Following two snooker competitions last week that I wasn’t interested in at all, it’s now that time of year again where we head to the land of sausages and plentiful facial hair as Berlin once again hosts the German Masters, in the magnificent Tempodrom Arena.
It seems ages ago that the qualifiers were played for this in Wigan but they did see some big name casualties, most notably Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Neil Robertson and less notably given his recent form, Ding Junhui. There are however plenty of familiar faces turning up to what surely is snooker’s best viewing arena for the fans who generate an electric atmosphere when the place is packed out, which it inevitably is for most sessions.
One point that is sometimes missed, well I never thought about it anyway, is something that was mentioned to me by Peter Ebdon recently, namely the lighting on the outside tables. It’s not really something which as a fan sitting in there watching you really take into account, but it can be quite dimly lit around there, unlike the main TV table which is as it should be. The nature of the vast arena is such that this is probably unavoidable, but it just goes to show that however good this event appears to be to the spectators, there are challenging and unusual conditions for the players who find themselves on one of the surrounding tables which need to be overcome in order for them to produce their best stuff.
It’s pretty much full on from now until the World Championship on the baize and the season is now focused around jostling for those all important top 16 places which guarantee a spot at The Crucible, which is now just a few weeks away. There are a few players here who could do with a good run to get them into the elite 16, there are a few that can put themselves in contention with a winning sequence and there are others who will be looking to cement their places so they don’t have to worry too much for the rest of the season leading up to it and focus fully on preparation for the big one.
You can check the head to head records for each match by clicking on it, if you can’t click on it the two are meeting for the first time. I’ll have a look at these and recommend a few bets in the hope that the poor recent run is nearing an end.
You can view the Order of Play here. The action will be live on Eurosport from Wednesday. Here is a look at the quarters.
Mark Selby v Steven Hallworth
Stephen Maguire v Ken Doherty
Graeme Dott v Tian Pengfei
Alan McManus v Barry Hawkins
Mark Selby, who is hugely popular in Germany, returns to defend the title he won 12 months ago. He’s yet to capture a title this season and it’s now 10 months since we saw him with a trophy in his hand, which for him, possibly qualifies as a minor state of emergency. I’m not ready to call the ambulance on him just yet and I still believe that he’ll win something and he can possibly take heart that the year he won the World Championship he was a long time potless too. As I’m not recommending him for this, unlike the previous umpteen tournaments, he’ll probably win it again. Stephen Maguire had a great game at The Masters with Judd despite losing and I think he’ll cause Selby a few problems in their probable second round clash and perhaps emerge from this quarter as the semi-finalist. Under this, I think Dott and Pengfei is a match to leave alone as they are both capable of throwing in a great or careless display at a moment’s notice these days, a more interesting proposition is Masters runner-up Hawkins who is now getting into the groove after a shaky start to the season although Angles is still a force to be reckoned with. This is a difficult quarter to really nail your colours to but I’m going to plump for Maguire, who is of course under pressure to secure a Crucible place.
PREDICTED QUARTER WINNER: Stephen Maguire.
Judd Trump v Ali Carter
Alfie Burden v Zhang Anda
Martin Gould v Mark Williams
Ben Woollaston v Shaun Murphy
Eyes are immediately drawn to the top match here and it’s a shame that former champion Ali and Judd meet so early. They played one of the top three matches I have ever seen live at The Crucible back in 2012 and but for a few knockarounds at Crondon Park haven’t met since. Judd is obviously in fine form but Ali seems to save his best for Germany of late and that’s a coin toss for me so at the outright prices you have to take a chance on The Captain. Alfie Burden is coming into a bit of form after a very bad patch and I’d back him to take care of Anda. Surprisingly Gould and MJW have only met in lesser events and it’s very much about who’s on song on the day there but I can’t see much safety involved, I’d marginally side with Gould but think that Shaun Murphy will probably come through that section anyway. If that’s the case and he faces Carter, given the recent history between the pair, I’d side with The Captain, but the match with Judd first off is obviously the key to the bet below, if he beats Judd, he can make a good week of this and move up those rankings.
PREDICTED QUARTER WINNER: Ali Carter.
Zhao Xintong v Luca Brecel
Marco Fu v Kurt Maflin
Mark Joyce v Mark Allen
Mark King v Stuart Carrington
Luca Brecel seems to be beginning to fulfill the promise he has shown over the last few years and it would be nice to see him have a run in this with what might be considered not the worst of draws. That said, the underestimation of Marco Fu is almost folklore now in snooker circles and who would bet against the former runner-up coming through this quarter unscathed. I don’t think Mark Allen likes playing Mark Joyce, it seems that something about Joyce’s game seems to sometimes get to The Pistol and he’ll want to get off to a good start there to avoid a repeat of their meeting in Australia when Allen flew half way around the globe to lose to the Walsall man. Stuart Carrington of course is responsible for knocking out Ronnie and his reward is a match against Mark King, who I’m sure will be looking at the draw thinking he’s in with a chance of going deep here. I’ve got a funny feeling about King this week and wouldn’t be surprised if he made the semi-finals, particularly if Joyce knocks out Allen, so it’s time for my wild, probably half-witted punt of the week.
PREDICTED QUARTER WINNER: Mark King.
Ian Burns v Michael Holt
Rory McLeod v Kyren Wilson
Ryan Day v Liang Wenbo
Fergal O’Brien v Stuart Bingham
Another section which could potentially see a name not usually at the business end of things come through, I do get a sense that this week might see a ‘surprise’ winner, if there is any such thing in snooker anymore. World Champion Bingham is obviously favourite to progress but has a tough opener against a player who has already beaten him this season in Fergal, so that alone is enough to have you looking around for a possible alternative. Day, Wenbo and Holt are all names that would be on most people’s shortlist of players that are not far off winning a ranking event and Rory of course has already won a PTC this season. But my attention keeps coming back to Shanghai champion Kyren Wilson, even though Rory has given him a couple of good hidings in the past I think he’s now a totally different proposition and I think he’s the man that I’ll trust in this quarter. If he does make it through the momentum he’ll have may make him difficult to beat.
PREDICTED QUARTER WINNER: Kyren Wilson.
RECOMMENDED BETS: 2 points on Stephen Maguire to win the German Masters at 22/1. 1 point each way on Ali Carter at 60/1. 1 point each way on Kyren Wilson at 40/1. MATCH BETS WILL BE POSTED ON A DAILY BASIS.