Thursday, 17 January 2019

Tungsten Analysis 2018 Awards

Before I kick off, quick congrats to Jamie Hughes and Harry Ward for getting their cards today, Hughes being one that I thought would have got the card, Ward not so much, but a 103 average against McGeeney in the final round isn't shabby in the slightest, more than 90 in every other round bar the first where he played someone I'd beat so got no help with the conventional average. Quite a few familiar names going deep, quite the surprise that Durrant went out so soon, still plenty of time though.

Thanks also to Scothead180, Sudsii13, adiboier, Tugritz and Hudd24 for their thoughts on these as well, always appreciated and gives a bit more to think about, but without further ado, 2018:

Best single tournament performance

Nominees - Nathan Aspinall, World Championship, Mikuru Suzuki, BDO World Championship, Adam Smith-Neale, World Masters, Dave Pallett, UK Open

Winner - Gary Anderson, World Matchplay

This was the first one I thought of, and was unanimously picked by Reddit contributors as well. This was the event where Anderson was at his peak and was, for a short while, considered by many to be the best in the world. Getting through two former world champions in the first two rounds, three overtime games, the only game that wasn't extremely close was the semi final against the guy that eliminated Michael van Gerwen. Aspinall's run was remarkable from the point he knocked out Gerwyn Price, Suzuki, barring two mutual dodgy legs against Prins, dominated the BDO worlds in a way that nobody has done in the past, Smith-Neale claiming the World Masters having come all the way through from the opening rounds before beating all of McGeeney, Warren, Williams and Durrant is simply life-changing, while Pallett was able to take plenty of nice scalps in the UK Open in a run to the semi final.

Match of the season

Nominees - Gary Anderson v Joe Cullen, World Matchplay, Nathan Aspinall v Michael Smith, World Championship, Gerwyn Price v Gary Anderson, Grand Slam, Adam Smith-Neale v Glen Durrant, World Masters, Gerwyn Price v Paul Hogan, UK Open

Winner - Gary Anderson v Mensur Suljovic, World Matchplay

It somewhat backs up Anderson's award of the best single tournament performance that two of the best matches of the year get nominated, I found it hard to separate the final and the quarter final, mainly because Cullen's ability to stick in there seemed a lot more unlikely than Mensur's, but it was the majority pick and it was the final, you can't really say no to a final going all the way. Elsewhere, early up we had a repeat of a match in the same venue from 2017, with Price and Hogan going all the way, Price playing possibly the best darts he's played all year but Hogan stuck with him, Price/Anderson wasn't quite the same standard, but it certainly wasn't bad and had all the drama you could ask for, Smith-Neale against Durrant was a fascinating game where you kept thinking that Glen would pull away, but Adam kept hanging in there until he got over the line, while in a World Championship that didn't have too many highlights, the semi final between Smith and Aspinall was threatening to be one-sided but Aspinall kept up the darts that had got him this far to make a real exciting game of it.

Most disappointing season

Nominees - Alan Norris, Peter Wright, Justin Pipe, Ronny Huybrechts

Winner - Rob Cross

Now, let's not be mistaken here - Cross hasn't played badly, but after the debut season he had, we might have expected more in terms of results than one Pro Tour event, one World Series event and that's it, coupled with early exits in basically every major, it's not the follow up season Cross would have wanted. Norris' form in context is perhaps somewhat understandable but, World Championship aside, he's had a shocker of a year, Peter Wright might have expected to get a bigger haul than he actually did, while Pipe and Huybrechts have done very little all year, neither qualified for the worlds (Pipe was seeded last year) and both have got to be huge favourites to lose their tour cards after 2019 at this rate.

Best young player

Nominees - Beau Greaves, Jeffrey de Zwaan, Jurjen van der Velde, Dimitri van den Bergh

Winners (shared) - Luke Humphries and Leighton Bennett

I couldn't separate these two. Let's start with Luke - he claimed another three Development Tour titles, shared the overall crown with Dimitri, and has had an excellent opening senior year with a World Championship quarter final and some good floor form, while Bennett, at 13, has just won the BDO world youth and has won a senior open, playing the sorts of darts that have seen him compared with some of the biggest names ever to have played the game. Speaking of Dimitri, he retained the world youth but his senior form wasn't great, de Zwaan has skyrocketed up the rankings after a fantastic 2018 where he's made a major semi final and claimed a tour title, van der Velde has won the World Youth Masters and JDC world title, while if Greaves continues to develop at the rate she is doing, she'll be a threat to make the senior Lakeside stage next season, already making waves on the senior circuit while still too young to play the Development Tour.

Most disappointing news of the season

Nominees - Death of Eric Bristow, continued increase in poor sportsmanship and crowd behaviour, Corey Cadby from April onwards, the Tahuna Irwin situation

Winner - Everything to do with the UK Open

I can't believe how badly they've managed to mess everything up with what was my favourite tournament. Sure, the weather was beyond their control, but I can't believe that they couldn't have handled everything in relation to it - be it letting the fans in, pushing it back so all the players could get there, then for next year they ruin the concept of the event by halving the number of amateur qualifiers and letting every single Tour Card holder plus many Challenge Tour players. Eric's death was at no age and shocked the darting world, while on the oche, be it the whole Price/Anderson thing, Fartgate, the Lewis/Perales incident, everyone celebrating straight tons and crowds increasingly being disinterested in the event they've paid to see (at least in the UK), it's surely just a matter of time before there's a major incident. Cadby had a great start to the year but everything since then conspiring to stopping someone who's an arguable top 10 player competing is just sad, while Irwin's problem with not being allowed in the UK is another disappointing issue for antipodean darts.

Personal highlight of the season

Nominees - The BDO seeing sense and loosening eligibility restrictions, Nathan Aspinall's worlds run, the Asian Tour being a huge success

Winner - Ian White claiming a European Tour title

Quite a few people picked some matches (Hopp and Suljovic winning events etc), but I've been a fan of White's for a long time and he capped a great season by finally getting the stage win that he's had the game to do for a long time, it's just such a shame that the rest of the season was so bad. Being a Stockport native, Aspinall's worlds run was hugely exciting and it's great to see him making progress in the senior events, both at the worlds and by claiming a tour title, while the BDO have finally allowed us to see all of the best players against each other by eliminating most of the hurdles that were preventing their best players from trying Q-School. Finally, it's been great to see another PDC regional tour have success and bring us some great players to the worlds, it's just a shame that at the same time they've removed the only obvious place to get stage experience by removing the World Series stop in Asia.

Best new tour card holder

Nominees - Corey Cadby, Luke Humphries, Gabriel Clemens, Ryan Joyce

Winner - Danny Noppert

This should have been Cadby's to lose, and it was, until everything after the UK Open saw him lose it and it fall into the hands of the former Lakeside finalist, who's made a solid impression on the PDC circuit by claiming a tour title, making a major semi final, having excellent form in Europe and doing enough in combination with that on the Pro Tour to get into the Grand Prix without a full year. Humphries we've touched on during the best young player discussion, Clemens has become the third German player to have legitimate chances of winning titles and is putting up the best statistics, making the top 64 already with a tour final under his belt, and will surely continue to rise if he can sort his European Tour qualifying issues out, while Joyce knocked the worlds out of the park while becoming a feared competitor on the floor.

Most improved player

Nominees - Jim Williams, Luke Humphries, Max Hopp, Michael Smith, Seigo Asada, Michael Barnard

Winner - Jeffrey de Zwaan

It simply has to go to the player who's defeated van Gerwen in major tournaments twice, won his first senior event, made the Matchplay semi final, and could easily have done more were it not for some bad draws (on top of getting MvG twice obviously). Scary to think he's just 22 and could easily be the Dutch number 2 within a few months. Williams has pushed on nicely to being one of the top two or three players in the BDO circuit (for now) from being on the periphery of the top ten, Hopp has found a knack of turning potential into results, Smith's game has changed from one where you know he's decent to where you think he could win anything he enters, Asada has improved from someone who's occasionally dangerous to one of the top players in Asia with the peak to challenge the highest level, while Barnard has gone from being a veteran name who's done little to dominating the Challenge Tour and showing several good runs on the main tour.

Player of the year

Nominees - Michael van Gerwen, Glen Durrant, Krzysztof Ratajski

Winner - Gary Anderson

Everyone saying van Gerwen, which is understandable given he's won the worlds, but only getting the Grand Prix outside of that at a ranking major level, without completely discounting the Premier League, seems sort of average to me. Hence I'm giving it to Anderson - he won the UK Open, he won the Matchplay, he won the Champions League, he'd only be stopped by the eventual winner deep in the worlds and the Grand Slam, and he picked up four floor titles along the way. Durrant managed to claim everything outside of the World Masters, while I have to say that Ratajski's year has been unbelievable, to claim three main tour floor titles without having a tour card and without being able to play many of them at all thanks to comical scheduling conflicts is an unreal return.

That's your lot. I probably won't be back until after Q-School is done thanks to Sky scheduling an away game at Swansea in such a way that it's killing the entire weekend, but I'm planning on pulling the numbers of the new players from Dart Connect and seeing how they stacked up against each other and how that level would expect to perform.

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