Snooker in January - Part 2

The German Masters

Let me pick up where I left off... The Masters has a new champion: the young Chinese player Yan Bingtao, who came from 5-3 and then 7-5 down to secure the most important win of his career against one of the greatest players of all time, John Higgins. The debutant Yan Bingtao beat the Scottish 10-8 to get his hands on the Paul Hunter Trophy. It has to be said: his game is very mature for his age (he is only 20), which, in my opinion, allowed him to compete with a great tactician like Higgins. And here is a little piece of advice: he could start working on his English because he will be conceding interviews quite often from now on.

And then came the new tournament, WST Pro Series, whose format consists of round-robin groups of eight players where the top two qualify for the next stage. At the moment, 16 players have qualified from eight groups: Shaun Murphy, Louis Heathcote, Kyren Wilson, Akani Songsermsawad, Stuart Bingham, Sam Craigie, Martin O'Donnell, Lu Ning, Zhao Xintong, Dominic Dale, Luo Honghao, Zhou Yuelong, Joe Perry, Xiao Guodong, Jack Lisowski and Luca Brecel. Among the top 16, only Thepchaiya Un-Nooh is out of this event; the competition shall resume in March after some events that take precedence in snooker's frantic calendar.

Judd Trump and Jack Lisowski are contesting the final of the German Masters as I write this post. Higgins tested positive for COVID-19 and could not compete. The final of the World Grand Prix was also contested between these two players, and Trump became the champion. Therefore, Lisowski has an opportunity to get his revenge today against the defending champion (and yes, Trump is the defending champion of an awful lot of tournaments). Trump has defeated Mark Davis, Joe Perry and Ding Junhui this week. He booked his place in today's final by beating Barry Hawkins in the semi-finals yesterday. Trump was 5-1 down when he managed to produce a breathtaking comeback scoring three consecutive century breaks (131, 131 and 100) to reduce the gap in the scoreline. Hawkins was playing well and had made a couple of centuries of his own (101 and 140), but Trump was in his best form and in frames 7, 8 and 9. Hawkins had a chance to clinch victory in frame 10, but missed a red to the middle pocket, thus allowing Trump to make a 67 break to take the match to a deciding frame. And again, Hawkins had his chances, but could not take advantage of those. Trump has reached another ranking final this season and is a strong favorite to retain his German Masters title.

The other finalist, Jack Lisowski, defeated Louis Heathcote, Luca Brecel and Stuart Bingham to get himself into the semis. He had a 6-2 win against Tom Ford yesterday to get into today's final. Lisowski opened a 3-0 lead (with two breaks of 68) and Tom Ford replied with a century break (104). They shared the next couple of frames and Lisowski made breaks of 81 and 87 to win the last two frames. As I wrote in my previous post, it's good to see him playing so well. Trump is leading 7-1 at the end of the first session and is unlikely to lose, but it is quite an achievement for Lisowski just to be in two successive ranking finals. Lisowski's maiden ranking title might not come today, but it shall come soon if he keeps his current form. Anyway, this is his second consecutive ranking final with Trump. They could not compete in the Masters because both players tested positive for COVID-19 and were forced to withdraw.

There's plenty of snooker to be played in February. The Shoot Out starts in a few days in MK Arena and will be followed by the stubborn Championship League Snooker. The last Home Nations Series event —  the Welsh Open — will take place from February 15 to 21 in... Wales! The venue is the Celtic Manor Resort and Shaun Murphy is the defending champion. Finally, the last tournament to start in February is the prestigious Players Championship. Enjoy!

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