MAJOR ranking event snooker is set to return for the first time in 2015 when the German Masters gets underway on Wednesday.
The world’s best will be battling it out in Berlin’s impressive Tempodrom Arena over the next few days in a bid to be crowned this year’s German Masters champion.
The event is one of the most popular in the snooker calendar since its re-introduction four years ago and is renowned for seeing huge crowds take their seats during each day not wanting to miss any of the action.
In truth the tournament is the start of a busy period in the sport as the countdown gets underway between now and the season’s finale World Championship at the Crucible. Players who have not yet found their form this season will no doubt be wanting to do so in the half a dozen remaining major events to be played from now until May.
And one of those men will be defending champion Ding Junhui who this season has looked a shadow of the player he was when he beat Judd Trump to lift his first German Masters title last year.
Twelve months ago saw China’s number one dominate the trophy cabinet, winning a record equalling five majors in a single season en route to the last year’s World Championship. But things have not been the same since – as he has only reached one major ranking semi-final since winning the China Open in April last year.
Ding takes on Welshman Ryan Day in the last 32 stage in a rematch of last year’s semi-final in the same event which Ding won 6-5. Will Ding rediscover his form once again over the coming days?
Another man who has failed to hit the heights of last season is Mark Selby. Since memorably lifting his first World Championship back in May, Selby – apart from becoming a father – has had a fairly quiet time of it suffering early exits in the UK Championship, International Championship and the Masters.
The Jester from Leicester will no doubt be looking to kick-start his season in Berlin but faces a tricky match to start off with against an impressive Anthony McGill.
Recent Masters champion Shaun Murphy will hope to continue his winning form when he takes on Michael Wasley who famously knocked Ding out of the World Championship last year.
Judd Trump will be eager to go one better than last year and claim his second major title of the season following his success in Australia at the start of the campaign. The Bristol Ace faces Michael Holt in the opening round of the venue stages.
Barring a poor showing in the final of the Masters, Neil Robertson looked more like the man which has seen become one of the dominant players in the recent era. He takes on Fergal O’Brien in what could prove to be a tricky match for the Australian but if he continues his sharp form then he could be a big contender to win the title.
This week sees Ronnie O’Sullivan return to the German Masters for the first time since he won the title in 2012. That day when he came back from behind to defeat Stephen Maguire to win silverware once again was described in his latest autobiography ‘Running’ as one of his biggest career achievements.
O’Sullivan will have all eyes on him again as he looks to win the title again three years later. He meets Mark Davis in the last 32 stage and will be doing some commentary stints with Eurosport who are screening live coverage of the tournament throughout the week.
Other intriguing last 32 matches see John Higgins meet Peter Ebdon and Mark Allen takes on 2011 German Masters winner Mark Williams in a repeat of a thrilling International Championship semi-final three months ago which Allen won 9-8.
And snooker rookie Ashley Carty gets a first taste of playing at a major venue after the amateur gained qualifying wins over professionals James Cahill and Robert Milkins to set up a Last 32 match against Martin Gould.
German Masters – Last 32 Draw
Ding JUNHUI vs Ryan DAY
Michael GEORGIOU vs Alfie BURDEN
Li HANG vs Liang WENBO
Matt SELT vs Stuart BINGHAM
Mark ALLEN vs Mark WILLIAMS
Michael WASLEY vs Shaun MURPHY
Joe PERRY vs Jimmy ROBERTSON
Mark DAVIS vs Ronnie O’SULLIVAN
Neil ROBERTSON vs Fergal O’BRIEN
Xiao GUODONG vs Liam HIGHFIELD
Stephen MAGUIRE vs David GILBERT
Mark KING vs Barry HAWKINS
Judd TRUMP vs Michael HOLT
Martin GOULD vs Ashley CARTY
John HIGGINS vs Peter EBDON
Anthony McGILL vs Mark SELBY