter threatening to pull its range of channels from the provider from the start of February.

Following the 10-year deal that was made with Eurosport in 2016, this could be a big blow to World Snooker with a significant number of potential viewers in Ireland and the UK set to be affected.

Click here to view the German Masters draw.

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