I like German people, OK their ancestors royally messed up a bit with their chosen leader in the dim and distant past, but, like who hasn’t done/isn’t still doing that? But at least they learned by their mistakes and have made up for it now so it’s nice that they have been rewarded with one of the best snooker tournaments on the calendar in the shape of The German Masters which may or may not be available on Eurosport to Sky customers from Wednesday in the UK. Keep that Chromecast Dongle handy all. UPDATE – It has been announced that Eurosport will remain on Sky.
I had the pleasure a few years back when Ali Carter won this of attending the venue and it’s absolutely fantastic for a snooker fan. It reminded me then of the iconic Preston Guild Hall back in the day. Vast, incredible atmosphere when full and the presence of well-behaved, knowledgeable snooker fans, though with a little more facial hair on display than in Preston it has to be said.
Whether it is quite so popular with the players is open to debate, whilst the venue is in my opinion the best snooker has to offer, it’s not ideal for lighting on the outside tables in the odd hexagonal set-up and there has been the odd moan here and there in the past about this. But like I say, for the snooker fan it ticks pretty much every box.
Martin Gould won his first full ranking event here last year of course and will be hoping to reverse a woeful run of form so far this season which has seen him slide out of the top 16. It’s down to the last 32 after the qualifiers were played pre-Xmas so it’s a nice number to house and far more befitting of the venue than trying to cram 128 in there like sardines. It’s also best of nines up until the semi finals so what’s not to like?
Here is a look at each quarter, click on the match for the head to head record.
Martin Gould v Jamie Jones
John Astley v Ricky Walden
Ryan Day v Mark Allen
Robin Hull v Jimmy White
It’s been a bad start to the week for Jimmy White, his flat went up in flames earlier today and he’s lost a lot of his personal belongings, though he did point out that his cue is OK and nobody was hurt, Jimmy being Jimmy, in that order. Hopefully he can put it out of his mind and enjoy a rare foray into the last 32 of a main event, he faces Finland’s Robin Hull in a match sure to capture the imagination of the European crowd. Whoever wins that match may face arguably the man to beat in this section Mark Allen, he has Ryan Day to take care of first though so it’s no certainty that the Northern Irish man will be progressing if he gets Day on one of his less careless days. It’s wide open this section and a chance for Gould to kick start his season, his first round opponent Jamie Jones made a 147 the other day when playing Michael White in practice so he’s obviously cueing well and on current form I’d have to take Jones to end Gould’s defence here. In terms of a quarter winner, I’m going to plump for world number 17 Ricky Walden who is long overdue a run in something and usually starts playing a little better at this point in the season as the fixtures really rack up, he’ll also be wanting to get back in the top 16 over the next few weeks to avoid Ponds Forge in April.
Predicted Quarter Winner: Ricky Walden
Tom Ford v Peter Ebdon
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark King
Stephen Maguire v Ali Carter
Akani Songsermsawad v Zhao Xintong
Two names that you might not expect to see in the final stages in the bottom match but both are emerging talents and perhaps this could be the week that one of them really crashes onto the main scene in style, I’m more familiar with Xintong but would be foolish to have a wager on it as I’d have no real confidence in the bet. Ronnie and Kingy of course go way back and it’s surprising to me that they have met so few times and only twice in the last decade. There are some bragging honours to play for here too as they are 4-4 on the head to heads and King will be looking to join a very exclusive club of players that have the upper hand on The Rocket in their match ups. He usually plays well at this venue does Mark and has the wind in his sails this season, perhaps a shock isn’t totally out of the equation here, it’s the first time they have met since Ronnie wrote rude things about him in his autobiography too, so even more incentive for The K-Dog there. Stephen Maguire is desperate for results, his ranking is way too low for a player of his ability but Ali Carter will be a tough nut to crack in his opener, two old sparring partners again there and I’m sure each are eyeing this as the key match in their mini-section. We never know what to expect with Peter Ebdon, the vegan potter faces Tom Ford for a possible tussle with Ronnie and I fancy him to win that one at least, in fact this quarter has the possibilities for some real old school rivalries to be renewed, it’s a very tough one to call.
Predicted Quarter Winner: Ali Carter
Stuart Bingham v Zhang Yong
Marco Fu v David Gilbert
Michael Holt v Stuart Carrington
Dominic Dale v Yan Bingtao
The recent rather quicker performances of Marco Fu and his programmable potting wrist clock have really grabbed the headlines of late. Marco has vowed to be faster and more attacking for the rest of his career and it’s clear to me that he is a much better player for it and a lot easier to watch, he plays dangerman Dave Gilbert who can beat anyone on his day and most recently pipped Marco in a decider in China, I’d watch that rather than bet on it as it could go either way. If people were to make a list of ‘most likely new winner of a ranking title’ it’s a pretty sure bet that Michael Holt’s name would be high on it, he has a winnable section here and possibly, just possibly this might be a good week for him, I’d take him to come through that mini-section at least. Ballrun Bingham has lost a little bit of his strong early season form but the new dad has had a bit of a break to put that right and you can’t put a good man down for long, again this is a very difficult section to predict even without factoring in the unpredictability of how Dom Dale will play but I’m going to give Holt another crack.
Predicted Quarter Winner: Michael Holt
Neil Robertson v Ben Woollaston
Barry Hawkins v Michael White
Anthony Hamilton v Mark Williams
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Mark Selby
Barry Hawkins Masters adventure ended in heartbreak again this year when he clutched defeat from the jaws of a place in the final against Joe Perry, Barry is no stranger to big fightbacks but he’s bounced back before and doesn’t seem the type to dwell too much on such matters, he also holds a handsome head to head record over his first round opponent as does Neil Robertson over his so I expect those two to line up in the last 16. Anthony Hamilton will as usual be trying his hardest to make ends meet but MJW is still such a fierce competitor I can’t really take The Sheriff to shoot him down early doors. That leaves Selby, the best player in the world without a doubt and totally adored in Germany, trust me I’ve witnessed it, but what a tricky opener he has against Un-Nooh, who is a bit like snooker’s version of a tap, you turn him on and he’s relentless with flowing, warming snooker but if there’s a blockage he turns stone cold. No idea who will win that one but I’m going to go against Selby this week for a change.
Predicted Quarter Winner: Barry Hawkins
Recommended Bets: Each way outrights on Walden 28/1, Carter 33/1, Holt 50/1 and Hawkins 22/1. Single on the winning quarter to be Quarter 4 at 13/8.
First Round Acca: Walden, Holt, Allen, Hawkins and Williams pays nearly 5/1. Singles on Jamie Jones 7/5, Ali Carter 30/29, Peter Ebdon 11/9, Mark King 6/1.
Click here for the Order of Play
The tournament runs from February 1 to 5 at the Tempodrom in Berlin. Tickets are still available – for details click here