Monday 9 December 2019

Worlds 13/16 - Gurney, Pipe, Pratnemer, Durrant, de Sousa, Heta

I continue to be confused as to how Daryl Gurney keeps getting the sorts of performances he does. I think it's pure and simply one thing - consistency. He doesn't have the raw power of many of the elite, but he gives nothing away either, and with huge chunks of the field being the sorts of players that can easily score with him for the most part, but will have bad legs when Gurney doesn't, that's where he'll step in and take every chance he's given. What's he done in 2019? Another couple of major semi finals look real good, the Matchplay saw him eliminate Peter Wright and then push Cross to the limit in the semi final. Not bad. The European Championship had Gurney again only lose to Cross at that stage by a single break. He'd not do that well elsewhere - you'd have expected him to get through his group at the Grand Slam, but an early defeat at the Grand Prix to Noppert has to be a disappointment, and his Minehead efforts left a lot to be desired, the UK Open saw a tough early draw against Michael Smith but he should be eliminating Luke Woodhouse just last month. On lower tours, he claimed a European Tour title, taking advantage of an early MvG defeat and knocking out Cross himself to win the title over Ricky Evans, and he'd also claim a Pro Tour title, a run of Darren Webster, Steve Lennon, Mervyn King, Jelle Klaasen, Peter Wright, Ian White and finally Nathan Aspinall is one of the harder draws you could reasonably put together back in late September. He was able to do well enough in the Premier League to reach the semi finals, but has he done enough to get a return? There's a lot of people snapping around, so you think a run here might be needed, and if he gets a run here, it'll be earned - it's a brutal draw for Daryl.

Justin Pipe returns to the Ally Pally stage following a relatively poor 2018 where he failed to qualify, and will desperately be looking to put the whole coughing thing from two years ago behind him - can't say that his style of play will suddenly turn the crowd onto his side, but he's at least back and will be looking to post at least one win after a season where he might have had trouble retaining his tour card. As ever with Pipe, it's been his floor form which has got him where he is - he peaked with a final run just prior to the Matchplay, getting a bad first round draw against Price but obviously coming through, getting through Suljovic and others before ending up on the wrong end in the last game against Peter Wright, but consistent accumulation is also what did it - thirteen board finals or better shows a solidity that we've not seen since back earlier in the decade when he was in and around the top ten in the world. Despite an early European Tour quarter final where he beat Ian White and Darren Webster, Pipe just bubbled getting to Göttingen, one win in the last event would probably have seen him make it but he lost to Kim Huybrechts, but getting through enough qualifiers to be in that spot is a good sign. He'll want to forget the TV events I think - in the UK Open he was whitewashed by Geert Nentjes, while in the Players Championship finals, Mervyn King would be able to come from 4-3 down to claim a first round win in a deciding leg, Pipe being in a position where he just needed two holds to advance. Compare his overall numbers to Gurney - they're not far off. He's playing well. If he doesn't give Gurney anything easy, he can win that game.

God knows what Benjamin Pratnemer makes of this section of the draw, if there was ever a "welcome to the PDC" party, it's this. The Slovenian makes his debut after winning the Eastern European qualifier, which comes as a bit of a surprise given the quality of the field, there's plenty of players in Poland and the Czech Republic who you might have fancied to claim the spot, but Pratnemer got there, beating previous European Tour player Janos Vesgo in the final. What do we know about Ben? It's a little bit limited - he's tried this qualifier for at least the previous two years, last year losing to eventual winner and European Tour quarter finalist Karel Sedlacek, while the year before he lost to the eventual winner Alan Ljubic, both times in the semi final stages. He hasn't played much of anything in the PDC beyond that previously - no Challenge Tour or Q-School, no sign of European Tour qualifiers, it's mostly been BDO events, late in 2018 he was able to win two events in a weekend in Hungary, which enabled him to play the World Masters where he was able to reach the televised stages, he lost to Carl Hamilton in the last 32 once there, but what he did before them is questionable, as it was in the "weirdness" section of the draw that anyone who was paying attention to the event at the time will know about. Looking at his BDO ranking scores, Ben's been putting in the legwork in November to get plenty of match practice, which is sensible enough, I doubt it's enough to beat Pipe but he's doing the right things in the build up.

He's not going to make it in the PDC, is he? Oh, the kids that just look at averages and don't understand them, whereas the rest of us that can interpret them knew Glen was, at a minimum, a top 16 player regardless of code, and that's where he's going to shoot up to very, very soon, already hitting the top 32 and having a whole season with nothing to defend in 2020. We all knew he was a three time back to back BDO world champion, how long would it take him to adapt to the PDC? Not long. First weekend - finalist, beating Wright, beating Cullen, only losing a decider to Chisnall. Next weekend - winner, beating Suljovic, beating Price, stopping Dimitri winning his first title. We'll ignore the UK Open, that's a blip and Gavin Carlin was playing well at the time. Two months later - second title, doesn't lose a leg until round three. Beats both PDC world finalists in back to back round before curbstomping Darius Labanauskas in the final. Two months later? Major semi finalist at Blackpool. Beats two multiple time world champions, including van Gerwen again. Beats James Wade. Smith would be a bit much in the semi final, but we go again in Dublin. Beats Ratajski. Beats Cross. Beats Wattimena, but Chizzy was on fire in the semi. Gets an interesting Grand Slam invite from the BDO, and makes the semi final of that as well. Gets out of the group of death. Edges out Clemens. Avenges the Michael Smith defeat from Blackpool, and would only be stopped by Peter Wright. Make no mistake, this is no different from Bunting several years ago, or Cross two years ago - he's hugely underseeded and Gurney has every right to be worried, as Durrant's stats all year shout out Premier League calibre player. Of course, that's assuming Durrant wins his first round match, which is no gimmie...

Hey guys, remember twelve months ago when we were saying that de Sousa was an interesting opponent for Michael Barnard? How times change - Barnard, after that win, won as many matches in 2019 as de Sousa won titles. Where the hell did this come from? Frankly, I'm not sure, but it's legitimate, and looks all the more impressive if you scratch off the first two or three months when the Portuguese number one was understandably getting used to the Pro Tour after winning his tour card (which, almost reminiscent of Ratajski not winning it that one year, he nearly didn't do). The UK Open was maybe a little bit too soon, and you wouldn't expect him to lose to Reece Robinson now, but next month he makes a floor quarter final, beating Rob Cross. A month later, he goes a stage further, not beating anyone of huge note but just beating whoever was in front of him up until the semi finals, where Harry Ward was having the day of his life. The next week, he shows up on the European Tour for the first time this year (ever?) and reached a quarter final, beating Darren Webster and Daryl Gurney, and coming within a leg of beating Chris Dobey. The week after, he'd make a floor final, beating Aspinall, de Zwaan, Dimitri before James Wade denied him a first win. Soon after the summer break, however, he'd get it - he beats Peter Wright in the semi and then only allows Gerwyn Price one leg in the final. He repeats next month - beating Suljovic in the semi and Durrant in the final. If he started this run even slightly earlier he'd be in Dublin, but he'd just need to settle for the Players Championship finals - Stephen Bunting found god mode and that was that, but while he rivals only Phil Taylor for comedy counting and will try three tops needing 120 to finish, de Sousa is very much no joke, is playing a clear top 20 level game, and will give Durrant the sternest first round test he could possibly get - if he wins.

Which is no gimmie, as de Sousa has drawn Brisbane Masters winner Damon Heta in the clear best match of the first round. Heta, who I believe has already said he's going to Q-School and going to make the move, has been around on the radar for a few years now (last year in one of the World Series events he beat Kyle Anderson and gave Gary a run for his money), but it's only in 2019 where he's really come to the forefront of the Australasian game. That 3x win on the DPA circuit should read 8 - stupid dartsdatabase not being as up to the minute as Wikipedia is and stupid me for not fact checking, simple matter is that he won the DPA circuit with events to spare and qualifies through that route. But it's not the DPA that made people notice Heta - no. He managed to win a World Series event. That's more or less unheard of - we had the weird one where Kyle Anderson beat Corey Cadby, but that's about it, it's always been the big name invites. In that event, Heta beat James Wade in a deciding leg (and would beat Wade the week after as well), he'd beat Gary Anderson and Simon Whitlock 8-6, before beating Rob Cross in a deciding leg in the final. Was it a bit opportunistic? Possibly, Heta didn't average more than 95 in any game prior to the final, but you've still got to take your chances and Damon certainly was doing so on that weekend. That would get Damon to the World Series finals, as a seed (!) he'd lose out to Mensur Suljovic in a game where maybe if he hits his doubles, he could have clinched it, but no big dramas. I think he'll need to step his game up to get past round one, simply because Jose is so good - there's too many finals on the DPA tour where he's averaging in the high 80's to low 90's which won't cut it against an operator of de Sousa's quality, but regardless of what happens, this entire section will be can't miss action.

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