I had been to the Wembley Arena for the Masters last year and I was impressed with the setup they had there both inside and outside the arena. There was a Cuezone table with competitions going on, food vendors and a trophy case full with all five trophies from the main British events.
This year though I thought it would have been at least as good as the set up for the 12BET.com UK Championship in Telford but I was wrong. I’m not sure whether they were trying to save money or it was something to do with the sponsors, but there was no Cuezone table, only three trophies on display in the cabinet (the World Championship trophy was missing it's lid for some strange reason) and very little else (the Ladbrokes betting stand was hidden two floors upstairs), so that was a slight dissapointment.
Another thing I have noticed in the last couple of tournaments is the use of the barricade thing with the sponsors logos on it around the table in the arena. It was first used in the 12BET.com World Open in Glasgow and I thought it was quite effective because it was a new setup for a new tournament and it looks quite good on TV and watching it in person. To reuse it for the UK Championship was ok I suppose because it had a red background instead of the black for the World Open but then they had to reuse it again for the Masters with the exact same shade of red and the top of it was still red also so from a distance you probably wouldn't be able to tell them apart (check out my image galleries to compare them). The only new thing I noticed that you could see the BBC studio from the arena which was a nice touch.
That wasn't my biggest gripe though about the set up. My favourite thing from the previous Masters tournaments were the giant silver balls that were on either sides of the tables, these have now disappeared and don’t even appear in the lobby or anywhere else. This means unless you looked at the logos you would have no idea that this is a Masters which is a shame. Each tournament should have more of a personal visual identity and because of the red barrier thing, they don't which is a shame. I hope if it is brought back for the PTC finals and the Snooker Shootout they change it (just the fabric colour or something).
But enough about aesthetics, let’s get on to the matches themself. First up in the afternoon to play was the Welsh potting machine Mark Williams against the Dragon, Ding Junhui. Mark has had the slightly better season than Ding by reaching the semi-final of the World Open and narrowly losing to John Higgins in that exciting UK Championship final last month, whereas Ding has not made many runs to speak of. But both have won PTC events in Sheffield this season so they have both tasted success and will be hoping for more.Both players were looking shaky at the start but Ding pulled away to lead at the interval 3-1 with breaks of 89 and 52 helping him. But after they came back, Ding looked like once again the player who won the 2009 UK Championship with breaks of 61, 56 and 69 he surged ahead to 5-2 and only needed one more frame for victory over the world no.3.
But it was not all over there. Mark showed off his famous temperament to claw back to 5-4 behind and showing us how he beating Ding Junhui in the China Open final last year. But this hill was to steep to climb for Mark this time round and and Ding sealed the match with a brilliant 75 and now he goes on to face the winner of the next match, Graeme Dott vs the UK Champion John Higgins.
Three out of three top seeds were already out, could John be in danger?
It most certainly looked like it at the start as Graeme pulled out an uncharacteristically quick 115 followed by a 65 in the next frame to go 2-0 up. John finally potted some balls in the third frame and got a 68, but them Graeme rallied back with a 79, in probably his best Snooker since the semi-finals of the World Championship this year.
After the interval it slowed down a bit, But John pulled back with breaks of 55, 73 and 70 to go back to 4-4. After a hard fought scrappy 9th frame which Graeme won 62-48 on the colours it was looking bad for John, could he pull back another win from the brink of defeat and continue his winning streak since return to competition? Unfortunately it was not to be and Graeme stylishly won the last frame 86-0 with a flurry of small breaks to move to the next round and set up a meeting with Ding. John will be dissapointed but thankfully it won't affect his ranking as there are no points on offer this week.
Overall though I had a good time at the Wembley Arena in London. Just small visual and spectator aspects of the staging of the events (more photo and signing opportunities would be great also, special mention to Ding Junhui who came out after his match to sign for fans) needs to be improved in my opinion and we would have an ever greater sport than we already have.
You can view the rest of my photos taken at and around the event here.
Various collection of videos taken from the event can be found on the Maximum Snooker YouTube channel here.
Day 1 results:
Mark King 6-4 Mark Selby
15-78 (70), 46-60, 139-0 (139), 73-1881-42 (57), 64-59 (S 59, K 55), 0-70, 1-115 (106)123-0 (79), 127-0 (50,77)
Peter Ebdon 6-5 Allister Carter
77-6 (50), 80-48 (76), 0-83, 88-1 (88)4-83 (83), 0-72 (56), 73-0, 35-67, 56-264-72, 65-9
Day 2 results:
Ding Junhui 6-4 Mark Williams
95-37 (89), 0-80, 74-55, 93-0 (52), 105-11 (61)53-69, 125-0 (56,69), 30-75, 0-76, 75-48 (75)
Graeme Dott 6-4 John Higgins
115-0 (115), 101-0 (65), 1-69 (68), 79-7 (79)0-79 (55), 23-102 (73), 68-37, 28-70 (70)62-48, 86-0