By Frank B. Halfar
The second day is the busiest of the tournament here in Berlin – three sessions with a total of twelve matches to play. The morning exchanges are happily missed by yours truly, who has never been an early riser, and now with the good excuse of nightly writing takes his off-duty shift right then and there.
The three pairings who have no such easy way out make a quick affair of it, as all matches end with a clear result. Shaun Murphy wins on the central table 5-2 over veteran Alan McManus, with Mark Davis, who had ended Irish rookie Josh Boileau’s Berlin hopes in the second qualifying round, disposing of Niu Zhuang with the same result, and Mei Xiwen prevailing over Hammad Miah by 5-1.
The afternoon session sees all five tables occupied for the last time, with Mark Selby versus Xiao Guodong the main attraction. The young Chinese makes it clear from the outset that he means business and is giving the world champion a run for his money. An 88 in the first frame and another 80 in the fourth give him a 3-1 cushion at mid-session, and while the usual “best under pressure” game of the Jester from Leicester does flame up here and there, it’s not good enough this afternoon. Selby is out 3-5, and thus another ex-champion of the German Masters falls prey to that curse.
Table 3 sees another big name falling, as Barry Hawkins fails to capitalise on a 3-0 lead over Graeme Dott. The gritty Scotsman may look strained and less than happy at times, but his win of the last frame before the intermission evokes a classic reversal of fortune. Dott wins all remaining frames.
On the neighbouring table, it is most entertaining to watch Ryan Day fighting down Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. Day provides a running non-verbal comment on his game by all manner of grimacing, eye-rolling, shoulder shrugging, looking into the audience very directly after having to leave the table, and so forth. I could swear it’s the Tempodrom atmosphere transforming this otherwise far more introverted player into such a showman. His record in Berlin is good, a quarter-finalist for three years running and even the semis back in 2014. His 5-1 win today means we can experience him again tomorrow, and he might just possibly take things further this time.
Last year’s maximum man Tom Ford has a less happy 2018 as Liang Wenbo proves to be too strong for him, scoring another 5-1 result. By contrast, Mark Joyce and David Gilbert fight each other for the distance, with Joyce prevailing eventually, 5-4.
The evening sees the Tempodrom filling up noticeably and, for the first time, the upper ring is already well occupied. On the TV table Ding Junhui, looking slimmer than ever, has a harder game against Ricky Walden than the final 5-2 scoreline might suggest. But here we have an ex-champion who stays in the race, so the curse is not quite confirmed again yet.
Even more so after Mark Williams, another previous winner, is victorious tonight, defeating Matt Selt 5-2. This match sees a rare altercation between player and referee, as Selt is really unhappy with a foul called by official Theo Selbertinger. Likely a push stroke, which indeed is often very hard to judge. The coolness of Mark Williams saves the situation as he just merely tips the white ball intentionally and thus returns four points to his opponent. This generous gesture only makes him more popular still with the audience. Williams walks off the winner by 5-2 but when Selt refuses to shake Theo Selbertinger’s hand his bitterness at what happened becomes more than clear.
Judd Trump plays Joe Perry in a very even match where Perry just somehow seems to lose his stamina in the end, as Trump takes the last two frames more convincingly than anything that he achieved in the frames before. 5-3 for Trump and hence another of the big names still in the race.
Jimmy Robertson and Gary Wilson fight for the longest in their clash of two lower ranked players vying for a place in the quarter-finals. After a brace of very high breaks in the first four frames, their encounter takes on a much more scrappy nature after the mid-session interval, and it is Robertson, who after seeing off the defending champion, again has the better end for himself with a 5-3 success.
We get to clear the hall before midnight for the second day running! Slowly the dynamics of the 2018 German Masters unfolds, with Ding and Williams soldiering on against that curse, and several jokers in the pack who could make for the third surprise champion in a row.
Live coverage continues on Eurosport.
Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)