Snooker returns to The Tempadrome in Berlin this week.when it plays host to the third staging of the German Master and it is a glowing testament to way that the German public have embraced the game that this tournament has already become one of the highlights of the snooker calendar.
This is a truly remarkable event,with the five tables in one massive open plan arena giving the 2000 plus fans in attendance an unobstructed view of all the action & what action the last two years has delivered.The final between Mark Williams and Mark Selby in 2011 was a classic with even the normally unflappable Williams overwhelmed by the standing ovation his victory received.This match if anything was eclipsed by last years superb encounter between Ronnie O'Sullivan and Stephen Maguire where Ronnie produced a stunning comeback to record a win that was surely the springboard to his World Championship success.
So what can we expect this year? Well I suppose the first thing to mention is the flatter draw been used here which will give us a taste of what we can expect next year when the flat 128 draw is introduced.In this tournament we have had the the qualifying rounds reduced from four to two with the top 16 coming in at the last 64 stage.This has also shown the difficulties that will have to be ironed out before the flat draw comes in next season. because if a number of the top players start having their matches held over to the main venue, as is happening here, we could have an outright revolt on our hands.This is a discussion for another day though.
On the playing side of things,going on all recent form the man to beat is Mark Selby,not only has he won the two most recent major tournaments,The UK & The Masters but in between he won the final EPTC in Munich.These victories do indeed have him at the top of the betting market but the manner in which he won these events perhaps owed more to his grit and determination then the standard of play he produced.For that reason I feel he may be a vulnerable favourite here.
I think a lot of the games top players will be eyeing up this week as the chance to kick start the second half of the season for themselves and it will be difficult to pinpoint a winner but if I were to have bet I would have tentative flutter on Mark Allen.In my last blog I pointed out that I expected to see him in the winners enclosure before end of season and he certainly lived up to my expectations with a commanding performance in group 4 of the championship league last week.If he can reproduce that form here he will take a bit of beating.
Regardless of who is holding the trophy on Sunday night though we are certain to be treated to another fascinating week of snooker in front of audiences who are perhaps the most enthusiastic and respectful on the tour.
The action kicks off in the morning on Eurosport and I will be blogging here as the week progresses as well as updating on Twitter @TheGreenBaize