Sunday 14 April 2019

10 talking points from this weekend's darts

I try not to pigeonhole what I do with this blog anywhere specifically (outside of having a consistent record of trackable winning tips), but as the previous week's ten talking points went down well, let's try the same thing again, more or less:

1) Wade v Smith 2 - Electric Boogaloo

It's always a bit odd when you get the same final twice in quick succession, but that's what happened on Saturday, with Wade and Smith reprising their Players Championship 9 final, with much the same result, Wade claiming it again, although it was a bit closer this time around with Smith being able to push it all the way to 6-6, then letting Wade break in 18 darts with him not even being on a double. He did have three clear at tops to get it back to 7-7, but fucked it up, what can you do. Strange event, given that out of everyone that made a board final (to exclude outliers like Jamie Hughes crushing), Wade only had the seventh highest points per turn, and Smith was fifteenth. Oh well, better to run good I guess.

2) So who's the best player in the world right now?

I was tempted to say who's the best player behind van Gerwen, and I think it's still a fairly valid take given that in the points per turn stats I have, he's still got a clear gap to everyone else, but here's the top twelve, which is capturing anyone over 93:

It's really quite tight between all of these, but if you factor in the ratio of legs won to legs lost, I think you can easily argue Wade's top three right now. I bring this up given Wade's cleaning up everything right now and people will naturally be questioning how good he is playing. Personally, it's still MvG until proven otherwise, but Wade plays him in the Premier League in a week and a half, so let's see what happens.

3) Leighton Bennett needs to be at Ally Pally

Now I'm very much on the hype train, but this weekend in Germany, he's reached the semi final of the German Open, which had I believe 800+ runners, only losing out to the eventual champion Mario Vandenbogarde, which is easy for you to say. This isn't some rinky dinky event, this has a fair few ranking points behind it and has a lot of serious names entering. Would it be that difficult to say that they're going to give the winner of the JDC tour (which Bennett is well ahead in, having won 4/6 events already) a place as a bodge to get Leighton into the event? It sucks to think that unless he manages to bink the PDC world youth we're not going to see him on the biggest stage for a few years. Ride the train.

4) Return of the Euros

At least on Saturday, it seemed like a few old friends were rolling back the years from the continent and winning their boards - Ronny Huybrechts? Cristo Reyes? Kim Huybrechts? Jelle Klaasen (who then punched through to the quarters before running into a resurgent Steve West, and might have won his board today but for a Michael Smith averaging 109)? It's nice to see players that might have slipped under our radar a bit making runs and reminding us that they're still here.

5) de Zwaan still has it

He's been a bit quiet all year, but, 6-1 loss to George Killington on Saturday aside, Jeffrey's reminded us all what he can do with a double qualification in the Euro Tour on Friday, then a run all the way to the Pro Tour final today, beating an improving Tytus Kanik, Jan Dekker (who was clearly in the mood having taken out Jamie Hughes in round one), Joe Murnan, Steve Beaton (a round after Beaton played possibly his best game in a long time against Willie O'Connor), Glen Durrant and John Henderson, before peaking too soon and losing a 4-0 lead to Wade in the final. He was seventh this weekend in points per turn looking at people that have won 20 or more legs, it was quite the good display.

6) Simon Whitlock is in deep, deep trouble

Let's not look at him winning his board today and thinking this is a return to form. It isn't. Not in the slightest. He whiffed on both European Tour qualifiers, was easily taken out by Mario Robbe on Saturday, then today, he did alright against Jose Perales, but then averaged over 60 by inches against Nentjes, who somehow blew a 5-1 lead, then was somehow worse against John Michael, averaging 77, before finally being put away by Ian White. His scoring this season is down with the likes of Alan Tabern, Christian Kist, Ryan Meikle, James Richardson, and a good point below players like Wayne Jones, Zoran Lerchbacher and Davy van Baelen. These are players that are either in a knife fight to retain their tour cards, or have lost it for all intents and purposes already. Once that 45 grand or whatever it was he got for making the Grand Prix final goes away, he's going to be sliding down the rankings at an alarming pace.

7) What is up with Jamie Lewis?

It seems to be a recurring theme - he plays like junk on the floor for an entire year, and then does work at the worlds and holds on. Now it seems more or less impossible for him not to make the worlds this year given that he has 120 large from his two worlds appearances, but what's he had outside of that by the time the worlds cutoff comes around? He's had a last 32 in the UK Open for £4k, a first round loss in the Players Championship for £2.5k, a Euro Tour quarter for £4k, a Pro Tour semi for £3k and a UK Open qualifier quarter for £2k. In terms of ranking cashes for £2k or more, that's it. Over a whole season and a half, more or less (we're now 40% of the way through the Players Championship, and we've had 6/13 of the Euro Tour qualifiers and he's not even got to the final of one of them).

8) This run of Euro Tour events couldn't come quick enough for Michael Barnard

I'm pretty sure that, after dominating the Challenge Tour last year, having some decent results in the Pro Tour events that he got into, and then winning his first round match at the worlds, starting 0-12 wasn't what he was thinking would happen in a return to pro darts. I don't know if he has a day job (I want to say maybe?), but four of these next five weekends all have European Tour events, which he's not qualified for. In between the two pairings, there's a couple of Pro Tours, but maybe he should think about taking them off? Something's clearly not right and not working. Maybe take some time off darts to recharge, try to find what was working in 2018, maybe hit up some local opens just to get the winning habit back. Heck, on current form, if he does miss out PC13/14, it's not exactly going to be costing him money, it may well be saving it in real terms - play the longer game, build things back up to the May 17-18 weekend of two Euro Tour qualifiers and two Players Championships, then you've got a bit more time after that. Seeing him average sub-70 against Labanauskas doesn't make me thing that this is a "the best way out of a shooting slump is to keep shooting" situation.

9) Maybe we have a new German star in the making

It's a bit early, sure, but Christian Bunse made both board finals this weekend, knocking off Dave Chisnall and Adrian Lewis in the process, and he might have gone further potentially but it looks like he may have, from a 4-3 lead earlier today, missed a bunch of darts at double against Nathan Rafferty to potentially go further. His numbers over the course of 2019 aren't spectacular, but they're within a point of the likes of Gavin Carlin, Scott Baker, Darren Webster and James Wilson, so who knows? I don't know if he's still young enough to play the Development Tour now, but he was last year, so he's still got a bunch of time on his side, and it looks like this may be the case where playing week in week out against higher quality players might pay off. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not soon, but perhaps something to keep an eye out on.

10) We've had some stinkers today

I don't have the inclination or the capability to go back and check how often this happens, but today we had two games - Simon Whitlock against Geert Nentjes, and Mark Dudbridge against Conan Whitehead, where neither player was able to finish a leg in fifteen darts. The Whitlock/Nentjes one was even worse, in that it went all eleven legs and it wasn't even a first round match! I've scanned back through the last three Pro Tour events prior to today, and can only see it happened in Jamie Lewis (see above) against James Wilson, and that was a quick 6-1 win to Wilson, Nathan Derry against Eddie Dootson by the same scoreline, Gary Eastwood losing to Gabriel Clemens 6-2 then Mark Dudbridge (again) and Eddie Dootson (again) getting involved in a 6-3 slugfest. Looking at that, maybe it happens more often than you think. But going all eleven in the second round? Come on now.

New FRH rankings:

1 Michael van Gerwen
2 Rob Cross
3 Gary Anderson
4 Michael Smith
5 Daryl Gurney
6 Gerwyn Price
7 James Wade
8 Peter Wright
9 Nathan Aspinall
10 Mensur Suljovic
11 Dave Chisnall
12 Simon Whitlock
13 Ian White
14 Jonny Clayton
15 Adrian Lewis
16 Darren Webster
17 Joe Cullen
18 Stephen Bunting (UP 1)
19 Jermaine Wattimena (UP 1)
20 Mervyn King (DOWN 2)

Mervyn's double bagel this weekend pushes him down to 20th, if Steve West had have nicked one more win yesterday he'd have been out of the top 20 altogether. Wade's now opened up a huge lead over Wright and is closing down Gerwyn Price, while Michael Smith could easily get past Gary Anderson by the time we see Gary throw a competitive dart again.

Lower down, Jeffrey de Zwaan is now about 100,000 points and up to 29th following his final appearance today, Glen Durrant is within 2,000 points of the top 60, while a steady couple of weekends has seen Joe Murnan sneak back into the top 100.

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