Here is the follow-up from my last post: the runaway world number one Judd Trump won the German Masters with a 9-2 win against Jack Lisowski on January 31. He is the first player to retain the German Masters title. The winning machine has now won 4 ranking titles in the season.
The Shoot Out was the tournament scheduled for this week and I spent part of my Sunday watching it. I will just jump to the last 16 stage for this post. The defending champion Michael Holt was out. Those were the players still in contention: Mark Selby, Zhou Yuelong, Ryan Day, Martin O'Donnell, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Noppon Saengkham, Mark Allen, David B. Gilbert, Mark J. Williams, Robert Milkins, Louis Heathcote, Lyu Haotian, Gerard Greene, and amateurs Declan Lavery, Ian Martin and Craig Steadman.
The first match was between Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Mark J. Williams. Un-Nooh had the first chance but scored only 5 points. After Un-Nooh's misfortune (he potted a long red, but there was no color available to keep the break going), Williams made a break of 21, which proved to be decisive, because Un-nooh was not able to turn that little deficit around. Williams was through to the quarter-finals (35-11) and the 2019 champion was out.
Mark Selby and Declan Lavery were up next. Lavery was the first to score but only managed to make a break of 8. Selby replied with a break of 29 followed by another little break. Lavery never had another decent chance. Selby was the winner (55-9). Martin O'Donnell and Ian Martin played next. O'Donnell made a break of 25 after the bad safety shot from his opponent. Ian Martin had a few chances, but did not make the most of them. O'Donnell won 26-12. Fourth match: Noppon Saengkham and Craig Steadman. Saengkham committed a foul and Steadman made a break of 15, followed by a decisive break of 56 to guarantee his place in the quarter-finals (72-8).
Fifth match: Lyu Haotian against Robert Milkins. Lyu Haotian was the first to score and made a break of 16. Milkins replied with a break of 24 and later made another break of 51. The Chinese had no time to do anything to avoid defeat (76-16). Gerard Greene and Louis Heathcote played next. Greene missed a golden chance to score (he fouled). Heathcote took advantage of the situation and made a break of 45. Greene failed to score and conceded the frame (and match) after making another foul. The scoreline was 65-2. Seventh match: Ryan Day and Zhou Yuelong. The Chinese potted a long red, made a break of 13 and fouled. Day failed to score when he had chances and Zhou Yuelong seemed to have won the match, but in the very last moment, Day turned things around and stole the frame (40-37)!
Lastly, Mark Allen played against David Gilbert. Mark Allen had made the highest break in Shoot Out history earlier in the tournament. It was a total clearance of 142 eclipsing the previous record of 139 by Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. The Northern Irish made the first mistake and Gilbert punished him with a break of 33. Allen was not able to counter-attack, allowing Gilbert to keep making small breaks to win the match 85-1.
And then came the quarter-finals. Ryan Day played David Gilbert. Gilbert potted a red to the middle pocket, scored 5 points and missed the black. After a few mistakes from both players, Day scored 35 points to get himself in front. The Welshman managed to stay in front and eventually won the match 49-6. Mark Selby and Robert Milkins were up next. The first 3 minutes were only safety play. Selby was the one in first. He scored 11 points and Milkins replied with 13 points. Selby gave his opponent a second chance to score and Milkins extended his lead to 10 points, which, of course, were not enough against Selby. The Jester took the lead (22-21) and kept scoring until the time was up (27-21).
The only amateur still standing, Craig Steadman, played Louis Heathcote. The rookie built a modest lead of 30 points. The cue ball went in-off, giving Steadman a chance to counter-attack. He took the lead with a break of 37, and Heathcote missed an easy brown which cost him the match. Craig Steadman was through to the semi-finals (47-37). Martin O'Donnell played Mark Williams in the quarter-finals. O'Donnell took the lead with 13 points. Williams started to score when there were 5 minutes left and he calmly made a break of 86. Pure class from the Welshman!
There were only four players left. Three matches to go. The first match was between the two Welshmen, Mark Williams and Ryan Day. Williams scored 17 points, including a pot while holding the rest in mid-air (the shot of the tournament for me), but that was not enough to secure victory. Day needed two visits to the table to take the lead. No counter-attack from his opponent. Day was through to the final (31-18). Mark Selby and Craig Steadman played the last match of the semi-finals. Steadman fouled and gave Selby an easy chance, which helped build a 26-point lead. As the match was not lost, Steadman scored 15 points before he missed a yellow and allowed Selby to come back to the table to secure his victory (43-15).
And so Selby played his third final of the season. And he was the first to score and yet extend his lead to 24 points. Ryan Day potted a red to middle and from there, he made a break of 67 to win his first ranking title since 2018 (when he won the Gibraltar Open). It's nice to see relatively new faces winning titles for a change. I don't mind the Shoot Out being a ranking event at all. At least this tournament gives lower ranked players an opportunity for ascension in their careers. Ryan Day (Dynamite) is a ranking event winner and a former top 16 player, so he deserves a higher spot in the rankings. The runner-up Mark Selby deserves some credit, too. There's no way a slow player would make it to the final of the Shoot Out. Selby has the gift of temperance and a deep understanding of the tactical side of the game, which makes him so tough to beat, even in this format.
And finally, the Championship League restarts tomorrow and the top boys will be playing (the likes of Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Mark Williams, Jack Lisowski, Niel Robertson and Kyren Wilson), but that is just a warm-up for the Welsh Open later this month. There are snooker matches to watch every day and I love it.