The German Masters was one of the great success stories of last season.
The tournament was typical of the Barry Hearn ethos: take snooker where people want to watch it.
This is hardly unique to Hearn but it’s amazing it took his arrival to prove what everyone already knew: that there was a huge untapped market in Germany for a major snooker event.
The scenes which greeted Mark Williams’s dramatic victory over Mark Selby, with more than 2,000 people on their feet applauding, were a magnificent end to a week in which the sport was supported by crowds respectful of the game and its players.
Much credit for this must go to Rolf Kalb, who will be MC again this week. Rolf is also German Eurosport’s lead commentator and a snooker evangelist. He laid much of the groundwork over the years by helping to nurture the interest.
I’m sure there will be large crowds again at the Tempodrom in Berlin for this year’s German Masters which, like every tournament, has a number of intriguing subplots.
Selby is world no.1 but his form in major tournaments seems to have gone walkabout. His defeats in the UK Championship and Masters were disappointing, not the fact that he lost but his performances.
Williams has not won a title since his Berlin triumph a year ago and people are beginning to say he is struggling to wrap matches up after some surrendering of big leads. I think Williams has a fine temperament but these notions tend to stick the more it happens.
John Higgins is not yet at the level of intensity this season that he produced in the last campaign. This is a sad time for him, though, as his father died during last year’s German Masters.
Ronnie O’Sullivan didn’t play in Berlin last year but can’t afford to skip this season’s event. He needs a good run in either or both the German Masters and Welsh Open to avoid having to qualify for the World Championship.
Peter Ebdon has all but fallen off the radar after a string of defeats this season but has qualified and will need to call on all those years of experience to arrest any further decline.
Neil Robertson has had a fine season but withdrew from the Shootout with a chest infection. Last year, of course, he nearly missed the trip altogether after mislaying his passport.
Judd Trump will doubtless be a hit with the fans but for the first time has been facing criticism. Actually this is final proof he has arrived in the big league.
Ding Junhui is yet to get going this season. I’d be surprised if he didn’t win a title at some point but it’s not bound to happen.
These are among the principal cast members in snooker’s latest drama. This is one of the great things about having so many tournaments: the storylines constantly change and the characters become more recognisable and identifiable to the audience.
So here’s to another successful and dramatic week in Berlin. Contrary to some listings magazines, Eurosport’s live coverage begins on Wednesday at 9am UK time.