The two rounds of qualifying matches for the German Masters 2018 were played last week and, as a result, only seven of the top 16 players will be at the iconic Tempodrom: Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Ding Junhui, Shaun Murphy, Barry Hawkins, Mark Allen and Mark Williams. Ronnie withdrew for medical reasons, John Higgins didn’t enter – which surprising went completely under the radars – and the others got beat. Maybe the most surprising defeats were Anthony McGill losing by 5-2 to Jimmy White and Ali Carter going out to Wang Yuchen.
At least the defending Champion, Anthony Hamilton, will be in Berlin, something that isn’t guaranteed, contrary to what happens for the Chinese events
From what I read on social media, Ronnie withdrawal, as well as a number of top players going out early over the last three editions, have a very negative impact on the tickets sales for the event. For the first three days only 1/3 of the seats were taken, and people were cancelling their plans to be there. This is a shame, and it’s unfair on everyone, the promoters and sponsors putting a lot of efforts into this, the European fans who don’t have that many events on mainland Europe soil as it is, and the players themselves.
Let me explain the last point: the top players are the ones who usually make it to the business end of tournaments, therefore they are the ones who will be most tired at the end of a very hectic first half of the season. For them to have to play two qualifying matches, at a venue that Neil Robertson compared to a morgue because there is no atmosphere (especially at this time of the year when people are busy preparing the festive holidays rather than attending snooker matches), well, it’s hard, and probably the combination of tiredness and low motivation explains why so many fail to get through. The schedule of those qualifiers is damning, and, in my opinion actually endangers the future of the tournament itself. Just as an example, based on the data available on Cuetracker, John Higgins has played 48 matches this season already, Hammad Miah has played 19, and remember that latter stages of tournaments also means longer matches. So maybe it isn’t that surprising that John gave it a miss, or that Ronnie who was in 5 finals, and won three, over about 8 weeks, traveling back and forth between China and UK, fell asleep in his chair during the Scottish Open and ultimately was probably simply too tired to compete properly in this one.
The explanation the authorities will probably give us is that there is no other spot in the calendar. Yes, the calendar is packed, including events like the Championship League Snooker, a competition tailor made for the bookies, as is also the farce – the ranking farce! – that is the Shootout. Which brings another source of worry (for me at least), namely the how much snooker is relying on the gambling/betting industry for its sponsoring and its financial survival. What if the gambling industry was clamped on like the tobacco industry was a few years ago? I don’t see that there is a plan B for snooker should that happen. And you shouldn’t rule it out, betting and gambling are a huge and increasing social issue, with people lead by the constant advertising on television and social media by an industry that is worth billions but has only one morale: profit. Some are seriously thinking about it, even in the most lucrative sport of them all: football.
here are some links … food for thoughts