Hanging out with the Masters
Last week was a very important one in the history of snooker, as Ronnie O'Sullivan managed to break yet another record and win his 7th Masters crown by defeating Joe Perry, 10-7 in the grand finale.
It was an outstanding victory given the circumstances (Ronnie cue's tip broke at the very beginning of the semi-final against Marco Fu), but he produced the "winning snooker" that was needed to move pass Stephen Hendry and his collection of six Masters trophies.
But what makes this tournament even more special for me, is that I was there for part of the magic.
The friends of the blog know that I have been waiting for this for almost seven years, so it's needless to say that I was overwhelmed to reach Ally Pally and be in the press room, as well as in the audience for a brief time.
Do to some businesses that I had to attend in London, I took the liberty to visit as much as possible of this lovely city, but to also get down to some more serious matters like attending the 2017 Dafabet Masters second semi-final.
It was absolutely a dream come true for which I was a total mess and felt just like a high-school girl on her first day of school. Absolutely all over the place: huge, silly smile on my face, not being able to talk too much or say anything intelligent (although in all honestly I rarely do), trying to capture everything that I was seeing in one glance, hands shaking ... you know ... the entire package.
I was fortunate enough to have the best of both worlds, so I enjoyed snooker from both the press room and the audience, for this and the opportunity itself, having to thank Lewis Ward and Ivan Hirschowitz who were kind enough to let me drool all over the place. Just kidding ... I do know how to behave myself in public.
The biggest surprise by far was to actually meet Matt Huart from ProSnookerBlog, a person that inspired me so much when I first started blogging and who keeps on doing so even today.
He was kind enough to be my guide and show me around the venue, to see the practicing tables, the other side of the arena (the one that's not on the telly), with the Beebs' headquarters, the EuroSport's room and the commentary box .
We've talked about the size of the venue in comparison with the Crucible and how intimate is the atmosphere there, so yeah ... if I needed a push to get my act together and raise money for the 2018 World Championship, now I've got it.
But back to snooker: as I was saying before, I was there for the 2nd semi-final so Barry Hawkins and Joe Perry were the main actors on stage.
It was a pretty tight snooker affair (well, the final scoreline was 6-5, so go figure) and you could feel how much it was at stake for both of them.
Hawkins was close to get into a second consecutive Masters final against O'Sullivan, while Perry was rooting to reach his first. Both of them are friends off the table, but boy you could feel the pressure on their shoulders and the urge to win.
I sat in the press room for the first session, but got up in the arena for the second part, at least until the scoreline was 5-2 in favor of Hawkins.
And since I needed to be spoiled with a bit of snooker drama, Perry made a comeback by using breaks of 41, 57 and 62. This wasn't an early night, no sir!
The final frame had a bit of everything in it, Barry having the chance to close, but it was Perry's 70 break that sealed the deal in the end.
I witnessed a press conference with a devastated Barry Hawkins that still found enough strength to congratulate his opponent and an over-joyed and super-emotional Joe Perry that was looking forward to his first Masters final.
I dare say that even if he didn't win it, this final will surely have a special place in Joe's heart. Is not everyday that you get to the Masters' final and play against the great Ronnie O'Sullivan.
Unfortunately I had to go back home the next day, so I wasn't there for the actual final although I lived it through the live scorelines and the Twitter updates (as I often do during the week when I'm at work).
So although my Masters experience was a bit of a brief one, I got to see and meet a lot of cool and talented people: Terry Griffiths, John Virgo, Jimmy White, Joe Johnson Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis (oh, my!), Rob Walker.
And let me tell you that it's genuine fun to hang out with Rob. The man is absolutely hilarious. Pure gold, I tell ya!.
Other than that, words actually pale in describing what's like to be at the Masters at Alexandra Palace. You can't really separate the audience from the players because they seem to be living and breathing at the same time.
It's amazing to see how mesmerized and captured Stephen Hendry is while looking through the glass from his BBC's box. Everyone's there living the match 100%.
It's like a perfect union of people who got together to hang out for more than just a few hours of snooker bliss. And this time ... I was there too.
Photo credit (1): World Snooker