Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Worlds 14/16 - Suljovic, Evetts, Sherrock, Dobey, Meulenkamp, Robb


Has Mensur regressed a bit in 2019? It's an interesting question, and I think it's a bit of yes and no. Yes if you look at the TV results, but no if you look at his overall scoring and general level of form. TV first, as we're looking at a TV event - there's not a lot to shout about, at least in the ranking events - Suljovic was much improved (at least in results) in the Premier League, and was a game away from a final in the World Series finals (which he needed to get into the Grand Slam, as he skipped the qualifier), but if Mensur is to retain his Premier League spot, you would have thought he would require much better than he's managed - not a single televised ranking quarter final - Dimitri knocked him out of the UK Open (albeit after beating Peter Wright), Wade outduelled him at Blackpool (albeit after Suljovic handed out a lesson to Jermaine Wattimena), then two first round exits to Rob Cross and Vincent van der Voort would follow, and while he would nick wins against Huybrechts and van der Voort, a 10-4 loss in the last sixteen to Gerwyn Price maybe hints at the distance between Suljovic now and the world elite. But the game's still there to some extent - he did add another Euro Tour event on home soil by beating MvG in the final, he was able to win a Pro Tour event as well, eliminating Durrant, Clayton and White, and has a string of semi final and quarter final appearances on both tours, which looks a bit better than normal given Mensur doesn't play the entirety of the circuit. He should be good enough to get through the first round still, but against the probable last 32 opponent, maybe he will be tested heavily.


It's been a huge year for Ted Evetts, both in the youth events and the senior circuit. Let's look at the former first - a remarkable eight Development Tour wins obviously saw him win that circuit by an absolute mile, given that he missed one of the weekends, he was winning half the events he entered! That's stunning at that level, the only real surprise is that given the level of dominance he couldn't do more in the World Youth Championship, where Evetts lost to Wille Borland in the last sixteen in a deciding leg. How's Ted been translating his youth form to the senior circuit? Very well - his scoring is extremely respectable and well above where his ranking actually is, most notably he did enough in Europe to end up in the elite top 32 who made the European Championship, only running out a 6-4 loser to Gerwyn Price once there. Five out of thirteen European Tour events, where he only had one first round loss and made the Sunday twice is solid - beating Ricky Evans in one before losing to, er, Mensur, then beating Evans again before victory against Jonny Clayton, prior to a deciding leg loss against Michael van Gerwen is good going. On the Pro Tour, he's only managed to win his board once, but went two thirds of the season where he rarely lost in the first round, those £500 and £1k prizes adding up to a Minehead ticket, where he got another tough draw in James Wade, but again lost 6-4. He'd suffer a surprise defeat in the UK Open to fellow youth George Killington, but aside from that, you've got a good idea of where Evetts' game is going, and it seems like it'll be sooner rather than later where Evetts makes a real impression on the senior circuit.


Evetts' first opponent will be one of the two ladies' qualifiers in Fallon Sherrock, who won the UK qualifier with a completely dominant performance - averaging over 85 for the tournament where nobody apart from Lisa Ashton, who Sherrock defeated in the semi final, was able to average even 74. Sherrock's performances on that day had some real peaks - a 91 average against Ashton, 99 in the previous round whitewashing Lisa Brosnan, and another two 80+ averages in earlier rounds. That's very good throwing, albeit somewhat surprising. Sherrock's average on the Challenge Tour, where she played half the events, was down in the high seventies, and a high seventies average was also what Fallon achieved in losing the Lakeside quarter final - but was just a shade under ninety in the first round. Sherrock's playing well enough on the ladies' circuit to be the number four seed at the O2 this year, through winning multiple ladies' events - last month in Ireland and a brace in May in Denmark. While Sherrock's probably one of the strongest who could have come through this qualifier, and is certainly doing the right thing in finding new challenges like the Challenge Tour, the question is whether Sherrock can play at the level she did in the qualifier for long enough against Evetts to move on, and I think she'll have to do that.


It's finally been the year where Dobey has broken through in the senior circuit, a year which started with that epic worlds match against Gary Anderson and a contenders' invite against possible last 32 opponent Mensur Suljovic (a 6-6 draw in Dobey's back yard), and finished with a major semi final, his second of the season. What's Dobey been able to do to get through to the next level? The main thing was to do enough on the floor to actually make the majors, after a couple of years where he was just on the wrong side of the cutoffs on the Pro Tour rankings - he made the Matchplay through two big results - an early Pro Tour semi final where he beat Lewis and Wright, and then a European Tour final, just running out of steam against Dave Chisnall in the final in Denmark, but having to beat Jose de Sousa and Gerwyn Price earlier in the session may do that to you. Dobey had already lost his opener in the UK Open to Luke Woodhouse (that looked a bit of a surprise at the time), and after finally making the Matchplay, he drew the eventual winner in round one and Cross was giving up very little. From there though, it's all good - a semi final in Dublin, beating Ricky Evans, avenging that worlds defeat against Gary Anderson, winning a last set duel against Ian White before losing to van Gerwen. He put aside Krzysztof Ratajski in G├Âttingen, then in a return to Minehead, Chris beat the often dangerous Cristo Reyes, whitewashed James Wilson, easily dispatched John Henderson before crushing Raymond van Barneveld in the quarter finals by a score of 10-2. He would lose 11-8 to Gerwyn Price in the semi final, but I think the only thing that's really been missing from Chris' resume in 2019 is to finally pick up that first title. It's surely coming soon.


It's also been a decent year for Ron Meulenkamp, who's also one that's been looking to claim his first title, and was also one who has been looking to sneak into majors. He did that last year at Dublin and got a win, but couldn't do that this year, but his floor form has been incredible, finishing eighth on the Pro Tour order of merit (excluding the seeds) despite not a real amount of help from the European Tour, where he had a bit of a bad time with qualification (but did alright once he got there). There's not been many players at all who've got through to four semi finals this season, but Ron's been one of them, and had another four board wins on top of that. Maybe he had a couple of shots to make a final - losing to Ian White and Nathan Aspinall is understandable, but against Justin Pipe and Darius Labanauskas, maybe he could have done better, but let's look at some of the names he's beaten in those semi final runs. Chisnall. Gurney. Hughes. Dobey (twice). White. While some of the runs weren't the hardest they could possibly be, he wasn't gifted them by any stretch of the imagination, and ran into plenty of solid opponents around his level that he couldn't take for granted. I suppose the worry is when it counts - if you're not doing enough to get into majors through the Pro Tour regularly, you need to try to take what chances you get when you do - Adam Hunt the first time around really should have been beaten, and while Rob Cross was always going to be a difficult out the second time at Minehead, Ron really didn't do himself justice in that game. He should be able to give Chris a good game if he gets there.


Meulenkamp's opponent will be Ben Robb, the debutant who won the New Zealand qualifier who appears relatively new to the scene, but is here now after beating Mark Cleaver in the final to book his spot at Ally Pally. With no Cody Harris in the qualifier, as he seemingly doesn't play DPNZ events, the qualifier was wide open, and Ben was undefeated in both group stages, beat former qualifier Warren Parry in the semi final before taking down Cleaver in the final. It didn't seem like the highest quality, but you can only beat what's in front of you and the format gave everyone a chance and didn't allow too many upsets. Aside from the qualifier, Robb was able to play some of the World Series - at home, he averaged in the mid 90's twice, knocking out Whitlock before losing to Rob Cross, but the less said about Brisbane the better. He's played the DPA circuit and grabbed a couple of wins, over former worlds qualifiers Koha Kokiri and James Bailey, and made a couple of other finals as well. I'm guessing Meulenkamp should be too solid for Ben to advance, but if Ben can get off to a quick start with some of the darts he's shown in his better result, then maybe it unsettles the Dutchman enough for him to go from there.

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