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 European Masters.
Robertson’s Relentless Record
Every year, it becomes more and more important to take a moment and appreciate Neil Robertson’s amazing ability to capture silverware.
The Australian didn’t make us wait long in 2020, bagging a ranking event title at his first attempt of the year.
Robertson’s European Masters victory in Austria was made all the more impressive thanks to the one-sided 9-0 scoreline that he inflicted on hapless opponent Zhou Yuelong.
But what’s even more remarkable is the 37 year-old’s level of consistency, with this success marking the eighth season in a row that he has bagged a title at this level.
Indeed, you’d have to go all the way back to 2005 – 15 years ago – to discover a calendar year in which the former world number one didn’t manage to etch his name onto a trophy.
Robertson, whose brief relegation from the elite top 16 in 2017 was quickly followed by a triumph in the Scottish Open, often has his achievements undermined by more dominant players at any given spell – like Mark Selby, Ronnie O’Sullivan, or Judd Trump in recent times.
However, his poise on the big occasion is up there with the very best in the game and his streak of success after the European Masters win only serves to prove that.
Robertson now boasts 17 ranking titles, which is sixth on the all-time list alongside Selby.
Are Intervals Needed?
One interesting feature of last week’s tournament in Dornbirn was the lack of mid-session intervals in the best of nine encounters.
Rather than take the usual pause after four frames, the action for the first three rounds up until the quarter-finals continued all the way through to the match’s climax.
Intervals were only introduced in snooker in the first place for fans in the arena, and to provide the various businesses within the venue an opportunity to sell their products.
It would be interesting to know what the reaction was by supporters who were there.
Without the respite, matches were able to progress at a quicker pace and the overall flow of the contest was more fluid.
For those who think that turnarounds could be less likely, a look at the Barry Hawkins and Mark Selby second round clash would seem to suggest otherwise.
Hawkins almost let a 4-0 lead slip but his fellow Englishman’s trademark fight back to force a decider was ultimately pointless as the “Hawk” clinched the final frame.
How common might the lack of intervals become in the future?
💬 “It gave me an extra focus to win that last frame.”
Robertson is thrilled to make a little piece of history, becoming the only player since Steve Davis 31 years ago to record a whitewash in a two-session ranking final.
Not bad company that 👌 #EuropeanMasters #BVEuroSeries pic.twitter.com/vbT1YgGatl
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) January 26, 2020
Move it Around
At the beginning of the week it was a little disconcerting to see so many empty seats but after the European Masters ended on Sunday it was clear that Dornbirn was a good destination for snooker’s roadshow.
The European Masters was first staged as a ranking event in Romania four years ago before two editions of the competition took place in Belgium.
Each of the three countries has been well received with strong crowds and it goes to show that the sport is indeed popular in areas not traditionally regarded as regular landing places of the game.
A lot of this is down to Eurosport’s continued connection to snooker, with the broadcaster’s dedication in producing hours of live action for fans around the continent unrivalled.
It seems fitting then that the European Masters should move around from country to country in every year that it is staged.
A lot of countries previously had chances to stage minor-ranking tournaments on the now defunct PTC series.
Several may be hoping to carry the responsibility of the European Masters in seasons to come, and that kind of widespread promotion can only be a positive thing for the sport’s continued growth.
The lack of interval has pros and cons of course. There was a large bar onsite, and people could bring drinks into the snooker. Without the intervals, most of the matches finished in 2-3 hours, which meant at least 2 hours wait before the next session, potentially allowing the bar to make money selling food. I doubt whether bar revenue was affected. I didn’t think much of their food, and resorted to Burger King, along with Mark Williams and Jackson Page. There was also the usual merchandise shop.
There were 4 tables side-by-side, with the main table furthest from the exit, so the largest audience would leave by walking past the other tables, causing some disruption. Without intervals this is minimised. In the last few years, players have been taking ad-hoc breaks between frames, even on the non-TV tables.
I think the concentration (of the players and the audience) might be helped if there was an interval, and it gives people a chance to have a break without missing anything.
The venue is actually quite remote – on a junction out of town, next to a shopping centre and ice rink. It’s a bit like the set-up in Glasgow, Crawley or Barnsley. I would have thought more people would be attracted if it were held in the centre somewhere, like in Preston, Cardiff or Berlin. People might notice the event more.
I think the biggest organisationl lesson is the logic of starting a best-of-11 match at 8pm. I actually think it’s unfair. Zhou Yuelong’s performance in the final was predictable after his 1:20am finish, and a non-event for a final is bound to overshadow all of the good things they had achieved by holding this event in Dornbirn. Will people be buying tickets for the evening sessions on Saturday and Sunday next year? I wouldn’t.
Well, I definitely would!
I was there for this year’s final. Of course, ending the semi final at 1:20am was a bummer for Zhou but you have to admit that the quality of the match against Wilson was comparatively atrocious, thus the match dragged on and on.
And the boy is still young. At the age of 22 I don’t think that the short night time affected him too much, he must have been full of adrenaline going into his first ranking event final. He also had a lot of bad luck in the final, for example potting the black along with the red in the final frame, which didn’t have anything to do with poor concentration. That was very unfortunate.
On top of all that – Robertson’s form was nothing short of majestic. He would have thrashed Zhou either way.
I liked the venue a lot. It’s very accessible for snooker fans of southern Germany, Switzerland and Austria, of course. You don’t get to see too much quality snooker matches in this region, I can assure you.
But the most people who would visit a snooker event in this area are employees with 9-to-5 jobs. Attending a thursday afternoon session is close to impossible for them. I myself would take a day off next year to go there, but many others wouldn’t, thus choosing the evening sessions or the ones on the weekend.
Officials stated that they could have sold a ton more tickets for the final than they did, so the interest in the event is basically there.
I’d be very happy if the European Masters would come back to Dornbirn next year or or even more often. I’d be a regular customer for sure!