Day Three at the Tempodrom in Berlin had the four remaining second round matches to offer for the afternoon session.
Ryan Day made short business of it, dispatching Sam Craigie 5-1. On table 4 Andrew Higginson played his first match of the tournament against Fan Zhengyi, after his walkover in the first round. He had often been seen at the training tables while matches were in progress, giving the impression of a man who has plans. His opponent looks so young, short, and lean that he could easily be mistaken for considerably younger, and in fact he had his 21st birthday right here in Berlin the day before. But what a mistake it would have been to underestimate him. An early 57 break in the first frame set the tone for this encounter, and the Chinese walked off a 5-3 winner – Higginson hitting the table hard after his last unsuccessful stroke, an all or nothing daring attempt at sinking a hard-to-reach red that laid invitingly right at the pocket. He knew he had lost the match the moment he missed it.
Table two saw, in Mark Allen versus Shaun Murphy, a lineup worthy of happening much later in the competition. It was a highly entertaining match, but all statistics told the same story: the Pistol from Antrim was the stronger player this day. Murphy, who loves the German Masters possibly more than is – happily – the case with most anyone, put up all the resistance he could but to no avail, and the 5-3 winner was Allen. Referee Malgorzata Kanieska had exchanged her heels from the day before to flat ballerina shoes, either reserving the trickier shoe fashion for the TV table, or perhaps having had second thoughts otherwise.
The longest match being on the central TV table this time gave the hall management a first opportunity for a light change on open stage, as the outer tables sank into darkness and all eyes could be on the epic battle that ensued between Mark Selby and Yan Bingtao. Yan really stood with his back to the wall, needing all three of the last frames to address his arrears. But he somehow seemed to ignore his standing and his game only became stronger. In the decider, Selby seemed onto a high break, possibly a match-winning one, when a red fell after pocketing the blue. There was no return to the table for him after that, and the Tiger had defeated the world champion. In the players lounge afterwards, Selby sat for quite a time discussing the match, not happily for certain, but with the sportsmanlike attitude, free of all bitterness, that he is famous for. His departure was mourned by many in the audience.
The rather intense light setup, the entire audience bathed in red at first, was explained to us today: it’s supposed to stand for the host nation, for Germany. “Huh?” you might say. Well, it’s the German colours, black, red, and gold, or rather, yellow here. Only since the black cannot very well be shown by means of light, nobody understood this – silly us. There even was a fog machine at work to further dramatise the effect…
For us stewards, the late afternoon brought two really good pieces of news: we had more time for dinner, and most of all our reinforcements from the Rhine-Ruhr area arrived, as they do without fail on the Friday. Our numbers now more than doubled, the work is much easier, always with time off for some.
The evening brought my personal favourite session of the tournament, the quarter finals, where on a half-good seat you can follow all four top-notch matches simultaneously, and with ease. Judd Trump naturally got the TV table, and many voices opined he’d be the clear favourite over Zhao Xintong. Now little needs to be said about Judd’s many strengths, but having seen Zhao’s matches here I was not so sure. In the interval, I even heard that one of the chief management thinks he’ll walk away with the trophy here on Sunday. But few would have expected the one-sided match that we were treated to, two frames, the first and the last, Trump lost to nil. And the match, 1-5.
On table two, that faulty scoreboard had its tempers again, much to the annoyance of Kyren Wilson. The former champion had it to vent his disappointment at the patchy start of his match against Ricky Walden, who really seems to bloom in Berlin this year. The young rookie referee Radoslaw Matusiak from Poland, on his first major international assignment here, once again had to take his seat behind the board and score manually. At least by now they found him a decent seat, a swiveling leather affair from one of the offices. At the table, Wilson found no recipe against Walden’s assuredness. When snookers were already required in the final frame, Wilson seemed to get his first foul when the ball, flying over the baize after a forceful hit, missed the targeted blue, only to hit it on his way back. Both players had to grin, but Walden’s was the happier for sure. A little later, he was a semi-finalist, winning against Wilson with a 5-1 scoreline.
The scoreboard saga should be over now, being solved by what likely was the only solution, dismantling the whole thing, as we move to the single table setup from now on.
Little can be said about the fight on table three, since it was so one-sided. Mark Allen sailed on the wings of his defeat over Shaun Murphy in the earlier session and disposed of Fan Zhengyi 5-0. The young Chinese may not have been quite up to playing two matches of this calibre on one day.
The exact opposite happened on table four, where Ryan Day experienced the very same Yan Bingtao who already once today had shown that losing just isn’t for him here, no matter how high the lead of his opponent. The match had gone well for Day, he led 4-3, seemed at ease, and returned here and there to his habit observed before, walking rather far away from the table at times when his opponent was playing. Day’s fortune was just like Selby’s before, his opportunities eluded him at the end, with Yan just not budging and carrying the day by taking the decider 68-26.
So we are looking at an order of play for the semi-finals that few might have expected in Berlin. Zhao Xintong against Ricky Walden, and Mark Allen entertaining Yan Bingtao. Allen will be warned to wait until the very last ball until considering the match decided. An all-Chinese final perhaps? Quite possible. At any rate, we will crown a new German Masters champion come Sunday. Not the anticipated name perhaps, but certainly no one undeserving.
(All times in GMT)
Zhao Xintong vs Ricky Walden (1pm)
Mark Allen vs Yan Bingtao (7pm)
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Featured photo credit: WST