Zhao Xintong was crowned the 2022 German Masters champion after one of the most one-sided matches in recent memory, defeating his opponent and friend Yan Bingtao 9-0 here at the Tempodrom in Berlin.
Due to this towering dominance, there actually is not much to be said about the play. From early on it appeared in Zhao there was the one player who had found the recipe against the bulwark that Yan had been in the tournament. By no means free of faults, he always looked like the winner, Yan never being able to capitalise on the opportunities he was given. At times, Zhao put me in mind of Ronnie O’Sullivan at his best, such was the seeming ease with which he potted in quick succession.
When it was 4-0 at the afternoon mid-session interval, many still will have recalled Yan’s incredible comebacks earlier in the Tempodrom. But as the second set of four frames were played, this thought faded and disappeared. Yan briefly showed his frustration with an angry gesture in frame five when his break ended in the 30s and the chance to somehow get into this match was gone once more.
At 8-0, only very few will have had any doubts, which didn’t hinder some in the audience to call out “go Yan” and “decider” as the evening session began. The Tempodrom was not entirely filled but came close to a capacity crowd for the famed dramatic entrances for referee Marcel Eckardt and the two cueists. The Tempodrom’s signature thunderous applause was, if at all, only marginally less intense than in earlier years, before the pandemic.
No miracles occurred, and the evening session consisted of the one single frame until Zhao’s victory was official. For the first international tournament away from Britain and Ireland since the beginning of COVID, and the first award of the Brandon Parker Trophy at the actual venue he loved so much, the organisers had invited his widow Charlotte to present the crystal bowl. This was, by far, the most emotional moment of the German Masters in 2022. A fitting gesture, and all who knew Brandon will have envisioned him like he used to stand right there at this very occasion at earlier Tempodrom victory ceremonies.
Both players, Yan more than Zhao, rather struggled with the customary interviews, which were kept short and simple. They had to forego the confetti shower that usually occurs, as the management had thought of an encore when the score was 8-0 a few hours earlier. Berlin’s very own Main Tour pro, Simon Lichtenberg, had been summoned. He had been in the Tempodrom as a spectator on one of the earlier days but surely did not expect what was offered to him on this night: an appearance at the single table setup before the infamous Tempodrom crowd.
Kyren Wilson, who stayed in Berlin with his whole family after his loss in the competition, was game for an exhibition. The two gents had their fun with it, though one should say three really, as Marcel Eckardt also displayed great showman wickedness. After two frames with reckless disregard for the rules, the evening was over. Wilson’s impromptu autograph audience afterwards created a spot of “all limits off” stewarding disaster, which in the very genial mood was generously overlooked.
As always, there are moments that linger on as I contemplate these intense five days. The technical hiccups were too many this year, keywords scoreboards and red lighting (there were countless complaints from the audience, and even referees were unhappy with it). We were assured it won’t happen again.
The unexpected lineup this weekend underlined once more that there are many players capable of progressing to the very final stages of a first-rate tournament, and no tournament is easily calculable, which is good for snooker!
The great cheer with which Simon Lichtenberg was welcomed by the crowd for his surprise appearance should give the organisers pause to reconsider the idea of held-over qualification matches for the German players. The audience is sure to love it, and for players like Simon and Lukas Kleckers it would be such a great experience, with an extra attraction for the tournament to boot.
Never write off Yan Bingtao, unless he trails to nil! His comebacks against Ryan Day and Mark Selby were something for the yearbook. Plus he showed great fairness when he pointed out a foul at a critical moment that had gone unnoticed in his semi-final against Mark Allen.
It was great to be back for this wonderful tournament. There just is no replacement for snooker at the Tempodrom. Let’s hope that the hygiene concept and its practice – albeit sometimes a little lax – will not backfire. The next days will tell us about any noticeable spread of the pandemic due to the assembled crowd, Neil Robertson having already tested positive after his departure.
As always, I’m grateful for being given the opportunity here, and thank you to all readers for their interest. I hope a taste of this much-loved tournament came across, and we’ll see us here next year again. For 2022, from Berlin, the Tempodrom, the German Masters, it’s Auf Wiedersehen.
Featured photo credit: WST