A thrilling night at the Tempodrom has left us with four semi-finalists locking horns for the Betfair German Masters title this weekend.
Mark Selby’s great run came to an end at the hands of Barry Hawkins, who went into the match full of confidence after his terrific performance against Mark Allen on Thursday.
Selby has played a lot of snooker of late and looked tired. While Hawkins had had the day off, Selby had already fought out a 5-3 win over Ding Junhui in the afternoon.
Typically, he threatened a comeback when he won the fourth frame after needing a snooker on the pink but Hawkins didn’t buckle and there was to be no Selby recovery this time.
Hawkins now plays Marco Fu, erratic but very solid when playing well. It’s five and a bit years since Fu won his only ranking title to date, the 2007 Grand Prix, but he has very quietly come through the field this week and has the metronomic style to temper Hawkins’s attacking approach.
The match of the day was Neil Robertson’s 5-4 victory over Shaun Murphy, who hasn’t beaten the Australian in anything significant for three years. Robertson has now won their last six meetings.
It wasn’t a vintage contest in terms of standard, with neither player particularly enamoured of playing conditions, but Murphy, as he so often does when in arrears, got his act together in fine style with two successive centuries to recover from 2-4 to 4-4.
The nervy decider eventually came down to a shot Murphy played in which he attempted to drop in behind the blue but in fact left a red to the green bag, which Robertson potted before going on to wrap up victory.
Kudos must also go to the referee, Jan Verhaas, who made a great call in frame six when Murphy just clipped the black attempting to escape from a snooker on the last red, which left he himself requiring snookers.
Very sportingly, Robertson queried the call but television replays confirmed Verhaas had been correct.
Robertson tackles Ali Carter this afternoon after the Captain came from 2-0 down to beat Michael Holt 5-2.
Carter is a tough, at times feisty competitor: a roll up the sleeves and get stuck in kind of player. He currently has two ranking titles to his name but if he beats Robertson will surely be favourite for a third.
They’ve played a couple of memorable matches at the Crucible and the Tempodrom is a fitting setting for another battle.
An audience of around 2,200 is expected for each session this weekend as we go down to one table.
Some have asked why the tournament isn’t longer but they don’t understand the commercial realities. The fact is this: the Tempodrom is a venue much in demand and thus expensive to hire. Therefore, the length of the tournament has to make economic sense. It wasn’t a sell-out for the early rounds, which is no different to virtually every other event on the calendar.
Personally, I think five to seven days is more than long enough to play a tournament, outside of the longer frame formats. To have players spending up to three days without having a match to play is absurd. The only reason the BBC tournaments outside the World Championship have been longer was to provide sport on the weekends when they had programmes like Grandstand to fill up.
The great thing about the German Masters from a spectator point of view is that there is always something happening. In a city which famously tore down its wall, all partitions have been removed in the arena. Not all players like this but most just get on with it.
There won’t be any distractions from now this weekend. It’s just one table and the fight for the title.