Tuesday 19 February 2019

10 players to watch for this weekend

With it being the last two events before the UK Open cutoff, things could be interesting for a few players as to whether they can get an extra round's bye (does everyone shuffle up if Anderson and Cadby withdraw?) or just consolidate their Pro Tour rankings. Anderson and Cadby being out we knew about, but van Gerwen's taking what I assume to be a scheduled rest, Kist isn't there (odd given he's going to need a shedload of cash to retain his card - has he given up already?), and Whitlock misses the Saturday. Maybe a short break will do him good, who knows. Here's ten players to watch for:

1) Rob Cross

With van Gerwen and Anderson out, there's a big chance for any big name player to claim a title, and Cross is certainly in that bracket - as mentioned in previous posts, he tops the points per turn so far this season by nearly a whole point from van Gerwen, so he has to be a front runner, and maybe under the radar if you fancy a bit of outright action.

2) Raymond van Barneveld

He's back, and he's also playing the Euro Tour qualifiers - for those, it looks like Noppert, de Zwaan, Ratajski, Schindler, Klaasen and Decker will be seeds - who do you put Barney as favourite against right now?

3) Ross Smith

Smith's quietly thrown some good darts over the last couple of weeks but has had some brutal draws - Wattimena and Cross week 1, then van Gerwen and Chisnall in the second round week 2. If we assume Cadby is out of the UK Open, then Smith is right close to the line for a bye to round 3, so if he can get an alright draw or two, he could do damage and nick in ahead of Alan Tabern. If Anderson's out as well, he just needs to defend from Matt Edgar.

4) Jamie Hughes

He missed the first weekend, so it's off a limited sample, but Jamie was really firing in when he was winning his legs, getting 22/26 legs won in fifteen darts. The legs he lost wasn't that good, but if you add in how he was did on day 1 of Q-School, he's clearly playing good darts and if he doesn't run into MvG throwing a nine darter, which he won't this weekend, he could be a dark horse to make a bit of a run.

5) Michael Barnard

What on earth has happened to his form? After dominating the Challenge Tour, he's since gone 2-6, 1-6, 2-6 and 2-6 to, Gerwyn Price aside, pretty ordinary opponents who you would expect him to beat, or at least get close to. Hopefully his form improves this weekend.

6) Jeffrey de Zwaan

His figures so far this season have been, to put it mildly, average, but I'm more interested to see whether he can get a good start in European Tour qualification - he should be seeded if I've done the maths right, so while there's some good players who won't be seeded, he should at least avoid some potential banana skins.

7) Dimitri van den Bergh

Similar to de Zwaan, except without the question of his quality of play, he's got his tour final, and now he's got to back it up to push on to the Matchplay, where he's outside the line by about three grand right now but with plenty of time on his side. I say similar in that European qualification was an issue, this is the easiest way to get into a stage situation, and while I don't think he's seeded, he's doing well enough right now that he should get to at least one of the events.

8) Krzysztof Ratajski

He's looked pretty good in his wins in the first four Pro Tour events, but while his losses look mediocre, he's putting up top ten points per turn scoring level, with his losing average being three points higher than his winning average - pointing out that he's simply run into players having an exceptionally good game on the day. Last year was probably not just a flash in the pan and he could sneak up on the outside this weekend.

9) Gavin Carlin

This guy was a "who?" Q-School qualifier to most players, but he's not had a bad start to his career, getting as far as van Gerwen twice, Wright and then suffering a 6-0 reverse to Clayton in the opening round of the last event. Numbers wide, he's performing remarkably similar to Mensur Suljovic so far this year, with just a little bit less explosive scoring and a bit better fifteen dart percentage. He was one of the top quarter of players to get out of Q-School based on the stats within Q-School, so if he's able to get a kind draw, maybe he can push to another quarter final or better, or at least solidify a top-96 place and a UK Open first round bye.

10) Glen Durrant

Because everyone's watching Glen Durrant and I couldn't go a whole post without making a Glen Durrant reference.

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