The Masters 2020 – Day 5

First quarter finals day at Ally Pally and it provided another top seed exit and some serious controversy.

Neither match was high quality and, from what transpired in commentary, the players weren’t too happy with the table that had not been recovered.

Here are the reports on both matches.

Shaun Murphy 6-3 Joe Perry (WST report)

Shaun Murphy is the first player through to the 2020 Dafabet Masters semi-finals, after beating world number 16 Joe Perry 6-3.

The Magician will now face the winner of this evening’s second quarter-final between John Higgins and Ali Carter. It’s the fifth time that 2015 Masters winner Murphy has reached the last four at Alexandra Palace.

Prior to this season, 2005 World Champion Murphy’s position in the world’s top 16 had come under serious threat following a torrid 2018/19 campaign, where he suffered nine first round exits.

A renewed work ethic, aided by practice partner Fergal O’Brien, has helped ignite an emphatic revival in 2019/20. The 37-year-old is one of the players of the season so far, having reached three consecutive finals and won the China Championship.

Murphy is now guaranteed £60,000 for reaching the semis and remains in the hunt for the £250,000 top prize.

This afternoon Murphy took the opening frame courtesy of a run of 51. He then appeared to be in a good position to claim the second, after a contribution of 60. However, a counter clearance of 35 saw Perry clear to the black and steal to draw level at 1-1.

A break of 66 saw Murphy lead 2-1, before he added the fourth frame to head into the mid-session interval 3-1 ahead. When they returned Perry pegged his opponent back. However, Murphy edged further in front thanks to a sublime 120 run in the sixth to lead 4-2.

Murphy got himself within a frame of victory by snatching the eighth frame on the black and despite losing the ninth, he then completed the win to emerge a 6-3 victor.

Murphy said: “I watched the UK Championship before Christmas and how unstoppable Ding Junhui looked. Joe beat Ding in the first round here. That says to me I’m playing someone in the form of his life, not to be taken lightly and a former finalist here. I knew he wouldn’t be overawed by the occasion and that I had to play my best. For parts of that match I was somewhere close to my top form, but there were dips and I would like to see them go.

“It’s been a while since I got to the semis of this event. I’ve only won one match here since winning the tournament in 2015. It is an event I love playing in and have been looking forward to all over the Christmas period. It is great to come here having prepared hard and played well out there. It has been a great first two matches and I’m excited for the next one.”

Perry said: “I struggled out there today. No real reason, I felt comfortable and there weren’t nerves. I didn’t succumb to the pressure or anything like that. I felt good, I was just myself chasing the cue ball around the table.

“It is one of those things. There is an old saying that the balls don’t forgive you. If you have unforced errors and miss silly balls you tend to get punished by not only your opponent, but the snooker gods as well.”

Coverage:

The preview

The mid-session

The review

Ali Cater 6-3 John Higgins (WST report)

Ali Carter emerged victorious in a gruelling clash with John Higgins 6-3 to clinch a place in the last four of the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace in London.

The Captain is through to his first ever Masters semi-final, where he will do battle with 2015 champion Shaun Murphy.

Carter is taking full advantage of being in the tournament this week, given he is ranked 17thin the world and gained entry to the event at the last moment after world number three Ronnie O’Sullivan pulled out.

Higgins, who has won this tournament on two occasions, will have to wait another year to claim his first Masters title since 2006.

Both players had to dig deep this evening in what proved to be a fragmented encounter. Higgins produced the match’s solitary half century prior to the mid-session, a run of 54. However, it was Carter who took a 3-1 advantage after just under two hours of play.

When they returned the action showed no signs of accelerating, with Carter edging a fiercely contested fifth frame in 38-minutes with a highest break of just 14.

Following that Higgins burst into life. A sublime run of 140, followed up by a contribution of 73 in the next pulled him within a frame at 4-3.

Carter then took a 47-minute eighth to move one from victory at 5-3. He got himself over the line with a break of 72.

“It was very tough. A great match to be involved in, but it was hard out there. The balls went scrappy, there were lots of long frames, but I’m delighted to win,” said Carter. “There is pride of performance, but I was pleased with the way I took the balls in the last frame, so I’m delighted.

“Shaun is a great player. We grew up together as juniors. It will be a fantastic match to be involved in. The venue feels very different this year, it is a lot more intimate and it is like a new tournament. I’m free rolling so I’m just enjoying it and glad to be here.”

Higgins said: “I was very poor tonight. I tried to blag it for a couple of frames by playing quickly. It was a poor game and it wasn’t enjoyable at all.

“I probably dragged Ali down. He was playing decent safety and keeping me tight. My safety was all over the place. It was reminiscent of my game with Yan Bingtao in the quarters of the UK Championship.”

Coverage:

The preview:

The mid-session:

The review:

The incident 

This happened in frame 8 during the match.

This was the situation on the table before Ali elected to play the yellow

Masters 2020 - Carter yellow incident - table situation prior shot

As you can see in the short video below, Ali didn’t hit the yellow. The referee, Desislava Bozhilova correctly called a foul. However Ali immediately denied the foul, claiming he had hit the yellow. As you can see though, he didn’t and it wasn’t even that close.

You can see exactly what happened before and after in this footage from 3:50:30 .  Ali could see the pink, blue and brown without being hindered by any other ball. He chose to play the yellow because he wanted to play safe and this was the best choice. He was standing right behind the shot. I’m very surprised that he though he had hit that yellow. It was close but not that close. Desi on the other hand was standing on his left (right on the screen) and maybe didn’t have such a clear view. Ali was very assertive and she trusted him. She could have asked a replay though, and IMO she should have.

Both the ES and BBC commentators though reacted immediately. I’m not 100% sure if the marker, Ben Williams could hear them, or see the images, but if he did, why didn’t he intervene like Marcel Eckardt did a few weeks back?

I’m extremely uneasy with this incident, as is Hector Nunns who reacted on twitter.

Masters 2020 Carter Higgins controversy. Hector Nunns

Why indeed didn’t the Eurosport pundits bring the incident into the postmatch conversation? They did it when ROS hds fouled with the rest in his match vs Luo Honghao at the 2018 English Open, they showed the images to Mark Selby more recently when a foul had been called on Ronnie despite him hitting the ball on. Why didn’t they ask Ali about this? It’s puzzling and I can think of only one explanation, it’s not a pretty thought and I hope I’m wrong: they were 100% certain in both previous occurences I cite above that it was a genuine mistake, they had no problem to ask the player, but maybe they weren’t completely sure this time and feeling uneasy with Ali possible reaction?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this was a match changer, like the the rest incident in the English Open could have been because Luo would have been back at the table, or like ROS foul that wasn’t one could have been as well because he felt compelled to play a different shot after that one. Ali would probably have won the match no matter what. But still …

Update: 

Apparently the question was brought in Ali’s postmatch and this was what he had to say (source SnookerHQ).

In his post-match press conference, Carter said: “If I haven’t hit that then I’m absolutely flabbergasted because I don’t know what’s happened there.”

“I was playing it full ball, the white’s going up the table, and it’s turned…anyone would tell you that I’d never try and gain an advantage doing that. That’s unbelievable.”

One thought on “The Masters 2020 – Day 5

  1. The only things I can think of is that the lights used on the TV tables are so strong that you get unusual reflections on the balls, which sometimes creates an illusion. It’s normally a problem when a player rolls up to a ball, but shouldn’t really be relevant in the shot Carter played. Another possibility is just being blinded by wishful thinking. Either way, an experienced professional should be aware of the issue, and leave it to the referee if there is any doubt. He put the referee in a difficult position, and it’s not clear if they had the facility to look at a TV replay. I think there was a similar one involving Mark Selby and Jan Verhaas, where Selby asked the referee if they could check it, and Verhaas ultimately said he would stick with his original ruling. This is the correct approach. Carter could have corrected his immediate impression after a few seconds by saying “I’m not actually sure”, but he didn’t. It was a very big match for him.

    Anyway, it was an interminable match. John Higgins played a couple of good frames in the middle, but the rest was very poor. They should have recovered the table before the Q-finals. As I’ve said before, I’m not sure with such a crowded season that playing the Masters in January is ideal, but I appreciate that it’s probably impossible to change the schedule.

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