The German Masters got underway yesterday with most of the favourites surviving but with Judd Trump dodging a bullet against James Wattana and John Higgins being eliminated by Peter Lines.
Berlin holds unhappy personal memories for Higgins. Two years ago, after winning his first match, he withdrew because his father was seriously ill, and subsequently passed away. It’s inevitable that being back at the same venue would serve as a poignant reminder.
This is not to detract from Lines’s win. He has beaten Higgins before, notably in Shanghai in 1999. Peter’s son, Oliver, is a very promising prospect himself and was rightly proud of his dad’s win yesterday.
Trump could have lost to James Wattana, a great player of years past who just failed to close out victory.
This would have been another major setback for Trump, whose form of late has not been good, but few would be surprised if, having avoided an early exit, he went on to have a good run. Sometimes a win or two is all that’s required to rediscover lost confidence.
Some players have complained about playing conditions. Neil Robertson described the outside tables as ‘unplayable’ and claimed they hadn’t even been tested. I was at the venue early yesterday morning where table fitters were in fact testing them but when a player wins a match and still complains they can hardly be accused of sour grapes.
Berlin itself seems a very friendly place. One member of our party left his phone in the backseat of a taxi and assumed that was the last he would see of it. In fact, the taxi driver, on finding said phone, made a detour back to the hotel to hand it back.
I arrived at the Tempodrom early, armed only with my GCSE German, which is basically only good for asking the way to the town hall, a fine place I’m sure but not strictly relevant to the business in hand.
I had difficulty making myself understood but was fortunate that Rolf Kalb, German Eurosport’s commentator, the master of ceremonies and Germany’s leading snooker evangelist, soon arrived to give me a tour of the venue.
It is a very impressive place. My only concern was how much of each match the audience could concentrate on with five tables in progress but I’m sure grown adults can cope with such a conundrum and it’s a much better layout than having partitions up everywhere.
This is the sort of venue you would want to come to and to come back to.
The local bars have had good business from the snooker fraternity and, in the course of journalistic duty, I have been reluctantly dragged to a couple myself. Inevitably, chat has turned to the new ‘flat’ structure.
“Many players are against it and an EGM will be called to put a stop to it,” was what one seasoned professional told me.
Actually, I’m not convinced such a vote would be carried by those against the move but then I’m not convinced World Snooker would even need to take any notice if it was.
I did try and point out to said seasoned professional that the players no longer run the sport and that the days of vote after vote to protect self interest were over but he had by then moved on to conspiracy theories about Ronnie O’Sullivan’s return and I was losing the will to live.
What yesterday proved was that most of the top players still win if they play their matches at the venue.
What sceptics of the new system, myself included, are concerned about is top players having to play in soulless cubicles before tournaments begin, which is of no commercial value to the sport at all, especially if they lose.
Anyway, all of that can wait. The actual snooker is far more interesting and there’s another busy day in prospect.
This morning Mark Williams and Michael Holt take their Twitter bromance to the main table while Mark Selby, who played yesterday as if there was a shot-clock, aims to continue his great run when he tackles Joe Perry on the TV table this afternoon.
The top 16 starts tonight, with the TV match to be decided later.