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Thursday, 30 January 2014

German Masters Day Two

The action came thick and fast again at the Tempodrom today as big names continued to tumble and the field found itself reduced to just 16.

Again here are the highlights of the days action

Neil Robertson may be well on his way to becoming the first player to complete a hundred centuries in a season,but that record will mean nothing if he fails to get the silverware to go with it,so to that end the Aussie will be very disappointed to exit this event at the last 32 stage going down 5-1 to Tian Pengfei.

Mark Selby also crashed out going down 5-3 to Kurt Maflin

Dominic Dale continue to produce the kind of snooker that saw him lift the Shoot-out title last weekend,this time beating John Higgins 5-3

Veteran Alan McManus produced some solid stuff to beat young pretender Jack Lisowski 5-2.

It proved to be a great day for the Chinese contingent as Xiao Goudong (5-4 Poomjaeng) Liang Wenbo (5-3 Maguire) Ding Junhui (5-1 Mark Williams) all joined Tian Pengfei in the last 16.

Shaun Murphy again showed his powers of recovery,to fight back from 4-1 to beat Matthew Stevens 5-4 and so did Rod Lawler who did exactly the same against Paul Davison

The resurgence of Judd Trump seems to be gaining pace,as he showed some of his best form in a long time reaching the last 16 & only dropping a single frame in his two matches so far.

All this leaves us with a last 16 that only contains three players from the worlds top ten and a real chance for some to make a name for themselves this weekend.

There is no let up in the action tomorrow with the last 16 taking place in the afternoon with the quarter finals  tomorrow night.

the last 16 draw is as follows

Xiao Goudong v Jamie Burnett
Anthony Hamilton v Ryan Day
Ding Junhui v Dominic Dale
Joe Perry v Kurt Maflin
Tian Pengfei v Rod Lawler
Mark Davis v Liang Wenbo
Judd Trump v Shaun Murphy
Michael Holt v Alan McManus

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

German Masters Day One

Snooker returned to the Tempodrom in Berlin today with the start of the 2014 German Masters.

It says a lot for the way the German public have taken snooker to their hearts,that this tournament has so quickly become a highlight on the calendar,but that fact coupled with the truly unique venue have put this tournament on a level that is probably only behind the games "Big Three" in terms of popularity.

The new flat draw system,saw the first round of this event take place in the UK in December where an obviously disinterested Ronnie O'Sullivan was the major casualty.This left 64 players on their way to Berlin and a logistical nightmare with a total of 63 matches having to be played over the five days of the event. 
It is lucky then that the Tempodrome can accommodate so many tables with 7 still in clear view of the audience and only one table out of view. 

This also means I would be here all night if I were to write about every match that took place today so here instead are the highlights

The two men who contested last years final were the notable casualties in the morning session with defending champion Ali Carter letting a 4-2 lead slip against Dechawat Poomjaeng,going out 5-4 and Marco Fu going out to Paul Davison 5-2.

Also among the shocks were defeats for Suart Bingham (5-3 to Peter Lines) & Mark Allen (5-3 to Anthony Mcgill)

The big three of Mark Selby,Neil Robertson & Ding Junhui all had comfortable 5-1 wins.(beating Jimmy Robertson,Liu Chuang & Mike Dunn)

Veterans John Higgins & Mark Williams both also went comfortably through against Gerard Greene (5-2) & David Morris (5-1) respectively

Not such good results for our legends Jimmy White & Steve Davis in their fight to remain on the tour as both suffered defeats.(Jimmy 5-1 to Xiao Goudong & Steve 5-2 to Dominic Dale)

Tomorrow will the conclusion of the last 64 in the morning & then the whole round of 32 in the afternoon and evening.So plenty of snooker to be played.The only pity is we have only got one tv table.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Masters 2014 Ronnie reigns supreme again

Ronnie O'Sullivan showed once again today why he is now regarded by most to be the greatest player we have ever seen,as he powered to a 10-4 victory over Mark Selby to lift the 2014 dafabet Masters title.

This was the fifth time Ronnie has lifted the Masters title & when put alongside his five World & four UK titles it is a mighty impressive haul in a career that,only a few years ago looked as if it would be remembered as been one of underachievement.

It is a real testament to him and the work he has put in,that he has now hit such a purple patch of form at an age where it is widely believed his powers should be in terminal decline.

Into the match itself then and it was Ronnie who flew out of the blocks taking the opening frame with a 97 after Selby had missed an attempt at a long red.1-0 quickly became 2-0 thanks to a break of 70 & then 3-0 with a run of 96.

Ronnie was starting to produce the kind of performance that swept Walden aside in the quarter final,as the normally unflappable Selby seemed like a rabbit in the headlights and things were to get worse for the Leicesterman in the next as he let his first real chance slip and Ronnie cleared to make it 4-0.

On resumption of play the score quickly became 5-0,as thoughts turned to the only time we have had a whitewash in the Masters final(Steve Davis beating MIke Hallett 9-0 in 1988).That at least was avoided in the next when Ronnie missed a blue when looking like making another frame winning break.the score now 5-1

It says a lot about what we have to come to expect from Selby that even at this stage thoughts were there that if he could win the last two of the session that he still would be in with a shout here.Ronnie obviously felt that too as he battled back to force a respot in the next and he took obvious pleasure from knocking it in to go 6-1 before rounding off an almost perfect session,taking the last to lead 7-1.

Coming out tonight Ronnie showed he was in no mood to delay things by taking the first with a 90 to go 8-1,but somehow missed the easiest of frame ball browns in the tenth and Selby also added the next to at least force the interval making it 8-3.

We have seen any great comebacks in the history of this event but Ronnie ensured this wasn't going to be one of them by winning the twelfth to go 9-3 and although Selby managed to pull one more back after the interval Ronnie got the frame he needed to claim the 10-4 win and collect the £200,000 top prize.

For Selby it will be a disappointment that he never really got going at any stage today,but he again showed what a classy individual he is by never giving up and making Ronnie win the frames he needed,rather then merely surrendering them to him.This day though belonged to only one man.

Ronnie has once again shown this week that when he is on it,there is simply not another player in the game who can live with him. Surely now there can't be many people left who don't agree that Ronnie is the greatest player to ever pick up a cue.Just how many more times he can lift the games big prizes you feel is purely dependent on Ronnie himself.

That is a discussion for another day though,for now lets just once again salute a man who we are just so privileged to be able to witness ply his trade, our Master,Ronnie O'Sullivan

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Masters Semi-Final round up + Final peview

The 2014 dafabet Masters final will once again see Mark Selby face off against Ronnie O'Sullivan after both eased through their respective semi finals today.

In the first semi final Mark Selby continued his love affair with this tournament,reaching his 5th final here in seven years with a commanding 6-1 victory over Shaun Murphy

Selby of course very nearly went out of this tournament on Thursday night when he trailed John Higgins 5-3 and perhaps it was the freedom sometime felt by the reprieved man that spurred him into action today,as he started like a man possessed,winning the opening two frames with breaks of 86 & 104,without Murphy evenpotting a ball.

That trend seemed to be continuing in the next until,with a 50 point lead,he did miss one,unfortunatly for \Murphy he was unable to counter and Selby made it  3-0.Into the next and Murphy had his first real chance to get off the mark.until he missed a pink when in the balls and Selby pounced again to lead 4-0 at the interval..

By now Selby was no longer producing the flawless snooker he had in the early part of the match,but despite a few misses he was still in complete control winning a scrappy fifth to move to within one of the final at 5-0.Murphy at least avoided the whitewash,claiming the next,but the end was not far away as Selby won the next to close out the match 6-1.

This was as impressive a display as we have seen from Selby in quite a while,but he will know he will need to produce a performance of equal,if not higher quality if he is to get the better of the Rocket in tomorrows final.I say this despite the fact that Ronnie did not produce the same fireworks in his semi final tonight,as he had against Walden yesterday.

Over the years Ronnie has rightly gotten the reputation as a superb front runner so Stephen Maguire would have known coming out tonight that to have a chance,he needed to get off to a good start.

That is exactly what he did,knocking in a fabulous long red on his way to a 98 break to take the opening frame. The second frame looked as though it might also be going his as he controlled a long safety battle only for Ronnie to fluke an opening and do enough to level things up at 1-1.

Into the third frame Maguire once again found himself at the table,but a series of badly struck shots eventually led to a mistake and Ronnie took advantage to go ahead 2-1

.From here on there only going to be one winner of this match,as Maguire's early touch deserted him and Ronnie,started to win frames at his ease without been put under any kind of pressure by the Scot.In no time at the all the score moved to 5-1 and it should have ended there and then,but Ronnie missed a simple blue to the centre,allowing Maguire to step to make it 5-2.

Any thoughts of a shock turnaround disappeared in the next as Ronnie knocked in his highest break of the match,a 129,to close out the 6-2 win.

So we have the final that most snooker fans would have wished to see as Selby & O'Sullivan clash in a Masters final for the third time with the score currently one each.This has the potential to be a real classic,but I feel that Ronnie has the extra gears that will see him be just too strong for Selby on this occasion.That said,as we know Selby doesn't roll over easily & anything could happen.The only thing I can say for sure is that by tomorrow night we will have had a match that will have every snooker fan buzzing about what a wonderful sport we follow.

Friday, 17 January 2014

The Masters Day 6 The conclusion of the QF action

After a week of that has seen close  matches and drama aplenty,the one thing that had been missing from the 2014 Masters was a really stand out performance ,but that is certainly what we got today as Ronnie O'Sullivan produced a display that shook this tournament to its foundations.

Where exactly do you start in trying to describe his 6-0 demolition of Ricky Walden this afternoon.? Well the stats certainly tell some of the story, a 97% pot success rate,556 unanswered points ( a new record) five breaks over 70 including a 134 and all this in just 58 minutes,but as I said these only tell some of the story,To fully appreciate this performance you really had to be watching the effortless way he seemed to float around the table with the cue ball obeying his every demand.It was truly a thing of beauty.

This was as close to perfection as we will ever see.and in this form he will take some stopping this weekend as he goes in search of a fifth Masters crown.

Next up for Ronnie tomorrow night will be Stephen Maguire after the Scot produced a  fine all round display to beat the world no.1 Neil Robertson 6-2.

This one always had the look of a match where the early exchanges would be all important and so it proved as Maguire won a 46 minute opener and followed it up by claiming the next two to open a 3-0 lead. Robertson,as he was in his first match,seemed to just a little flat with maybe his early season exertions starting to take their toll,but he rallied to claim the frames either side of the interval to close to just 3-2 behind.

At this stage another late night finish looked on the cards but Maguire established a two frame lead again in the next  with a break of 75 and he never looked back as he pulled away to record a 6-2 success.

So a fascinating weekends snooker lies ahead of us with two very tasty semi finals tomorrow to whet our appetite ahead of the final on Sunday.Of course at this stage any of the four men remaining would be a deserving champion,but I think its fair to say if Ronnie continues to play like he did today it will take something phenomenal to beat him.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Masters Day 5.Start of the Q/F action

The first semi final of the 2014 masters on Saturday will see Shaun Murphy take on Mark Selby after both produced remarkable comeback wins today to beat Marco Fu & John Higgins respectively

First up was the clash between Shaun Murphy and Marco Fu.This was a typical match of two halves with Marco seemingly in control early on as he took leads of  3-0 & 4-1.It must be said it wasn't that Murphy didn't have his chances in these frames,he did,he just never looked like taking them as time and again he broke down allowing Fu to mop up.

So what then changed? Well quite simply Murphy started scoring & Fu's long potting which had been suspect early on,deserted him completely,thus draining him of any confidence he had.

Breaks of  86,81 & 117 saw Murphy draw level at 4-4 and although the next could have gone either way it also went to Murphy on the black,meaning he had won four frames in a row to now stand within one of victory.The end came in the next as he clinched his place in the semi's with a run of 64 to complete a 6-4 win.

His opponent in that semi final will be Mark Selby after he came through one of the most dramatic and thrilling matches we have seen in a long time.

This one always promised to be an epic regardless of the quality of play simply because in Selby & Higgins we have two of the toughest competitors the game has ever seen and so it proved to be.

So much happened later on its easy to forget the early part of this one,but it was Higgins who go off to the better start winning the opening frame.He also had his chances in the next couple as well but failed to take them and it was Selby who went to the mid session interval leading 3-1.

Selby had Higgins right under it at this stag, but uncharacteristically,he didn't press home the advantage and Higgins visibly grew in confidence to firstly draw level at 3-3 and then to move into a 5-3 lead.

After a string of poor results a morale boosting win for Higgins over the defending champion now looked on the cards ,but as we know by now,you write off Mark Selby in these situations at your pearl.

He won the next convincingly to make it 5-4 before things really started to heat up in a dramatic tenth,With the scores close and the frame down to the colours we had an extraordinary run of shots which firstly saw Higgins got a massive kick on the green- Selby then missing his own attempt at it-Higgins returning to the table to pot it only to then miss the brown-which gifted Selby his chance to clear to the pink & bring the score to 5-5.

If we thought that was dramatic enough it was nothing to what we were to get in a decider which had everything from,great pots,to great safety,to kicks, to in off's and eventually once again a battle on the colours,The magic moment came with Selby at the table and the scores level at 69-69 It was here the Leicesterman produced a stunning back double on the blue to the centre pocket and then clipped the pink in to add another astonishing final frame victory to his growing Masters catalogue.

For Higgins this us a defeat that will be hard to take.He may look at a couple of bad kicks at the worst possible times but he will also know the chances were there and he just didn't take them.He will also know that tie is now starting to turn against him,in the fight to add more of the sports major titles to his impressive career cv.Hopefully he can in time see some positives because a Higgins competing for titles has always been a joy to watch.

As for Selby you really can do nothing else but sit back and admire his never say die attitude.Here he once again lived up to his billing as the master of brinkmanship,to once agian snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.He is a credit to our sport and it would be no surprise now to see him hold aloft the Masters trophy for a fourth time on Sunday night.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Masters 2014 Day 4 round up.

When the draw for the Masters was made last month one first round match stood out above all the others,the clash between Neil Robertson & Mark Allen,but as we see so often in sport,those clashes that promise the most deliver the least.

These two of course met here last year at the quarter final stage in an epic clash that went all the way to a decider and given how both have played this season so far,a repeat of that  looked likely coming in today,but after a promising start that saw Allen take the opening frame with a century the match quickly descended into a real slog with both players struggling to find any fluency.

Robertson took the second to level at 1-1 before Allen again edged ahead 2-1.He looked certain to make it 3-1 until leaving a final pink more awkward then it needed to be and Robertson took full advantage to level at 2-2 going to the interval.

Both were struggling to find any kind of form,but it was Allen who seemed to be playing slightly the better of the two as he edged ahead 3-2,his problem was though that he just couldn't nail home his advantage and as was becoming the pattern Roberson drew level at 3-3.This trend continued over the next four frames as Allen took the lead by the odd frame each time only for Robertson to level things up taking us to the inevitable decider.

They say all you want in a decider is a chance,but such was the way this game was going it seemed likely both would have numerous chances and so it proved. The pivotal moment came when Robertson left Allen touching ball on a red in the centre of the table and in trying to ensure he didn't leave a path through to a red over the corner pocket Allen failed to notice he was leaving one on beside the pink.Robertson came to the table knocked it in and duly cleared up to lead in the match for the first time when  it mattered most,at the end,sealing the win 6-5

The Aussie will be delighted to be still in the tournament the way he played but he will also know he will have to be much better against Maguire in the quarter final.As for Allen he will no doubt have a couple of sleepless nights ahead as he wonders just how he managed to lose that one.

One place in the quarter final draw remained to be filled then as Barry Hawkins & Ricky Walden came out to do battle in a repeat of their Crucible semi final clash from last year.

Hawkins was the winner on that occasion and he was quickly out of the traps here,taking the opening three frames with some of his very best snooker,the highlight of which was a 132. Walden hadn't done much wrong and would have been relieved to get off the mark to trail 3-1 at the interval.

Once play resumed it was a case of picking up where he left off for Hawkins as another century moved him in to a 4-1 lead.Walden pulled one back to make it 4-2,but Hawkins again asserted in the next to move to within one of  victory at 5-2.

Walden  to his credit took the next to narrow the gap once more to 5-3 and then after a tense ninth frame he potted a respotted black to make it 5-4.

Up to now this match had progressed at a fairly brisk pace,but as so often happens as the tension ramps up,the misses then creep in and the balls end up in the most awkward positions.That was certainly the case in a long tenth frame where both players struggled,but it was Walden who clinched it to force the second deciding frame of the day.

The momentum was now very much with the man from Chester and although it wasn't a clean kill in the decider it was Walden who remained the stronger to clinch a 6-5 victory that looked most unlikely when he trailed 5-2.

The quarter final action gets under way tomorrow afternoon with Shaun Murphy  facing Marco Fu before defending champion Mark Selby takes on John Higgins in the evening session.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Masters Day Three round up.

Power outages were the order of the day in the Ally Pally this afternoon,as a blackout in the area around the venue lead to a delay over over an hour in the start of the action and then Ding Junhui seemed to suffer to suffer a power cut of his own,as he let a 4-2 slip against Shaun Murphy to allow the Englishman progress to the quarter final 6-4.

It had all started so differently for Ding, as he swept aside any fears that the delay would impact on the players concentration and raced to a 2-0 lead with breaks of 99 & 84.Murphy looked to be struggling,but a missed red from Ding in the next allowed him in and he got off the mark with a solid 71 before a run of 64 drew him level at 2-2 going to the interval.

Up to now we had witnessed snooker of the highest standard,but boy was that to change.Ding managed to take the fifth to lead again at 3-2 before also capturing an error strewn sixth to once again lead by two again at 4-2.On the face of it Ding now looked favourite,but in truth both were now relying on their "B" games as the mistakes began to mount up.

From here it was going to be about who was going to dig in the better and as time went on that increasingly became Murphy as he took the next two to level it up at 4-4.Ding was to have his chance in the next but failure to get on the final yellow allowed Murphy to clear up and take the lead for the first time at 5-4.Into the tenth frame and Murphy seemed set to seal the win only for a missed red to allow Ding one last chance to counter,This effort was to end when he failed to get the cannon he needed to stay on the penultimate red and Murphy got the pots he needed to clinch a satisfying win.

For Ding it will be a night of wondering where it all went wrong after making such a wonderful start,but for Murphy this will be a win that will fill him with confidence after what has been a,by his lofty standards,a poor first half of the season.He will now face Marco Fu in the quarter finals.

In to the evening then and a packed house which included Damien Hirst & Ronnie Wood could only mean thing,The return to The Masters of the world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan..

Hi opponent was Masters debutant Robert Milkins who Ronnie had beaten  6-0 at last months UK Championship and he must have been having serious feelings of dejavu here as Ronnie rushed into a 4-0 at the interval.That became 5-0 in the next and another whitewash loomed large for Milkins before he managed to at least avoid that indignity by winning the next.That proved to be only delaying the inevitable though and Ronnie sealed his 6-1 victory in the next.

So by tomorrow night we will know the eight players who will contest the quarter finals of the 2014 Masters.Two more  places are left to be filled and they will come from the winners of the contests between Barry Hawkins & Ricky Walden tomorrow evening and the mouth watering clash tomorrow afternoon between neil Robertson & Mark Allen.

Monday, 13 January 2014

The Masters Day Two

Another day another final frame decider then at the 2014 Masters as former runner up Marco Fu edged past Judd Trump 6-5 in a hard fought afternoon tussle at the Alexandra Palace.

This was one of those nip and tuck battles that looked destined to go all the way as the players traded frame for frame in over four hours of snooker action. 

It had been Trump who seemed to be the more confident of the two,starting strongly before inexplicably missing frame ball red to allow Fu clinch the opener,but Trump quickly regained his focus to take the next two and lead 2-1.The fourth frame was a long drawn out affair lasting over 55 minutes,but eventually it went to Fu to leave it 2-2 at the interval

In truth the standard up to now hadn't been great but Fu rectified that in the next knocking in the highest break of the tournament so far,a 138, to move ahead 3-2.As was to be expected in this one though Trump fought back take the next to make it 3-3 before a century of his own gave him the lead once more at 4-3.

It was here once again though that we saw the difference between the Trump of today and the Trump of a couple of seasons back,as he failed to nail home his advantage,allowing Fu to take the next two frames and regain the lead at 5-4 with a high break of just 54.

Trump did manage to at least force the decider with another century but a tricky missed black off the spot while tight under the cushion allowed Fu in and he duly did enough to take his place in the next round.

This was another blow for Trump in what has been a disappointing season so far.You keep expecting things will eventually start to turn around for him but there is no guarantee they will.As for Marco he can now look forward to a quarter final clash with either Ding or Murphy.

In the evening session and it looked as though for the second night in a row we were going to have a Scot easing his way through to the next round when Steven Maguire raced out of the blocks to lead Joe Perry 3-1 at the mid session interval.That score was perhaps a bit harsh on Perry who hadn't done much wrong,but this was Maguire at his best and he quickly extended that lead to 5-1 on resumption of play 

It looked only a matter of wrapping it up for Maguire and he looked set to do so in the next before a missed red allowed Perry in to make it 5-2.This seemed to change things a little and with the aid of a few minor mistakes from Maguire and a cooly taken century.Perry took the next two to make it 5-4.

It was a case of game on now,but Maguire managed to hold himself together enough in the next to make the decisive contribution he needed to seal the win 6-4 and he now awaits either Mark Allen or Neil Robertson in the quarters.

That brought the curtain down on another fascinating days action and I don't expect tomorrows servings to be any less entertaining,as the afternoon brings us Ding v Murphy and tomorrow nights seeing the return to the Masters of a certain Mr O'Sullivan.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

The Masters 2014 Day One round up.

Day one of the dafabet Masters 2014 at the Alexandra Palace and if the week continues in this vein,we are in for a hell of a week of snooker action.

In this modern era of the game we are getting used to snooker action practically every week of the year,with flat 128 draws becoming the norm,but as we saw with the recent Champion of Champions event,there will always be a place for these tournaments which cater for the games elite and in that sphere they don't come any bigger then The Masters.

The roll call of winners of this event reads like a whose who of snooker over the last 40 years,but noone has a better recent record in then Mark Selby who has claimed the title three times in the last six years.Today he moved a step closer to making it a fourth title but only after coming through an epic tussle with Mark Davis.

What was to come had seemed unlikely early on as Davis struggled to settle and Selby looked to be moving effortlessly through to the Quarter finals taking a 4-0 lead to the interval.Davis managed to get off the mark  on the resumption of play to make it 4-1 before a missed red from Selby in the next allowed Davis to take it to make it 4-2.Selby however still looked in control and won the seventh to move within one of victory at 5-2.
Davis now knew that one more mistake could be fatal so was to his great credit that he managed to take the next with a wonderful 136 break and signs that Selby was just going to struggle to see this out were beginning to become evident as Davis won the next to make it 5-4 and then again showed great bottle to level it up at 5-5.

From here Davis was probably a slight favourite but Selby is nothing if not a fighter and he eventually fell over the line in a lengthy decider to keep his dreams of defending the title he won last year alive.He will need to improve on this you feel if that dream is to become reality next weekend ,but once you are still in the tournament that is always a possibility.

In to the evening session and it is a sign of just how far Stuart Binghams star has risen in the game that,in the eyes of the bookies,he started favourite for his clash with four time world champ John Higgins.

After the drama of the afternoon this one looked,on paper at least,as though it might be another close one,but this was not to prove the case as Higgins showed signs of a return to form beating a below par Bingham 6-2.

The opening two frames in this one were shared before runs of 50 & 94 saw Higgins go to the interval leading 3-1.Further efforts of 65 & 109 saw that lead extend to 5-1 before Bingham stopped the rot with a 91 to make it 5-2.This was only to be a brief stay of execution for the Englishman though,as Higgins won a closely contested eighth to seal a 6-2 win.

This win will provide a welcome boost of confidence for the Scot.who since a soul destroying loss to Murphy here last year has struggled to make an impact in the big tournaments.He will face another test in the next round against Selby but were he to come through that we could start realistically talking of him a title contender again and what a welcome addition that would be to the mix for the res of the season.