The “Berlin’s Brief” feature is contributed by guest writer Frank B. Halfar, who returns this year to offer his special insight on the 2020 German Masters.
By Frank B. Halfar
So there we had it. The single table set-up, holy grail of the players. The Tempodrom filled to its 2500 person capacity, the deafening applause, the striking silence when only the hum of the ventilation system is audible until the next click of the balls. It never fails to produce a goosebump.
The snooker on offer was top-notch, as all possible surprise insurgents had been sent home by the quarter-finals stage. Greame Dott’s determination to stand up to world number one Judd Trump was visible from the moment he walked on. Dott is one of the players with a strong susceptibility to that Tempodrom magic. From round to round he came across as more at ease, today even providing a gesture like “gosh, I missed that by a mile” after a failed long pot. This would have been unthinkable in his round one game.
Some early missed shots by both Trump and Dott were attributed to the fresh cloth on the table. When Dott stole the third frame on the black, by a single point for a 2-1 lead, the anticipation and for many the hope of an upset was palpable. But Trump made sure it was all level again at mid-session.
No steamrolling from Trump after the refreshments either, the pair kept winning one frame each until it was 4-4. Which was exactly the point when Trump demonstrated how he got where he is. He had his A1 game when he needed it, and Graeme Dott contributed but two points in the last two frames. With a 6-4 scoreline, the first semi-final had produced the win of the favourite after all.
For the packed hall there were some add-ons this year. The seats had been changed, and now they have some upholstery. So the flattened behinds of many a snooker fan, dreaded for lasting painful mementos of a long session, should be a thing of the past. For the small arena, vacated from the “pundit table” due to British Eurosport’s absence, the organizers found a very good new use: now there is a table there – albeit in a bright red baize that really hurts the eye – where Ole Steiner, one of Germany’s leading snooker coaches, offers free lessons.
The idea is to promote coaching, to educate the educators, but if a player wants a taste of how it’s like to be trained by a pro with the highest coaching license, that’s on offer as well. Steiner’s clientele normally would be experienced club players with ambition. It was heartwarming to see how he spent twenty minutes on a total newbie who had no clue how to hold the cue or to position himself at the table. A great idea for an add-on at the sidelines of the 2020 German Masters.
For the social media selfie crowd, there’s a mock-up of two adjacent players seats as they are found at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, complete with a monitor that reads “Judd Trump” as well as water bottles and wipes. So the punters who invested in tickets for the tournament do get some new attractions at the Tempodrom this year.
Needless to say, what the crowd really comes for is the attraction in the main arena, where the anticipation for the evening game was buzzing. Referee Maike Kesseler modestly entered from backstage as she always does, leaving the famous gladiator entrance, through the crowd and down the stairs, to the stars. The applause was, if at all possible, a notch louder still than in the afternoon for the first match.
Neil Robertson had dropped one single frame in the entire tournament, and won his last 14 frames in winning last week’s European Masters. Could Shaun Murphy stop him? The determination was there, and as the Australian missed a few pots here and there, the first frame was a close one, 70-55 for Robertson.
Murphy did take the second one by 94-8, the hope for a tight and long match endured. But then the Robertson express once more took steam. Murphy was plagued by some bad luck, when time and again after a great long red he’d find himself blocked on all colours. But no luck in the world, it seemed, could enable him to seriously endanger his opponent.
Unreal atmosphere and very lucky to be able to perform in such an amazing arena and brilliant fans🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻 https://t.co/BV43rYIkUT
— Neil Robertson🌱 (@nr147) February 1, 2020
It was all there for Robertson, breathtaking long pots, well executed safeties, patience when needed, and never even a flicker of doubt regarding his confidence. Five straight frames won including two centuries, and the match was over with a 6-1 scoreline. A minute later, Murphy chatted most amiably with the tournament director. He really shows time and again why he is so hugely popular.
The new name on the German Masters Honour Roll of winners thus will either be Neil Robertson or Judd Trump. A final that would easily be worthy of a World Championship decider. Some may mourn the absence of a great surprise. But we shall be treated to a clash of the titans, a true summit of the two best players in the world at this time. Recalling the hint of disappointment on day one, when so much was talked about the qualifiers and all those missing names, the 2020 German Masters could have done a lot worse. A great lot!
Live coverage of the 2020 German Masters continues on Eurosport.
Click here to view the draw (Times: CET)