After each big tournament this season we’ll be reflecting on the latest action, so let’s take a look at a few things learned after the Masters.
The Masters may be the second biggest title on the calendar, one third of the Triple Crown of majors that the sport has to offer.
Yet, that doesn’t necessarily always mean that there is a guarantee of a tournament worth remembering in years to come.
With 16 of the world’s very best players on display at the Alexandra Palace in London, a week crammed full of high-quality snooker seemed inevitable.
The opposite was often the case, though, as match after match disappointed in terms of the standard of play produced.
Stuart Bingham’s 10-8 triumph over Ali Carter in Sunday’s final proved to be an entertaining affair between a couple of unlikely contenders, but that can’t entirely gloss over all that went before.
For whatever reason, the stars who make up the world’s elite – including reigning champion Judd Trump, UK champion Ding Junhui, and Champion of Champions Neil Robertson – all failed to turn up in the English capital city.
A return of only 18 tons throughout the entire event, the lowest in six years, reflected the mediocre level that was generally produced.
Too many battles materialised into scraps and there was just one tie that conjured up the drama and excitement of a deciding frame.
It was to the crowds at the Ally Pally’s credit that they continued to fill the arena with an electric atmosphere throughout each session.
Without question, it’s unreasonable to expect every competition to be a classic but the Masters is held to a higher standard than most others, and as such it definitely failed to deliver in 2020.
@snookerbacker Serious question. Is this the worst Masters in recent years in terms of good matches and general standard? think there is about 10 less centuries than last year and only one 6-5 pretty average matches in terms of excitement also??
— Samuel (@samhinton91) January 18, 2020
Where’s the Rocket Going?
Whether you love him or loathe him, and he does plenty to warrant either sentiment, there is one thing abundantly clear after the Masters – Ronnie O’Sullivan was missed.
Despite boasting an incredible record in the event that has seen him claim a record seven titles from 13 final appearances, the “Rocket” opted out of this year’s edition.
Some will understandably argue that his absence paved the way for a fairytale run by Carter, who at number 17 in the world rankings wouldn’t otherwise have gained an invitation.
However, there’s an excitement and buzz from O’Sullivan’s mere presence at an event that is impossible to replicate.
From entertaining on his way to another final to being dumped out in the first round or creating his inevitable stir of controversy, the 44 year-old gets people talking.
There’s a widely spread gospel within the game that, although he’d be missed greatly, snooker doesn’t need Ronnie O’Sullivan and would get on fine without him.
While there’s of course a ring of truth to that, this year’s Masters underlined how there’s still nobody around who can quite replace his aura and the longer he takes to follow through with his career-long threat of retirement, the better.
Dramatic incident in frame eight of Ali Carter v John Higgins. Carter misses the yellow, the referee (correctly) calls a foul, Carter says he hit the yellow so the decision is changed. Here’s a replay of the incident in question. #snooker pic.twitter.com/hueWc9hJjT
— Nick Metcalfe (@Nick_Metcalfe) January 16, 2020
Video Assistant Referee
That being said, it is somewhat ironic how the majority of the bigger story lines did seem to centre around Carter.
The incident during his 6-3 quarter-final defeat of John Higgins was ludicrous for a number of reasons.
Carter, attempting a routine safety on the yellow, missed the object ball but aggressively challenged the referee who had, rightly, called for a foul.
Desislava Bozhilova overturned the decision and the eighth frame, at a crucial juncture, immediately continued without much fuss inside the venue.
But video replays instantly showed that Carter had indeed entirely missed the yellow and the original stance of the official should have stood.
Fans were quick to chastise Carter for his attitude while others opined that the referee was at fault for not standing firm.
Both arguments had merit but the most obvious takeaway from the unsavoury moment was the misuse of the second official.
The marker, standing mere feet away, should have the equipment and the technology available to clear such situations up and it’s plainly stupid that this isn’t utilised in these kinds of scenarios.
After the Masters, it would be wise for the powers that be to get together and confirm the use of VAR in snooker in order to avoid anything similar needlessly happening in the future.
I did not see what I’d term an aggressive reply from Carter regarding his miss of the yellow ball, but he did nod his head that he had indeed hit the ball. We surely agree with David Caulfield’s assessment replay should have been used to make the call. Here in the US we routinely see replays in the game of baseball that divide an action into nano-seconds in order to make a proper determination and making the call in snooker is a proverbial piece of cake as opposed to determining safe or out in baseball.
I think there was some great tactical play in some matches, but there were more mistakes than in previous Masters’. There were a lot of 90+ breaks that just missed the century, but the scoring was nevertheless down.
Several of the favourites seemed a little underprepared, and were vulnerable in their first match. Perhaps with the packed schedule we have now it has become the norm to try and improve during the tournament, with the occasional early loss factored in. It’s not a good strategy in the Masters, with the first rounds against strong and hungry opponents. Also, having this tournament just after a Christmas break is likely to catch some players slightly out of touch.