By Frank B. Halfar
On Saturday in the German Masters, the Tempodrom presented itself in its familiar mode. Only one table left, the 2,500 capacity audience packed to the last seat, the famed earth-shaking applause complete with shouting, tramping, and every manner of noise that snooker fans are capable of making accompanying the entrances of the players and the referee. I asked the cameraman of British Eurosport in charge of stills and close-ups, a Tempodrom first-timer, how he experienced all this, and he was fully awed.
The match between Shaun Murphy and Graeme Dott was a class act. The styles of the two contenders could hardly differ more. There Murphy the stylish showman, again in different attire, with a brown patterned bow tie that went with his gleaming shoes, all smiles, loving the crowd, the place, and everything. There Graeme Dott, in classic black and white, smiling as well for certain but, as always with him, coming across as very serious and so much more reserved than his opponent. A dandy of snooker (who seems to have gained some weight back…) and a hard worker of the sport. It speaks very much for the knowledgeable, fair audience that they split their support evenly between the two contenders. Murphy they love anyway, and he had shown some great snooker here to get this far, but Dott had earned their respect with his hard fought wins and improbable comebacks.
The two played one-chance snooker for most of the match. You let your opponent to the table without literally everything safely covered and gone is the frame. Any score other than 2-2 at the mid-session interval would have been inappropriate. It was Murphy who managed to be the first to win two frames on the trot to lead 4-3 after returning from the break, but then the increasingly familiar Dott train kicked in at full throttle. The next three frames went to the Scotsman, who achieved the encounter’s only century in the frame that proved to be the last, a commanding 121 that ended the fight in true style.
Murphy, whose two highest breaks missed the century mark only most narrowly, left still smiling, and genuinely so. He is loved here and he sure loves the Tempodrom and the Berlin audience back. He would be the first to admit that Graeme Dott earned and deserved the 6-4 win that brings him his ticket to Sunday’s final. Everyone who considers the Scot the underdog for the last battle should not only recall his performance here, but also his 2006 world title. A long while back to be sure, but in the last days Dott has very much reminded many here of his success back then.
The criticism against the table setup and the conditions of play here that surfaced in the last days were met with surprise in the players lounge. I asked several people from different walks of the process and nobody knew much about it. Mark Allen was really unhappy about his defeat and the opinion here is that these rumours, largely if not completely, rest on his statements. I’ve looked at all tables quite closely and found them perfectly well lit, with a lighting system very like it is used at other tournaments, with their more conventional setups for the tables. The “clock face” of tables in the circular arena, as I like to call it, has become the signature appearance of this tournament and has influenced the setup of other tournaments, several of which have done away with view blocking separations between the tables. It would just stun me if the German Masters were to opt to change this arrangement.
But to the evening match. The clash between Mark Williams and Judd Trump was highly anticipated and not a few had predicted that the evening’s winner would go on to take the title on Sunday, regardless of having to do battle with which winner materialised from the first semi-final. While Williams and Trump played, the opposite of the much touted raucous applause here struck me – there were some moments of most concentrated silence. And the silence of a 2,500 strong audience has a power very much of its own. Naturally it was never held for too long, which refers not just to the serial “c’mon Mark” and “c’mon Judd” calls, but to all coughing, beaker dropping, chatting with the neighbour while the match is in full play, and many more audience behaviours that sometimes drives us stewards to despair. Alas, so it is, and changing human nature we can’t.
The Williams and Trump affair, however, turned out to be unexpectedly one-sided. It never was “one chance is enough” like the first match of the day, as both contenders committed mistakes, missed pots that looked achievable, and offered their opponent numerous chances. But this evening, Williams clearly was in charge of the table. When he did make a mistake, it never seemed to bother him much, which can’t be said about his opponent. Trump merely won one frame.
Frame six contained an unusual scene, when Williams struggled with a tough snooker and had fouled and missed it twice already. The third attempt was called foul and miss once more by referee Theo Selbertinger, when marker Marcel Eckhardt intervened and eventually did convince his colleague that Williams had ever so lightly hit a red and the stroke was correct. Reconstructing the position the white had taken then presented an additional delay, as Selbertinger had already taken it up. Both players reacted very calmly to all this, so Williams did not have to give a repeat performance of his coolness from the match against Matt Selt, where under the same referee a controversy had arisen.
One of my steward colleagues suggested that I place another cheese sandwich in the fridge in the players lounge, just in case Mark Williams should be hungry again in the intermission. Ever aiming to please, so I did….. yet this time, it was still there when it was all over.
So there we have it, it’s Graeme Dott versus Mark Williams for the title, trophy, and winner’s cheque of £80,000. Scotland against Wales. One-time world champion against a twice Crucible king. Tenacity against coolness. Curse of the Tempodrom – nobody wins this more than once – confirmed or cracked in the eighth year.
What will it be? I do not lay claim to even having an idea. Both gents would deserve winning after the snooker they’ve shown under the roof of the Tempodrom.
Live coverage will be on Eurosport.
Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)