World No9 Kyren Wilson established a 5-3 lead over world No19 David Gilbert in the afternoon session of yesterday’s German Masters final, and by the end of the evening session had won the match 9-7. But those facts conceal a dramatic narrative.
Wilson had looked in formidable form all week. He had whitewashed reigning World Champion Mark Williams 5-0 in the quarter-finals, and had beaten the experienced and gifted Stephen Maguire just as easily in the semis (6-1). He began yesterday’s final equally impressively, cantering to a 4-1 lead. Yes, Gilbert then pegged that back to 5-3 by the end of the afternoon session, but Wilson still looked, and surely felt, confident of marching on to victory.
But that is not what happened. Gilbert, who had only appeared in one ranking final ever before (he lost it), strode out into Berlin’s intimidating Tempodrom arena, which was packed to capacity with 2,500 knowledgeable and noisy German fans, and began to play extraordinary snooker. Frame nine was a tense affair, but he won it. In frame 10 he was among the balls, got out of position on the red he had played for, and boldly went for an improbably difficult plant instead. He sank it and won the frame with a 94 break: 5-5.
He then took the lead for the first time – 6-5 – via a neat 65 break in frame 11. Wilson began frame 12 well – he put 36 points on the board fluently – but then missed a long red into the yellow pocket. Graham took the frame with a steely 58 break: 7-5. He had won all four frames of the first half of the evening session, and was now just two frames from victory.
But Wilson’s nickname is the Warrior, and he was about to show us why. He spent the 15-minute interval on the practice table, and walked out into the arena with the gritty insouciance that never changes, whether he is 6-0 down against Ronnie O’Sullivan or 6-0 up against the kind of player about whom O’Sullivan habitually uses the word ‘numpty’. In frame 13 Wilson potted a stupendous long red into the right top pocket and won the frame with a 93 break. In frame 14 Gilbert compiled an edgy 46 break to go 47-4 up. Wilson responded with another excellent red into the right top, followed by a brilliantly audacious forcing blue into the left middle, sending the white fizzing in and out of baulk to perfect position on a red into the left top. Those two great shots led to a 54 clearance. Wilson had nicked a frame that Gilbert had thought was his, and he had nicked it on the black: 7-7.
Gilbert looked beaten, and Wilson duly won frame 15 with a fine 70 break. Frame 16 was a bit scrappy but there was only ever going to be one man who would win that scrap. Sure enough, Wilson did just that, completing a remarkable comeback and taking the match 9-7.