I’ve sat through enough press conferences listening to players blame everything other than their own performance for their defeats to know that post match comments are often made in disappointment. However, this does not mean that all criticism should be dismissed as moaning.
As reported on Inside Snooker, Neil Robertson made some strongly worded remarks about his match table and the Berlin set-up in general after exiting the tournament yesterday on what proved to be a Black Thursday for the top seeds, with Mark Selby, Stephen Maguire and John Higgins also departing.
The crux of Robertson’s complaint was that he considered conditions on the outside tables to be poor, with a high preponderance of kicks spoiling play.
Some immediately accused the world no.1 of sour grapes, despite not having watched a minute of his match against Tian Pengfei. Others took a more nuanced view, pointing out the many kicks there have also been on the main table.
I didn’t see the match but I do know Robertson and I know him to be generally very positive. If he criticises conditions, it is usually heartfelt. He did so after he won a match at the Masters a few weeks back, when he felt the arena was too hot. Alternatively, he defended the York Barbican against criticisms of the set-up there.
I think his comment about not entering next year was probably a heat of the moment reaction to losing but to dismiss the complaints of the game’s top ranked player on the grounds that he’s a ‘bad loser’ would be a mistake.
Players often do themselves few favours in the manner by which they make criticisms but this does not invalidate all of those criticisms. Too often the response to them is along the lines of ‘get another job then’ but in fact in all lines of work people make complaints, some of which are spurious and born of frustration but others more legitimate.
I can see World Snooker’s side as well. At the recent AGM just eight players turned up for a face-to-face meeting with Barry Hearn to discuss their concerns. There are certainly more constructive ways to raise areas of concern than a desultory tweet.
But it seems to me that Robertson – a strong supporter of this vibrant new era for snooker – has articulated something that many others feel, which is that there is a danger quality is being sacrificed in favour of quantity.
Some ranking events now have a PTC feel to them, with as many tables as possible crammed into arenas. This is good for spectators who want to watch different players and matches but it’s hard to get playing conditions perfect with so many tables to manage.
There are practical problems for World Snooker. The Tempodrom is a great venue but this means it is in high demand for concerts and the like, which meant it could only be booked for five days, hence the high number of tables and the need for one in a room outside the main arena.
In this case, it should be considered whether bringing 64 players to Berlin was the right decision. Has it enhanced what was already an excellent tournament?
The German Masters is one of the current circuit’s success stories. The venue and the crowds make it so, but the players are another component in this formula and they have every right to air their views – whether they make palatable reading or not.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.