Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Time for the Tempodrom

The players can expect a warm welcome at this year's German Masters, even if the weather will be somewhat frostier outside.

Temperatures are expected to drop as low as a chilling -14C in Berlin this week but, inside the Tempodrom, the German fans will be ready to give the sport's top stars a heartwarming entrance.

The tournament was one of the real success stories of an excellent campaign  last year. In particular, the reception Mark Williams and Mark Selby got as they entered for the final was sensational. It was an iconic moment for European snooker and only beaten on the final night at the Crucible.

It was evidence of the snooker boom in Germany and living proof a ranking event belongs here year in, year out.

Barry Hearn has numerous successes to report since grabbing the sport by the horns a little over 18 months ago but none may get near this move to unlock the relatively untapped market for snooker in Germany.

The thirst for snooker among German fans is sizable and surely, once the players get on the baize in Berlin, there can be no complaints as to why the worldwide snooker roadshow stops here.

As well as enthusiasm for the sport and their ability to bring down the roof, the German fans also boast a wealth of knowledge about how the game is played.

This is no surprise to me though. While a return to Germany is something new, they've actually been watching the sport seriously for decade.

They'll enjoy and deserve this tournament, and I expect it to grow as an event season after season.

This year's line-up is particularly tasty. Williams returns as reigning champion and, in fact, his triumph here last year was his last tournament win. He'll be hoping to get his hands back on a trophy and prove a few critics wrong who have written him off of late.

Likewise, John Higgins hasn't really hit top gear so far this season and he will be looking to bounce into form ready for the World Championship.

Ronnie O'Sullivan didn't play in Germany last season. That's one of the reasons he finds himself perilously close to losing his top 16 status. Despite staving off the fall from the elite just a few weeks ago, he needs a good run here to ensure his automatic qualification to the Crucible.

Elsewhere, world number one Selby has been poor by his own high standards at the recent Masters and UK Championship. He could do with a turn of form while Neil Robertson comes here fresh as the new Masters champion and looking for more of the same.

Shaun Murphy has showed signs of a return to his best. He's a player who has always travelled well and could be a threat again.

Then there's the player everyone is talking about: Judd Trump.

The Germans already love him and are sure to give him a heroes welcome.

He's the winner of the last major ranking event and riding high on confidence. That said, his loss to Robertson at the Masters and the storm in a tea cup after with the Aussie has cast a few shadows over his otherwise impressive form. It's time to see how he reacts to a little adversity.

These are not the only questions to be answered this week. Will Ding burst back onto the scene? Can Mark Allen recapture his marvels in York? Is Stephen Maguire edging back into contention for a big title? Can Ali Carter reverse his fortunes?

Bring on the snooker.

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