The 2022 German Masters line-up

After 9 days of qualifiers, for a 5 days short tournament, we now have line-up for the 2022 German Masters to be played in Berlin next January:

Judd Trump vs Gao Yang
Anthony McGill vs Zhou Yuelong
Tom Ford vs Stephen Maguire
Zhao Xintong vs Mark Williams

Kyren Wilson vs Jimmy Robertson
Michael Georgiou vs Craig Steadman
Zhang Anda vs Luca Brecel
Ricky Walden vs Neil Robertson

Andrew Higginson vs Liang Wenbo
Liam Highfield vs Fan Zhengyi
Lyu Haotian vs Mark Allen
Kurt Maflin vs Shaun Murphy

Noppon Saengkham vs Ryan Day
Sam Craigie vs Ken Doherty
David Gilbert vs Yan Bingtao
Barry Pinches vs Mark Selby

Six members of the top 16, didn’t “make” it: Ronnie, John Higgins, Stuart Bingham, Ding Juihui, Barry Hawkins and Jack Lisowski.

To me the biggest “upset” in that list is not Ronnie, but John Higgins.

It had been apparent already in Belfast that Ronnie wasn’t in the best place mentally and Hossein Vafaei is a real top player when at his best. Hossein’s problem is that he lacks consistency. I wasn’t expecting a whitewash, but I knew that a defeat for Ronnie was a real possibility, especially in the lonely qualifiers environment.

On the other hand, I didn’t expect John Higgins, who had been at his frightening best in Belfast, to lose in the first round to Noppon Seangkham. Noppon had been struggling badly for months, and although signs of improvement where there, I expected John to have far too much for him.

Ding was playing competitively for the first time since the World Championship in April and, therefore, I never expected him to make it through to the Tempodrom.

Now looking at the “main draw”, we have some very interesting matches to look forward to, and I have put my “picks” in blue.

We have one amateur in the main draw: Michael Georgiou. Michael is a much better player than his professional results suggest, and not having to worry about rankings seems to have given him the “freedom” he needs to be able to bring his best game at the table.

Also in this main draw are Andrew Higginson and Liang Wenbo, two excellent players who have gone missing for quite some time but seem to play well again. It’s easy to forget that Liang Wenbo is a ranking event winner; he won the first “Home Nation” English Open in 2016, beating Judd Trump in the final. Andrew Higginson, who was once ranked 18th in the World,  was runner-up to Neil Robertson in the 2007 Welsh Open; the final went to a deciding frame and Andrew had made a 147 earlier in that tournament. Andrew also won a PTC in 2011, beating Johm Higgins in the final. It’s good to have them back. One of them will make it to the last 16, as they are set to play each other.

 

 

2022 German Masters Qualifiers – First round exit for Ronnie

Ronnie was beaten, and well beaten, yesterday evening by an inspired Hossein Vafaei. Indeed Hossein whitewashed him in less than a hour.

Here is the report by WST:

Vafaei Downs The Rocket

Iranian number one Hossein Vafaei scored a superb 5-0 defeat of 37-time ranking event winner Ronnie O’Sullivan at BetVictor German Masters qualifying in Cannock.

It’s the first time that O’Sullivan has been whitewashed in a full knockout event since suffering a 5-0 defeat to John Higgins at the 2017 Scottish Open.

Vafaei’s victory is a stark reversal in his fortunes in this tournament, having exited in the opening round of qualifying in all five of his previous German Masters appearances. The three-time ranking event semi-finalist is now one match away from a maiden trip to Berlin’s Tempodrom. He now faces Andrew Higginson tomorrow.

Vafaei was in top form this evening against an out of sorts O’Sullivan. He fired in breaks of 52, 50, 81 and 141 to storm into a 4-0 lead at the mid-session. When they returned, O’Sullivan elected to blast the pack off the break and potted a red. He made 24 from it, before missing and allowing Vafaei an opportunity to close out the match. Vafaei did exactly that with a contribution of 64.

And another one by Eurosport:

GERMAN MASTERS SNOOKER: RONNIE O’SULLIVAN DESTROYED BY HOSSEIN VAFAEI IN FIVE-STAR WHITEWASH IN UNDER AN HOUR

Hossein Vafaei compiled breaks of 52, 50, 81, 64 and a magical 141 as the world number 60 stunned six-times world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-0 in the first round of German Masters qualifying in Cannock in only 54 minutes. The last 32 qualify for the final stages of the German Masters, with the Tempodrom in Berlin staging the tournament between 26-30 January 2022.

Hossein Vafaei enjoyed arguably the greatest night of his nine-year career as he destroyed six-times world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-0 with a barrage of brilliant scoring in a huge upset in the first round of the German Masters in Cannock.

Iran’s leading player has reached three rankin event semi-finals since turning professional in 2012, but this was perhaps the most notable victory of his career such was the ruthlessness of his scoring and speed of thought among the balls as he completed victory in only 54 minutes.

Apart from breaking down among the balls in the second frame, O’Sullivan did little or nothing wrong as the inspired world number 60 pieced together breaks of 52, 50, 81 and a glorious 141 to race 4-0 clear in under an hour.

That became a 5-0 victory quickly after the mid-session interval with the world number three only making 24 after potting a red off the break-off shot – going for broke with an ultra-aggressive opening play – in throwing caution to the wind before Vafaei pounced with another lovely knock of 64 to end any hopes of a recovery by the record 37-times ranking event winner.

The shock outcome also ends O’Sullivan’s hopes of emulating his success in winning the German Masters a decade on from his 2012 victory when he defeated Stephen Maguire 9-7 in an epic final.

Vafaei will meet former Welsh Open finalist Andrew Higginson, a 5-1 winner against Steven Hallworth, on Tuesday with a trip to Germany on the line.

Here are the scores

2021 German Master Quals R1 - ROS v Vafaei Scores

Ronnie wasn’t at his best, but, as Eurosport mentions, he wasn’t terrible either. Essentially, he was potted off the table, and kept cold in his seat, by an excellent Hossein Vafaei.

A lot of the social media discussions yesterday evening were about Ronnie’s break off in the last frame: how it was disrespectful to his opponent, and arrogant. My view on it is different. I mentioned at the end of the 2021 Northern Ireland Open that, to me at least, Ronnie appeared edgy and not in the best shape mentally. What I saw yesterday only reinforced these feelings. To me, that break off only showed that, the way he felt, being 4-0 down, Ronnie didn’t believe that he could come back and win, he just wanted to be out of there. This was not about his opponent, this was not arrogance, it was just giving up a fight he didn’t believe he could find the strength to win. That shot by Ronnie was an admission of frailty, not arrogance.

I don’t think that Hossein felt agrrieved about the break-off. Those two know each other, they sometimes practice together in Sheffield. Ronnie has every respect for Hossein’s ability, and, when they exchanged a few words at the end of the  match, it all looked friendly enough. If Hossein has a reason to feel aggrieved, it’s because most the focus – from both fans and media – has been about his opponent’s surrender, rather than about his own excellent performance that caused it.

BTW, that break-off is a perfectly legal shot. There is nothing in the rules to prevent players to play their break-off that way, just like there is nothing in the rules to prevent players to roll the white into the back of the pack, the way Williams did on many occasions recently, prompting some to ask for this shot to be “banned”.

Obviously, things don’t look great at the monent for Ronnie and his fans. We have been there before. He has got many ups and owns in his nearly 30 years long career; he’s had numerous bare spells, some lasting for over a year. Hopefully this one will not be too long. Hopefully.

 

More surprises at the 2022 German Masters Qualifiers

There were a couple of huge surprises at the German Masters qualifiers yesterday.

Here is the report by WST:

Allen Keeps Hot Streak Going

Mark Allen won his ninth consecutive match on the World Snooker Tour as he came from 2-0 down to beat Sunny Akani 5-3 in the second qualifying round of the BetVictor German Masters.

Allen captured his first ranking title in three years at the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open last Sunday. And two wins this week in Cannock have kept his momentum going and given him a spot at the Tempodrom in Berlin in January. After losing the first two frames against Akani, Allen fired breaks of 95, 133, 73 and 72 as he took five of the next six.

Liam Highfield earned a last 32 spot with an impressive 5-3 defeat of Jack Lisowski, while Lyu Haotian top scored with 89 as he registered a 5-1 victory over Ali Carter. Lyu will be joined in Berlin by fellow Chinese potter Fan Zhengyi who made an 85 clearance in the decider to beat Lu Ning 5-4.

In round one, John Higgins – runner-up to Allen in Belfast – suffered a surprise 5-2 reverse against Noppon Saengkham, who fired runs of 105, 132, 78 and 79.  Shaun Murphy scored breaks of 61, 100, 76 and 93 as he saw off Mark King 5-1.

Remember that you an find all detailed results on snooker.org

Two excellent results for two young players who have struggled badly but will now be in Berlin. Congratulations to Lyu Haotian and Fan Zhengyi. Enjoy Berlin lads, and make sure to take warm clothes with you for this trip!

John Higgins heavy defeat is indeed a huge surprise after his recent final in Belfast, but it has happened last season too … a big win followed by a heavy defeat. Consistency is often an issue for older players, maybe it starts to be one for John as well now. Or maybe it’s just that he struggled to motivate himself to play in “lonely” qualifiers after such a high quality final in front of an enthusiast crowd.

That said Noppon scored heavily. He is in danger to be relegated at the end of the season and has recently started to work with SightRight. It seems to work well for him.

The Allen v Akani match was a strange one. Sunny had the best start and scored two big breaks – 83 and 78 – to lead by 2-0. Mark Allen replied with 95 and 133 to go to the MSI all square. When they resumed, the “mood” had changed. The next two frames were close, scrappy, low scoring affairs. Mark won the first, Sunny the second. In that sixth frame though something happened and I’m not sure what exactly. Mark was at the table and suddenly left the arena. After several minutes, as he was not coming back, the referre, John Pellew, spoke to Sunny who also left the arena. Maybe Sunny was asked to check on Mark? Again, I’m not sure. Anyway, Sunny came back after a couple of minutes… alone. Then both he and the ref left the arena together. After several more minutes, they all came back and play resumed. The interruption, that lasted about 13 minutes, appeared to have broken Sunny’s concentration despite the fact that he won the frame in progress.  Mark won the last two easily with breaks of 73 and 72.

Jak Jones came from 4-1 down to beat Alex Ursenbacher by 5-4. After Lukas Kleckers and Simon Lichtenberg defeats, Alex was probably the closest thing to a “local player” in the eyes of the German fans, but he neither will be playing in Berlin.

Remarkable fact of the day: frame 4 in the Clarke v Bond match lasted 1h 39’40” …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An eventful day at the 2022 German Masters Qualifiers

I wasn’t planning to report on the German Masters qualifiers today, but yesterday turned out to be a bit special…

Indeed Thepchaiya Un-Nooh scored a maximum break, his third, in the second frame of his first round match. You can watch it here:

It was far from staigthforward with four reds on the bottom half of the table, three of them past the baulk line.

That maximum of course is now the tournament high break, and is very unlikely to be “beaten”. Peter Devlin who had previously scored a 143 in the only frame he won, was the holder of the tournament high break until Theppy “stole” it from him…

Peter was feeling aggrieved and expressed his feelings in his own way … with a rap!

Thepchaiya ultimately lost that match. He was beaten 5-3  by Fan Zhengyi. This is an excellent result for the young Chinese who has struggled during his first years on the tour. Fan won the last three frames of the match.

There was a good result as well for another young Chinese: indeed Lyu Haotian defeated Lee Walker by 5-2, with four breaks over 60, including a century. Lyu seems to have been on the tour for a long time, and actually he is indeed a professional since 2013, but he’s only 23 years old. His first years on tour were very traumatic, but hopefully he’s finding some form and confidence back now.

Mark Allen defeated Alfie Burden by 5-1 in a match that featured three centuries, including a 141 by Alfie. The score could easily have been different if it wasn’t for Alfie’s impeccable sportsmanship. Here is what Mark Allen posted on social media after the match:

Mark Allen - German Masters quals 2021-10-23 at 09.14.07

Neil Robertson beat Michael White by 5-1 in a scoring fest: each frame featured a 50+ break: 52, 88, 103, 135 (NR), 60 (MW), 73 (NR).

 

Taking stock of the 2022 German Masters qualifiers so far

We are roughly mid-way through the 2022 German Masters qualifiers and it’s time to have a look at what happened so far. All the detailed results are available on snooker.org.

This is the list of those who have already won two matches and have qualified:

  • Tom Ford
  • Stephen Maguire
  • Anthony McGill
  • Zhou Yuelong
  • Mark Williams
  • Jimmy Robertson
  • Xao Xintong
  • Kyren Wilson
  • Judd Trump
  • Michael Georgiou
  • Craig Steadman
  • Gao Yang

Jimmy Robertson and Michael Giorgiou – who is currently an amateur – are having a strong season so far. Anthony McGill has finally won matches this season, after admitting that he has struggled with motivation.

Gao Yang, who is only 17, played Stephen Hendry in the first round. He wasn’t intimidated and actually outplayed the 7 time World Champion in the tactical department. He then went on to beat his much more experienced compatriot Xiao Guodong. I’m increasingly wondering about Stephen Hendry’s motives for returning to competitive snooker. He claims that his dream is to return to the Crucible. That’s not gonna happen unless he accepts to change his approach to the game and he doesn’t seem to want to compromise on that approach. He’s giving far too many opportunities to his opponents by going for, and not getting, long pots, played without safety in mind.

Judd Trump was made to work yesterday. He was playing Anthony Hamilton and found himself 3-0 up in no time. But then Anthony started to play well and made life very difficult for him. Eventually Judd prevailed by 5-3. I was happy to see him give his opponent a lot of respect. He had to. Anthony scored a 130, the highest break of the match. “Ants” was heard congratulating Judd after the match, and wishing him to enjoy the Tempodrom. He also stated that “it was a pleasure (to play him)”. That’s the thing some fans don’t get: many of the older players enjoy competing even when the results are no more coming that often. Anthony certainly competed well yesterday once he got used to the conditions.

On Yee Ng made her debuts as a pro and lead Craig Steadman by 3-1 and 4-2 but then, to her own admission, nerves got the better of her, and she lost the last three frames. Hopefully she will learn from this and find a way to stay calm because I know that she is very capable.

Wu Yize, 18, who is in his first year as a pro, has only lost once in the first round so far. He completely outplayed Jamie Wilson. He’s due to face Luca Brecel today.

Lukas Kleckers was beaten by Yaun Sijun in the first round, but Simon Lichtenberg is still on course to play in his home tournament at the Tempodrom. He faces a tough challenge though as his second round opponent is Ricky Walden.

Amongts those who surprisingly didn’t qualify, we find Joe Perry, Gary Wilson, Stuart Bingham and Barry Hawkins.

Currently the highest break is 143, by Peter Devlin… in the only frame he won in this event.

2022 European Masters Draw and Revised WST Calendar

WST has today published the draw for the 2022 European Masters. The tournament will be played in the Atadhalle Fürth, the home of the, now defunct, Paul Hunter Classic. The qualifiers – just one round – will be played right after the German Masters qualifiers currently in progress.

BetVictor European Masters Qualifiers Draw

The draw and format for the qualifying round of the BetVictor European Masters has been made.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

The qualifying round runs from October 27-31 at Chase Leisure Centre in Cannock. There is no access for fans but the action will be available to watch live online, with the list of broadcasters to follow.

All players need to win one match to make it through to the final stages in Furth, Germany in February 2022.

Note that the following round one matches have been held over to the final stages in Germany:

Mark Selby v Matthew Selt
Neil Robertson v Lei Peifan
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Nigel Bond
Judd Trump v Michael Judge

I’m happy to see Ronnie in the draw, and it’s good as well that his match is held-over.

To be honnest, Ronnie looked very edgy to me last week in Belfast. My feeling – and nothing else than just my feeling – was that he wasn’t in the best place mentally; he’s never been the most stable person. When that happens, he’s prone to impulsive decisions, and it’s usually not great.

A few days agao WST had also published yet another revised calendar:

The updated provisional calendar for the 2021/22 season is now available.

Click here for the updated calendar

Please note:

  • The qualifier dates originally set in November have been removed, and the dates for Championship League Snooker will be released shortly.
  • The dates for the 2022 Turkish Masters are now March 7-13, with a potential ranking event the following week from March 14-20.
  • In a change to previous seasons, players will receive both prize money and ranking points when losing in round one of any Cazoo Series event. This is conditional on players both competing and completing their round one match.

The Cazoo Series starts with the Cazoo World Grand Prix from December 13 to 19 in Coventry

 

RevisedWSTCalendarOctober2021

Is it time to rescucitate the Belgian Open?

The 2021 EBSA Championships, played in Portugal, concluded yesterday.

I’m Belgian, as most of you already know, and as such I followed the fate of my fellow citizens in those competitions. It ain’t too bad …

The under-18 championship had an all Begian final, with Ben Mertens (16) beating Julien Leclercq (18) in the final.

EBSA U-18 2021 - Finalist Ben Mertens and Julien Leclercq

Both lads played in the World qualifiers before and both did beat their professional opponent in the first round. Ben became, and remains, the youngest player to win a match in that competition.

Julien Leclercq

 

Julien Leclercq managed to reach the final of the under-21 competition as well. He lost to the more experienced Dylan Emery, narrowly missing out on a tour card.

 

Wendy Jans won the women competition. She beat Jamie Hunter by 4-1 in the final to win the European Women’s Snooker Championship for a record 13th time!

Dean Young, Wendy Jans, Challenge Tour at the Max Belgium

Wendy presenting Dean Young with the trophy after he won a challenge tour event at her club

And finally … Julien got his hands on a trophy when, with his partner Kevin Hanssens, he won the Men’s Team event. They beat the experienced Wales 1 team – Darren Morgan and Elfed Evans – by 5-2 in the final.

Yes, there is good snooker played outside the UK, even in tiny Belgium. Looking at the results above, maybe now is the time to rescucitate the Belgian Open? I think there is a case for it. And not in the form of an event where local wildcards / invited players need to go to the UK to win two qualifying matches in an uninspiring venue for a chance to play in front of their home fans. NO! Such event should be played from round 1, at the final venue, as the Home Nations used to be, and should “return” to be.