Ali Carter, the new Betfair German Masters champion, is one of snooker’s fighters. And he’s had to be.
He’s had to fight just to keep his career going in the face of a troubling medical condition which has affected him both physically and mentally.
Last season, Carter threatened to retire. This was not a kneejerk reaction to losing a match but the accumulation of years of struggle with Crohn’s disease. He had another operation recently in an attempt to control it.
He didn’t retire but snooker could not always be his priority. This is why his run to last year’s World Championship final was so impressive as it came in the face of much bigger problems than potting balls.
He said he hadn’t practised much for Berlin. He arrived in Germany only to find his cue hadn’t been put on the flight. He was reunited with it only an hour before his first match and found himself 3-1 down to Fraser Patrick.
However, Carter said the sudden realisation that he might not have been able to play at all, or at least only with a borrowed cue, somehow gave him a new lease of life and he came through 5-3 before embarking on a run to the final.
He played his best snooker of the tournament in last night’s final session. Trailing Marco Fu 5-3 at the resumption Carter made his first century of the tournament and then, in the next frame, promptly made another.
It put Fu under pressure and he failed to respond. Carter won six of the evening’s seven frames to run out 9-6. It was in some ways reminiscent of his recovery from 5-2 down to beat Joe Swail 9-5 and win the 2009 Welsh Open, his first ranking title.
Carter has won three ranking titles, the same number as the world no.1, Mark Selby, and the world no.2, Judd Trump, although he is ten years older than the latter.
He said afterwards that he sometimes forgets how good he is as he is rarely talked about in the front wave of tournament favourites – Selby, Trump, John Higgins and Neil Robertson.
But he can be very satisfied and proud of his victory last night, coming as it did against a backdrop of difficulties most players can only speculate about.
The final was not as dramatic as last year’s Ronnie O’Sullivan comeback against Stephen Maguire and the atmosphere thus not quite as memorable. But only not quite. The German fans, as they had all week, displayed huge enthusiasm. For them, the identity of the finalists was secondary to the experience of being there, watching live snooker.
Even the final referee, Olivier Marteel, was given a rousing reception usually reserved for rock stars.
I can recommend the trip to snooker fans wherever they live. Berlin is a fascinating, historic and welcoming city. There is much to see and do away from the snooker.
And the Tempodrom is a superb venue. It is widely assumed the World Championship will go to China if it ever leaves the Crucible.
Financially that makes perfect sense, but I suspect many players would rather it came to Germany, where a television boom has created a snooker-loving constituency who are already looking forward to the next time the game hits town.