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Berlin’s Brief: The Attack of the Bald

The “Berlin’s Brief” feature is contributed by guest writer Frank Halfar, who returns to offer his special insight on the action at the Tempodrom.

Day two at the Tempodrom is the one marathon day with a morning session. The early hours did not bode well for two of the big names left in the tournament, which suffers a certain lack of big names in the first place. But after breakfasting it was the fast breaking of champions, as John Higgins and Ding Junhui both had to succumb to their opponents, Robbie Williams and Scott Donaldson.

All morning matches went to deciders. Ding was unlucky both in drawing Donaldson, to whom he had recently already lost, and suffering from one of those wretched mobile phones ringing at the worst possible moment, as he was targeting a tricky green in the end game of the decider. The Berlin audience is as great and enthusiastic as ever, but sadly not entirely free of some bad apples. This ringing phone may well have decided the match. Annoying, to put it mildly.

Swiss sonny boy Alex Ursenbacher was the third defeated player by a 4-5 scoreline. He was the closest thing to a local hero, and many were sad to see him ousted so narrowly to Mitchell Mann. Ursenbacher himself took it lightly, and he was all smiles talking to some fans immediately after his loss.

Later, there was the only full five-table show of the day in the afternoon session. At the TV table, Ian Burns never stood a chance of stopping the Robertson express. The Australian exudes tons of confidence – could this be his first year of success at the Tempodrom? Berlin never had been a good venue for him in the past.

Tom Ford did not come anywhere near that maximum that he spoke of the day before. Shaun Murphy coasted to victory almost as confidently as Robertson, and with the same score. A third 5-1 was the end of the battle at the neighbouring table, with Gary Wilson making short shrift of Jak Jones.

On the other side of the arena, Anthony McGill only had very limited resistance against Zhao Xintong, the Chinese taking it 5-2. The longest match was Elliott Slessor against Robert Milkins, with the “Milkman” putting up some late opposition against Slessor’s early lead. For the final frame, referee Erik Amberg appeared out of the wings to relieve Marcel Eckardt, so as to assure the latter’s break before the evening session. The precaution turned out less than absolutely necessary, as the decider ended quickly with Slessor taking it home. Only, one never knows in advance…

A curious constellation of style was the attack of the bald in the afternoon. Tom Ford vs. Shaun Murphy was the only table without a bare head playing. McGill, Slessor, Burns, and Gary Wilson with his eccentric mohican at the back of his head, it was a bit like a conspiracy. But the attack ended even, with two of them losing, and two advancing.

The current flu season has taken its toll on the staff of the German Masters. The referees are decimated to minimum capacity, and the morning session had to be reassigned. We stewards haven’t been spared either… in the afternoon session there were merely two of us. The art there is to avoid for the crowds that we are supposed to “control” to take notice, which we somehow managed.

The four matches of the evening meant eight survivors of the first round making their second appearance. There was no entirely uneven fight and, in fact, all four matches went into the mid-session interval at 2-2.

Judd Trump’s match against Luca Brecel at the central table was a worthy main attraction, with many classy breaks by either contender. The stamina of the in-form Trump proved too much for the Belgian Bullet in the end, so he’ll have to try again for a second final at the Tempodrom.

Table two saw a rematch of the final from 2018, pairing Mark Williams and Graeme Dott against each other. The gritty Scot did gain his own back by sending Williams out 5-2. Michael Georgiou and Sunny Akani shared a couple of laughs at table four, making light of who should play on after a foul, and finding humour at a couple of other moments in their match. Georgiou had the last laugh, winning it 5-3.

The longest lasting match was Matthew Selt’s 5-2 win over Nigel Bond. Bond came across in a lesser mood than on the day before. Sure, he was mostly calm and taking his time, with the exception of an angry thumping of his cue on the floor after one of his final missed opportunities. But his light grimacing from round one was nowhere to be seen this evening. The previous day he had strongly reminded me of Alfons, a popular comedian on German TV, whose recurring theme is poking fun at the cultural differences between the French and the Germans. Bond and Alfons could be brothers, look up their pictures on the web and you’ll see what I mean. But the Alfons spirit Nigel Bond rather lacked this evening, and likely was sorry for it.

We’re now looking forward to Friday, famous for the four quarter-finals that are all played simultaneously in the evening. Can the four winners take advantage of their added rest to their fellow competitors who have to play two matches on one day?

I’d be surprised if there were no surprises… expect the unexpected!

Live coverage from the Tempodrom continues on Eurosport.

Click here to view the German Masters draw (Times: CET)

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