I’m not really sure why there are wildcards in a ranking event that lasts only five days in a country where snooker is already wildly popular, but this is how the German Masters begins today.
Patrick Einsle, who has been a main tour player, albeit without much success, will play Ken Doherty in the first TV match.
Doherty is at that stage of his career where non-playing interests are vying for his time. He has established himself as part of the BBC snooker team and presents a weekly football show on Irish radio.
He won’t be short of offers for work of this sort. Ken has always been a great pro and ambassador and his genial manner is no image, it’s just how he is.
He has just slipped out of the top 32 on the seedings list by one place and will obviously want to rejoin the top 32 before the next cut-off so that he plays only one qualifier for the World Championship.
Assuming he beats Einsle he will play Mark Williams. If you have read Doherty’s autobiography ‘Life in the Frame’ you will know that the pair are not bosom pals, although it would take a little imagination to describe this as a grudge match.
Williams of course won the title last year after a dramatic battle with Mark Selby. He has not won a title since but has enjoyed a good year, with two major finals and the Crucible semis under his belt.
He also beat Doherty in the semi-finals of the Australian Open last July and I imagine will be fully motivated to do the same at the Tempodrom.
Barry Hawkins is back in action just three days after earning a career highest payday when he pocketed £32,000 for winning the Shootout in Blackpool.
It’s back to normal now, though: ranking event snooker against one of the game’s very best, Shaun Murphy.
Ryan Day seems to blow hot and cold at the moment. He has qualified for Berlin, just as he did for the UK Championship, but in York he was whitewashed by Selby and recently at the World Open qualifiers he was whitewashed by Robert Milkins.
This afternoon he’s up against Stephen Maguire, who enjoyed success in Germany just last month when he won PTC12.
Mark Davis is having a good run and will be full of confidence ahead of his clash with John Higgins tonight.
Davis, the world no.17, earned the best part of £10,000 at the Championship League last week and is match sharp.
Higgins has not yet won a title this season. It’s natural to assume it’s only a matter of time, but sport doesn’t work like that.
One of the best matches of the day could well be Martin Gould v Ricky Walden. Gould continues to impress – witness his 135 total clearance under Shootout conditions the other day – and Walden seems to be coming back to form.
If you have a ticket for the Tempodrom then you are sure to have a great day, with so many matches taking place.
I’m a fan of making tournaments shorter (without reducing length of matches) and playing more sessions to get them done. There’s no reason a ranking event should last nine days (actually, the only reason the BBC ones have done is to provide live sport on two weekends).
Perhaps five days is a little short (six or seven days is probably right) but with the number of tournaments on the increase then this is the way forward.