Friday, 2 December 2022

(5) Humphries, (15) Brown, (DeSL) Hempel

Luke Humphries - FRH #5, 930-639 (59.27%), 94.51 scoring (#6), 3.62 consistency
Keegan Brown - FRH #61, 284-304 (48.30%), 88.58 scoring (#62), 3.19 consistency
Florian Hempel - FRH #55, 278-308 (47.44%), 88.70 scoring (#61), 3.20 consistency

Coming in to 2022, it was looking like Keegan Brown could be one of many notable names in real danger of losing his tour card. He may still do so - he needs to win his first round game to stand any chance. But he's at least given himself a chance, as despite scoring and an FRH ranking right around that top 64 cutoff mark, indeed sub 89 scoring is very much middle of the pack for card holders, he did get a Pro Tour bink out of absolutely nowhere, without which he wouldn't be in the field it's safe to say, and he would be back at Q-School guaranteed. Indeed, even a semi final rather than the win in the event in question would have put him in a direct tie for the last spot. Still, he got it to double his tally of Players Championship wins, beating de Sousa, Webster, Peters, Baggish, Dobey, Wright and then Aspinall 8-7 in the final. A great run where he needed to beat some good players, but saying this was a fluke win doesn't seem unfair. Just four board wins on top of that title isn't the greatest track record, and he would either lose or not play in nineteen out of the thirty events. Still, he got to Minehead as a middling seed, losing in the opening game to Daryl Gurney, and would be 0-2 at Minehead for the year as he lost his opening UK Open game to Sebastian Bialecki. He had a nice cameo in an early Euro Tour event, with a quarter final run in Munich, albeit opponents of Hunt, Rydz and Razma weren't the hardest set of opponents you can face, and the disappointing floor season was shown in the qualifiers, as he only made one other European Tour event all season, losing 6-0 to Mensur Suljovic. Hopefully for Keegan, he can get this win, save his card and then rebuild in 2023 - that title was late enough that it'll count for the 2023 Matchplay, assuming he doesn't reset to zero.

And there's a fair chance of that happening, as he's drawn one of the tougher international qualifiers in Florian Hempel, who first became notable to many this time last year where he won in through the Pro Tour (as opposed to this year, where he was reliant on winning the German Super League with a 10-8 final victory over up and coming talent Niko Springer), and after sweeping compatriot Martin Schindler in the opening round, shocked the world by taking out Dimitri van den Bergh 3-1 with a very fine display. He couldn't take it any further as Raymond Smith was making his own great run in the same section, but it was a nice chunk of cash which, it's fair to say, Florian hasn't really built on in 2022. His UK Open debut wasn't bad, with a win over Lukas Wenig followed by a loss to Geert Nentjes, but the floor game's not been up there as it was last season. He only qualified for three European Tour events, only getting the one win over Bradley Brooks before Dimitri would get a revenge win, although draws against Ross Smith and Kim Huybrechts could have been kinder. His record in Pro Tours is pretty bad - he got a board win in early April, and made a best run of a quarter final in May (without hitting a single seed at any point until he lost to Michael Smith), but outside of that, it's basically been nothing, and he fell short of qualifying for the Players Championship Finals by a couple of grand. Statistically, this looks like a very close matchup - the two players can barely be separated in scoring and consistency, Florian maybe has the slightest of edges, but it's only one or two percent at most. It'll be a tight one and should be a great watch, and (checks notes) it's in the session I have a ticket for. Yay.

Luke Humphries can't complain about this draw at all, in what's been an outstanding season, first breaking through right at the start of the floor year with a win in the opening Players Championship, 8-4 over Ryan Searle, then really making his mark in Europe with four Euro Tour titles, winning over Martin Lukeman, Rob Cross twice and Rowby John Rodriguez. With a top five ranking in both the FRH scale and the official order of merit, along with two major semi finals, those titles should be enough to get him into the Premier League. It would certainly take the craziest world championship results or insanity from Sky to leave him out, after the top four he seems like the most automatic pick. Maybe Noppert would run him close, but Humphries would seem to be the better watch and more marketable, so for me he'd be in the eight. The gulf in class between Luke and either of the opponents he could play is huge - he's projecting at closer to 85% than 80% to claim the win, and from there, it's not an awful section of the draw. Maybe Chizzy could cause him problems with the way he's playing right now, and there's some dangerous possible quarter final opponents (Smith being the most notable and the high seed in the quarter), but this is an excellent opportunity, and one that I think he takes to elevate his game to the next level.

(25) Clemens, (10) O'Connor, (WS) Greaves

Gabriel Clemens - FRH #26, 465-459 (50.32%), 89.77 scoring (#45), 4.31 consistency
Willie O'Connor - FRH #40, 418-404 (50.85%), 89.83 scoring (#43), 3.98 consistency
Beau Greaves - FRH #150, no data

O'Connor will make his sixth appearance at Ally Pally, and has a generally alright record here, only dropping his first round game on one occasion, and twice bettering seeds, namely James Wilson in 2019 and Glen Durrant twelve months prior. Finishing solidly high on the Pro Tour, the highlight was a European Tour final in Hungary, where he maybe found the final game one too far as he lost a one-sided match to Joe Cullen, but after beating a domestic qualifier, he took out van den Bergh (who was averaging 80), won a decider against Michael Smith, then won by the odd break against de Sousa and Aspinall. This is fairly typical of what Willie does - he will show the game to make us think he's going to have a sustained run, but will then go missing for long periods and never put together enough results to make major tournaments. He's never made the Matchplay or the Grand Prix (at least since it stopped giving two auto-berths to the best Irish players), and he only qualified for one more Euro Tour, so didn't even make that field despite a final run, which seems unthinkable. Just the two board wins on the Pro Tour saw him only make the Players Championship field in the last quarter so got a draw against Krzysztof Ratajski, which he lost, but, and again this is another example of showing what he can do, he did significantly better in the other Minehead event where he beat Scutt, Heaver, Bunting, Wright and Bialecki in a dream run to the UK Open semi final, where he was maybe a little bit unfortunate to lose 11-9 to Danny Noppert, where a win would have opened up lots of doors for him. Still, solid scoring at just shy of ninety is not to be sniffed at, and he has a moderately favourable seed.

That is, of course, if he gets past the current women's world champion in Beau Greaves. One of a few players we don't have data for, she announced herself to the PDC world by running off eight straight Women's Series titles, having not entered the first twelve to presumably concentrate on WDF events or other prior commitments. There, she's won basically every event she's entered and has more rankings points than the number two and three players combined. It's really hard to say just where her level is at though, given that she's not played in the open game to date, at least not on any sort of level that we'd track - the general level of play in women's only events is such that you cannot make an easy comparison. She could have entered some of the Development Tour events but didn't, neither did she try Q-School so we can't look at the Challenge Tour either. She is averaging 85 on the Women's Series, but that is likely to be an underestimate of her quality, given she's won more than 75% of the legs she played and won't have got much help from her opponents to push the average up. If I tried to gauge numbers just looking at the legs she won in finals, she got half of them in fifteen or better, four of which were in twelve or better - just below the 57% that O'Connor has been doing. That said, she was also given ten of the forty legs in seven visits or more. O'Connor is cleaning up the legs he's won in eighteen darts or less 90% of the time. That is probably going to be the weakness - she's won those legs because the level of opponent is such that she's been able to. O'Connor is going to take all of those, and instead of having a 40-20 leg record in the finals, that'd make it 30-30 just on those. Still, she's got a definite chance, just needing to minimise the number of bad legs and probably hope that Willie makes the occasional mistake.

The second round matchup would be the big German in Gabriel Clemens, who is still in the top 32 in the world, but I don't think it's unfair to say that his level has fallen off a bit from two to three years ago, probably to the point where he's not even the best German player any more. Schindler likely has that accolade. His scoring has dropped below 90, which is not where it used to be and it matches up extremely closely to O'Connor (should he beat Beau), to the point where that game is effectively a coin flip. He is still doing more than enough to get into all the majors - he did get a final run in July which solidified a potentially shaky Matchplay spot, but didn't win a leg against van Duijvenbode in that final, and the Matchplay saw him easily beaten by Jose de Sousa. Making majors should continue nicely into the next season, as he put together two quarter final runs to have a strong European Tour finish, but he's not done anything in those majors. He was easily handled by Danny Noppert in the Grand Prix, his match against Clayton in the European Championship was closer but still a reverse, he lost out in the final round of the Grand Slam qualifier to Luke Woodhouse, and was perhaps unfortunate to draw Gary Anderson in the opening round of the Players Championship finals. Maybe these losses are knocking his confidence, and this is truly a seed in danger situation.

(15) van den Bergh, (6) Rodriguez, (AsCh) Ilagan

Dimitri van den Bergh - FRH #13, 581-516 (52.96%), 92.93 scoring (#13), 4.05 consistency
Rowby John Rodriguez - FRH #36, 428-416 (50.71%), 89.52 scoring (#50), 3.84 consistency
Lourence Ilagan - FRH #123, 14-19 (42.42%), 78.53 scoring (#90), -1.14 consistency

What a great year for Rowby it's been. Having won his tour card back (by the narrowest of margins), he's had one of the best years of any new card holder (with the exception of Rock), and has planted himself into the world's top 50, which will rise solidly next year defending nothing. The key result was his run to a European Tour final in Trier right before the Matchplay cutoff, having tricky early ties against Noppert (as a first round match lol) then Price, before a moderately comfortable run to the final where he came up one leg short against Luke Humphries. He'd already shown some European form with back to back final sessions in May, but this final was the key one, as it thrust him into the Matchplay out of nowhere. He made the most of his chance as well, taking out Jonny Clayton before falling short against Dimitri, so this second round game could be a spicy rematch. He unfortunately missed out on the Grand Prix by a really narrow margin after having to withdraw from a Euro Tour for understandable personal reasons, but his Euro results elsewhere did get him into the finals tournament, picking up a big TV win over Gerwyn Price before being outclassed by Peter Wright. It looks like he's tightened up a lot of the consistency issues he previously had, but could ideally do with picking up the scoring slightly, an extra treble per leg would really solidify his claim to be a top 32 player.

His first round opponent will be Lourence Ilagan, in what should be an interesting cultural matchup. Lourence is making his seventh attempt here, a fifth in a row, and has yet to win a meaningful game here, his only victory coming way back in the day when they had extremely short prelim matches. He's one of four players to qualify via the Asian Championship, playing extremely good stuff in the group stage with a near 99 average in his first game, and a 95 in his second - which he lost, but still advanced on leg difference, but the knockout stage was a different story. Averaging exactly 18 darts a leg in a last sixteen whitewash was fine I guess, but the average dropped below 75 in his quarter final win over Ogawa, and didn't get back above 80 against Perez in a one-sided semi final. The scoring power in the World Cup wasn't much better, how much was down to Ilagan, I don't know, but they had plenty of help to do OK given they were playing Price and Clayton and still couldn't manage an 85 average. It is pairs I guess, which does kill the rhythm, but it's not great in any case. We know what we're going to get, he should be competent with occasional good legs or spells, but I doubt he has the first nine to be able to generate enough chances against someone qualifying at the top end of the Pro Tour rankings.

Dimitri will wait in the second round, and I think it's fair to say it's been a bit of a disappointing year for the former Matchplay champion, who had that winners' prize money drop off his ranking this season and has slid down towards the bottom end of the top 16 as a result. I say disappointing, as outside of not qualifying for the Grand Slam (maybe that's why I think it's disappointing?), he didn't make enormous inroads into most majors, with the exception of the Matchplay where he got through to the semis having been gifted a win by Rydz, beating Rowby as mentioned, then coming out on top against Peter Wright before MvG was a step too far. Outside of that, it was mostly one and done, last year of course he went down to Florian Hempel, at the UK Open he looked great in the first game before losing a close one to Ryan Searle, the Grand Prix wasn't too bad, edging out Chizzy and Clayton before coming up one leg short against Wright, was again impressive over Gurney in Dortmund before dropping a tight one to Ross Smith, then most recently needed every leg to pip Lukeman and Edhouse before running into an MvG-shaped freight train in the last sixteen. He's made three minor finals, losing 8-1 to Cullen on the Pro Tour and then 8-5 to van Gerwen and 8-6 to Wright on the Euro Tour. Maybe I just get the sense that he's got the quality of game, which is still clear top 16, that he should be winning something, or making deeper major runs. He should do better than last year - he's projecting as about a 75% favourite if he was to play Rowby again, such is the level of play he still has.

Thursday, 1 December 2022

(20) Heta, (5) Lewis, (PDCNB) Larsson

Damon Heta - FRH #15, 851-605 (58.45%), 94.59 scoring (#5), 3.82 consistency
Adrian Lewis - FRH #33, 409-362 (53.05%), 91.19 scoring (#29), 4.31 consistency
Daniel Larsson - FRH #104, 128-114 (52.89%), 85.93 scoring (#82), 2.99 consistency

Adie will enter at the first round stage for the second straight year. It looked like he was going to get back into the seeds, mainly on the back of getting a Pro Tour title in July which secured qualification for both the Matchplay and the Grand Prix, but Barney's late charge up the rankings put pay to that, and as such he'll run into one of the hottest players in the world in round two - albeit it is on TV at least. Lewis didn't get a great draw in the Matchplay as he got van Gerwen, but put up a decent showing, but de Sousa was defeated in the Grand Prix before maybe a chance was lost with a deciding leg failure against Chris Dobey. The numbers are still just about up there as top 32 level, he just needs to show his best game on a more consistent basis. That one win wasn't enough to get him into the Grand Slam with the titles being spread about, he was also a bit unconvincing in Europe, getting to one quarter as the #16 seed after Huybrechts had dumped out the top seed, but then lost easily to Noppert, but only made the Sunday one further time in Prague, where he took out the top seed himself, but then the averages collapsed in the following round in a reverse against van der Voort. So still some way off his peak game, but there are some signs he's improving from the nadir he was at.

Daniel Larsson will return for a fourth crack, looking to improve on just the one solitary win back in 2019 over Robert Thornton. He returns having finished second in the Nordic/Baltic rankings behind Darius Labanauskas, no longer having a tour card but still showing consistent results at that level, winning one event and reaching three more finals, going 1-1 against Vladimir Andersen and losing to Labanauskas and Kantele in the final weekend in Riga. He's managed to get into a few of the European Tour events through the specific qualifier for the area, getting wins over Jamie Hughes, Mario Vandenbogaerde and notably Nathan Aspinall, the latter of which set up the infamous viral Whitlock 150 out, but 7k isn't anywhere near enough to have been making the finals. Still a decent enough showing, and his game appears to have improved over the last couple of years, but this feels like way too tough of a matchup in the first round, with Lewis projecting as a very short favourite with the Swede maybe only winning 15% of the time. Will probably need a combination of a peak Daniel game and a Lewis off day for him to get close, although I wouldn't put it past him to get a set. Nick the first then who knows?

Damon Heta will await in the second round, and there is no doubting that he is one of the world's elite players at this stage. He made the big step up by taking the final European Tour title of the season in Gibraltar with wins over Dobey, Cullen, Clemens, van Gerwen and Wright in the final, which cannot be said to be an easy task by any stretch of the imagination, and his level of scoring on the Pro Tour cannot be faulted - amongst those who've played more than a couple of games, only van Gerwen is scoring more points, and that's only by a hundredth, those numbers converting into another two titles, one over Gary Anderson early in the season and another over van Duijvenbode towards the back end of the series. He of course was one half of the World Cup winning team with Simon Whitlock, his biggest achievement to date. The biggest problem in his game has been converting his clear as day talents into television victories. The UK Open looked to be where he'd sorted that, after he dealt out a one sided defeat to Michael van Gerwen and followed it up with a competent display against Jonny Clayton, but at the quarter final stage he dropped under a 90 average to the eventual champion Danny Noppert, and advanced in a ranking tournament since then. Matchplay - steamrollered by Cullen. Grand Prix? Loses to Cullen again, but at least in a deciding set. He was the fifth seed in the European Championship, but lost 6-2 to van der Voort despite averaging seven points higher. He didn't make it out of the Grand Slam group stage despite a winnable group of Clayton, Wattimena and Gates, then as the top seed in Minehead, he lost in the first round to Ricardo Pietreczko. On paper, Heta should defeat Lewis two times out of three, and on the floor I'm sure he would. TV though, that's a different story, and how much do we adjust for this poor run?

(10) Aspinall, (24) Krcmar, (AsCh) Suzuki

Nathan Aspinall - FRH #7, 711-572 (55.42%), 92.04 scoring (#19), 3.75 consistency
Boris Krcmar - FRH #57, 293-299 (49.49%), 90.65 scoring (#34), 4.36 consistency
Toru Suzuki - FRH #145, 14-15 (48.28%), 79.39 scoring (#89), 10.56 consistency

Krcmar's had another fairly solid season, and will make his third straight world championships through the Pro Tour, finishing comfortably enough inside the cutoff. His scoring is pretty decent and has been for a while, the main problem he has had in the past is converting decent floor form into results on TV, but maybe got out of that funk a bit this season with a main result of a run to the last sixteen of the UK Open, defeating Lerchbacher, Woodhouse and Chisnall all fairly comfortably, before losing out by an odd break to James Wade. Added to this was an alright season of form on the Euro Tour, making four events and not losing in the first round in any of them, from round two onwards he lost a decider to van Duijvenbode, took out van den Bergh and Meikle before losing another decider to Noppert, eliminating Luke Humphries then losing to Dave Chisnall, then finally running into an inspired Adrian Lewis. Another couple of grand would have got him to the European Championship, so was quite close to another TV appearance. He's still some way away from being anything other than best known as a soft tip player, but the numbers don't lie, he's a very dangerous steel tip opponent.

Suzuki is back for a second crack at the worlds, returning after a one year absence. Two years prior he lost out to Madars Razma in straight sets, although all three sets did go the distance at least. He averaged 81 there, which probably isn't going to crack someone with the quality of Krcmar, but is here more recently through the Asian Championship. There he only averaged 75 and 77 in the group stage but wasn't helped by his opponents there at all, but did manage an average in the 90's to nick a deciding leg against Paul Lim in the last sixteen, before reverting to the mean and taking out Yuki Yamada (who we saw last year) 6-5 with a sub-80 average. That was enough to get him here as all the semi finalists qualified, he would lose that semi final 6-3 to Paolo Nebrida, this time not averaging even 75. A similar average was seen at the World Cup, but he would obviously only be partially responsible for that. I think the key to the first round game is that he also plays soft tip, so will likely have played Krcmar before there. That Boris has a bunch of titles and Toru not so much points us to where this one should be going.

The winner will play Nathan Aspinall, who has had a very strong back end to the season after a dangerous injury scare in the first half of the year, which might have seen him out of the game for some time, possibly even being a career threatening one. Thankfully a little bit of time off would be enough, and his results as of late have been of the quality that he should be in the conversation for one of the last couple of spots for the Premier League. The good run started at the Matchplay with a quarter final run, eliminating Humphries and Wade, then nearly completing a huge comeback against van Gerwen only for the finishing line to arrive just in time. After that, it's been even better - two finals, both lost - the first in the Grand Prix where again he tried to come from behind against MvG turning a 4-0 set deficit into an eventual 5-3 loss, the second would be in the Slam where he admittedly ran out of steam and couldn't stand the level that Michael Smith was throwing. He's at least got some silverware in the way of a couple of Pro Tour titles, and but for being in the same section as Josh Rock, would be a very tempting each way bet. He should certainly have enough to handle Krcmar - I'm projecting Boris will give him a tough match on season long data and have approaching 40% of the wins, but I think in reality with the relative trends of both players it might be a bit more one sided than that.

(24) Gurney, (17) Soutar, (OcMa) Cuming

Daryl Gurney - FRH #25, 490-459 (51.63%), 90.63 scoring (#35), 3.61 consistency
Alan Soutar - FRH #38, 408-411 (49.82%), 89.26 scoring (#53), 3.38 consistency
Mal Cuming - FRH #149, 25-24 (51.02%), 81.29 scoring (#88), 10.51 consistency

Soutar's the next Pro Tour player up and seems to be someone who's getting results in cycles. Started out 2021 very well, tailed off a fair bit towards the end, albeit not without a gritty last 16 worlds run with deciding sets wins over Portela, Suljovic (in overtime) and de Sousa, before running out of steam and crashing out to Callan Rydz with a four set run to forget, after getting the first he won one leg in the second and nothing after that. Maybe it dented his confidence a bit, he was lacking results early in the season, but did get a semi final in May, but dropped off again until a quarter in August (against how strong a field with the World Series on?), but like Wattimena before, has been picking it up of late. Two back to back quarters in October were followed by another board win late in the season, then Grand Slam qualification, and making the most of his chances, took it to the quarter finals there, scraping out of the group on leg difference, then dumping out Jonny Clayton before losing a rematch with Nathan Aspinall. Might have been disappointed to lose to Scott Williams at Minehead, but the key thing is he's upping his game right now, and maybe with that moderately low consistency score he's due results.

Cuming is making a PDC worlds debut, but has played in a world championship before, where ironically he travelled half way around the world to lose in straight sets to Justin Thompson. He averaged 81 there, ten points below what Thompson was doing, but looked a fair bit better than that to claim the Oceanic Masters and the worlds spot it provides - averaging over 90 in each round, knocking off previous winner David Platt in the quarters, Haupai Puha in the semi final and then tour card holder Gordon Mathers in the final two sets to one. That was a fair bit better than what he did in the big WDF event in Australia where he averaged in the seventies twice, and also better than what he was doing on the DPA tour. Still fragmented at the time which will have diluted the averages, he won five of the events in Victoria but couldn't break a 90 average in any of them, and in the playoffs that Raymond Smith won, he was swept in the quarters averaging just 76. Australia's brought us a lot of good players in the past, and certainly hasn't brought us any complete duds, but I find it hard to see how Mal will be able to handle someone with the solidity and recent form of Soutar. A set, maybe, but three seems a big stretch.

Neither player will particularly mind the seed they have, as Daryl Gurney will hit double figures in PDC world championship appearances, although he is defending quarter final money so is under a bit of pressure to perform. Daryl had a little bit of a resurgence after falling away from the top 10 level (or at least ranking) that he was at which saw him winning majors, but might have tailed off a bit this season. Scoring that's outside the top 32 of players in the worlds is alright if you can take chances, and Daryl's done that on occasions, mainly where it counted. He hasn't made any finals, but did get through the opening game at both the Matchplay (over Anderson) and at the Grand Prix (over Cross), before losing to Noppert (fine) and Razma (OK then) respectively, but getting the first win is going to keep him solid in the rankings for the next season at least. His best work might have been on the Euro Tour, picking up over twenty grand on that circuit, beating seeds three times, peaking early on with a semi final run grabbing the scalps of Humphries, Cullen and Clayton, which is not a bad run at all. He should be a moderate favourite, but maybe only 60/40 against Alan, so certainly one he can't take for granted which could go either way.

(4) Smith, (12) Wattimena, (DevT) Rafferty

Michael Smith - FRH #3, 864-641 (57.41%), 94.46 scoring (#7), 4.36 consistency
Jermaine Wattimena - FRH #43, 383-390 (49.55%), 89.65 scoring (#48), 2.29 consistency
Nathan Rafferty - FRH #63, 389-385 (50.26%), 89.07 scoring (#57), 4.29 consistency

We've got another good first round tie here. Wattimena had a pretty dodgy 2021, where he only just crept into the worlds and got crushed in round one by Boris Koltsov, and the first part of the year wasn't great either, putting him in some danger of possibly being dragged into the tour card race, but picked things up a little bit with a tour quarter final in July, and is finally starting to show a trend back towards the game where he was in and around the top 20. Back to back quarter finals at the end of the Pro Tour season clinched his worlds spot comfortably, and he also qualified for the Grand Slam and got out of his group there as a huge bonus, where he'd fall to the eventual finalist in Aspinall. Definitely heading in the right direction, and with a low consistency score indicating that he might be getting a bit of a thin end when it comes to results, Jermaine will look to secure a first round win and get some good ranking money on the board.

His opponent will be yet another player on the conveyor belt of exciting young Irish talent in Nathan Rafferty, who was fairly close to qualifying on the Pro Tour rankings (only missing out by less than two grand), but is here through a win of the Development Tour as a whole - outperforming Josh Rock by £550, no mean feat. He won five titles there, including three of the last five, winning over Lewy Williams (twice), Gian van Veen, Kevin Doets and Niko Springer. Not a bad run of results at all. You can see from the overall scoring that the game is very much there, and he is in the business of getting results on the senior stage - he did do enough on the Pro Tour to make the Players Championship Finals (albeit only just, so ran into Luke Humphries in the first round), was alright in the Grand Slam in a tough looking group where he did finish bottom but got a win over Luke Woodhouse, and also has a stage win over Dirk van Duijvenbode in the Euro Tour. Certainly a player that is here now, rather than just one to watch, maybe with Jermaine's uptick in form he'll come in as a slight underdog. Season long, he actually rates to just nick it, although that consistency figure might have something to do with it.

However, either of these will be a big underdog to Michael Smith, who jumped up to number three in the FRH rankings (ahead of the official world number one) after finally getting that elusive major title victory with a one-sided win over Nathan Aspinall to claim the Grand Slam. This will surely be a huge burden off of him, although thoughts that he'd just win whatever now kind of came immediately unstuck with a shock loss to Ritchie Edhouse at Minehead, who he'd defeated in the Slam group stage just a few days prior. Obviously the major win will be the talking point, but there's enough all round game and results elsewhere. Comfortably top ten in scoring, he also added another Euro Tour over Noppert in the Netherlands to avenge that UK Open final loss, another major final in the European Championship where he surprisingly lost to an inspired Ross Smith, is of course a defending finalist in the worlds, and had a red hot Pro Tour won where he won three in a row, two on back to back days. Smith should be confident and, despite getting a potentially dangerous draw, a prohibitive favourite in the second round.