While, of course, everybody marvels about the single table setup of the final two days of the German Masters, which is being worked on as this is written, day three of the tournament boasting the simultaneous four quarter-finals in the evening is my personal favourite moment of the five-day Tempodrom extravaganza.
Naturally, before that we were treated to the second half of the second round, with Shaun Murphy playing on the TV table against Scott Donaldson, who is frequently being lauded at a fast rising player this season. Donaldson had his moments, and not everything Murphy was doing worked, but all in all it was an assured win for the favourite and crowd pleaser, 5-2 for Murphy.
Mitchell Mann seemed rather in awe of Neil Robertson. He never looked 100% confident, and when the Australian occasionally missed a long pot, Mann hardly managed to capitalise on the opportunity. The result was a whitewash, as Robertson found his game better with every frame.
Gary Wilson didn’t quite find his strong form of the previous day. Being quite close to him I could frequently hear him softly mutter to himself with dissatisfaction after yet another missed shot. On the other hand, Zhao Xintong played very solidly and with an unhurried ease as if at the practice table. His reward was a clear 5-1 victory.
The battle of the young guns with shaved heads on table four seemed very even at first. For both Elliott Slessor and Robbie Williams, this surely was a golden opportunity to advance at a major tournament. Slessor found a way to improve as the match went on, and he eventually outplayed his opponent for a 5-3 victory.
So the set-up for the evening was clear, the four world champions present. Current title holder Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy, and Graeme Dott each paired with promising and hopeful opponents, all surely capable of delivering a surprise upset.
The role of the pundit for the pre-match talk with emcee Rolf Kalb falls to Joe Perry, whose first round exit did not make him leave, but rather stay for the duration and his new function, which never fails to earn him a warm applause. Perry looks more at ease every time he walks out to be interviewed, and he duly opined that the underdogs of the four matches surely would all fancy their chances and must not be underestimated.
To give the show away, the surprise did not happen. The evening session saw the champions all win, in various degrees of dominance. The Robertson express went at full speed, with the “Thunder from Down Under” scoring his second whitewash victory of the day. Poor Elliot Slessor didn’t have much say on the match which was over before all mid-session intervals had even commenced.
Judd Trump apparently tried to follow suit, taking less than two hours to assure his place in the final four. His opponent Michael Georgiou clearly tried to sell his skin dearly, with a much applauded 112 in the second frame keeping things even at the outset. But Trump was not to be stopped. Seeing him casually at the interval painted a clear picture. He spent it chatting away with Neil Robertson as if it was after hours already. To say he is confident would be an understatement and the result did prove him right, as there was no second frame win for Georgiou, in spite of a couple of very good shots by him.
The remaining two matches were not free of controversy. Matt Selt and Graeme Dott seemed to have some sort of altercation, although sadly there was no reporter’s luck for me as my duties kept me outside of the arena at that time, and I could not find out for certain what caused the conflict. The referee was changed at the midway point though, whether as a consequence of the argument or possibly merely for reasons of bad health remained unclear. Whatever the background, Graeme Dott gained ease and confidence as the match went on, and he won it 5-2 with an impressive 121 in the penultimate frame. Dott visibly has warmed to the Tempodrom atmosphere, already entering with a smile and waving to the crowd, which isn’t always seen from him.
The long player of the evening was the match between Shaun Murphy and Zhao Xintong, which saw a rare scoring conflict. Neither referee Nigel Leddie nor either player noticed it, and thus the tournament directors hurried out, interrupting the game, with a rather lengthy discussion following. Zhao couldn’t have been more philosophical about it. Murphy did discuss, at some length, but in his typical gentlemanly way. It can be easily imagined how more heated temperaments might have reacted. When finally all agreed, the score was rightly corrected, and the match happily concluded with an “all’s well that ends well”, followed later by a stunning 127 clearance by Murphy to win it 5-3.
This pits Murphy against Robertson and Trump against Dott for a battle to reach Sunday’s final. After tonight’s display, it has to be said the favourites are obvious. Everybody talks about Trump versus Robertson, which certainly would be a major showdown of the two players at the peak of form and confidence battling for the German Masters trophy. I won’t repeat my prediction of a surprise from yesterday this time around. But stranger things have happened…