Friday evening at the German Masters is a special occasion which has earned a reputation as being one of the best sessions of snooker in the entire calendar.
The impressive Tempodrom is packed with enthusiastic, appreciative fans, all hooked on the action with a quartet of simultaneous fixtures providing the four coveted places at the business end of the event.
The setting is worthy of a spectacle in its own right but the entertainment produced over the last couple of years during the batch of last eight affairs has only increased its standing.
That is because seven out of the eight quarter-final ties played have gone the distance, including a truly memorable 2015 edition which also featured a 147 in the midst of four deciding frame thrillers.
Whether these elevated levels of expectations can be matched again this year remains to be seen, particularly with so many of the marquee names already accounted for, albeit the German Masters has proved to not be the most predictable tournament over the last six years.
One man who knows all about this stage is Welshman Ryan Day, who is into the quarter-finals in Berlin for the fourth successive season.
In 2014, the Welshman managed a semi-final berth but in his last two attempts he became the victim of two of those nine-frame tussles.
The 36 year-old meets the defending champion Martin Gould, who he’ll be hoping to take inspiration from after the ‘Pinner Potter’ broke his ranking event duck in the German capital 12 months ago.
No cueist has successfully defended the German Masters so Gould remains on course to break that little curse, while the Englishman also has his sights on earning enough money to garner a place at the lucrative World Grand Prix in Preston next week.
Somewhat strangely, Day and Gould have met only twice in ranking events before, both in China, with one win apiece, so there’s not much to go on there – decider then?
The winner will earn the right to play either Ali Carter or Tom Ford on Saturday.
Carter is another former champion having tasted success four years ago while Ford is the maximum hero following his stellar 147 on the opening day against Peter Ebdon.
Again, this pair has clashed on only two occasions but Carter boasts the advantage with a brace of triumphs over his countryman.
The first of those was a dramatic 9-8 victory more than 12 years ago in UK Championship qualifying, so there’s really not much recent, worthwhile material to go on.
That said, while the Gould-Day tie can be considered fairly evenly balanced, top 16 member Carter will represent a fairly clear favourite against a Ford who generally struggles with maintaining the consistency necessary to reach the higher echelons of the game.
Meanwhile, the bottom half of the draw features three experienced warhorses and a very inexperienced rookie who is already making great waves in the game.
Still only in his debut campaign as a professional, 16 year-old Yan Bingtao has reached a maiden ranking event quarter-final at the fifth attempt of asking.
The young Chinese competitor’s form has been so good that he’s even threatening to break into the top 64 in the world rankings, such is his rapid ascent in the sport.
Yan comfortably beat Michael Holt 5-1 to set up a bout with 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham, who came from 4-2 down to deny David Gilbert in a decider and reach the last eight of the German Masters for the first time.
Continuing the trend of sparse head-to-heads, Bingham and Yan have only battled three times – all when the teenager was still an amateur.
Yan did record a 4-0 triumph over the world no.2 as a 14 year-old in one of the Asian Tour satellite competitions in 2014 but today’s outing obviously represents a significant step up in prestige.
The World Cup winner does appear to possess all the necessary tools to become a title challenger, though, and who knows, it could well even be this weekend.
Bingham dodged a bullet against Gilbert but is the highest ranked player remaining so could begin to fancy his chances of a first ranking event win since his Crucible glory almost two years ago.
Finally, Anthony Hamilton dispatched of world champion Mark Selby 5-2 to set up an encounter with Barry Hawkins in the last quarter-final fixture.
Hamilton, who has enjoyed a resurgence in form in the last 12 months that will see him break back into the world’s top 64 despite the fact he began this season from scratch with no prize money on his tally, rode his luck at times but fully deserved the win against the world no.1.
The ‘Sheriff’ came within a whisker of reaching the final of the Northern Ireland Open last November when, ironically, he lost 6-5 to Hawkins in a dramatic contest.
Again there’s not much else to go by on their prior record with their only other tie occurring during World Championship qualifying in 2011, a match Hawkins similarly prevailed in.
Hamilton, along with Day, is regarded as among the very best players to have never claimed a ranking event crown.
Both remain on course to meet each other in an unlikely final but a triumph for either would prove extremely popular.
Live coverage continues on Eurosport.
Categories: Snooker News