Wednesday 4 December 2019

Worlds 2/16 - Clayton, Joyce, Dekker, Bunting, Monk, Perales

Some people have been of the opinion that Jonny Clayton's not had a particularly good year. I can't say that I'd agree to be honest - what he's done is more or less what you'd expect of someone on the fringes of the top 16 - he's managed to win a Pro Tour event, which is always hard to do, taking down Gabriel Clemens in the final after defeating Ian White in the semi, and put himself in position to possibly add another, with seven further trips to the quarter finals or further. He did enough on the European Tour to qualify comfortably for the European Championship, where he was able to whitewash James Wade with a 111 average, and who knows what he'd have done in Denmark if he'd have won a decider against Dave Chisnall in his best European Tour run. His averaging is in and around the top 20 of the whole of my database. I guess the relative lack of TV runs, outside of his World Series quarter final, which is probably fair enough - Ratajski was a tough out in the UK Open, but Keegan Brown, Stephen Bunting and Ryan Meikle were all costly first round defeats. He should have enough to make the last 32 here and try to avenge his loss to Bunting.

It's not been a bad season for Ryan Joyce following his impressive quarter final run from last year, but he's not really hit the level of floor consistency that he had in 2018, which has seen him fail to really power on to the world's top 32. However, he's picked up a bit later in the season, with his four European Tour qualifications coming at the halfway point of that series or later, and his best Pro Tour run appearing right towards the end of the year, where he was able to reach the semi finals and only lost out in a deciding leg to Gerwyn Price. Joyce wasn't able to win his board on the Pro Tour as often as he would have liked, but it was enough to see him qualify for Minehead, where he really should have defeated John Henderson, missing match darts in an opening round defeat. Joyce's only other major appearance was in the UK Open, where he'd take out Robert Owen, but suffer a heavy defeat at the hands of Cristo Reyes. Hopefully Ryan's good experiences last year will set him up well to get through the opening round.

In an ironic twist, Joyce's first round opponent will be Jan Dekker, the two players who faced the ladies' qualifiers last season running into each other in the opening round this year. Unlike Joyce, Jan has had a horrible 2019, not getting close at all to qualifying outright through the Pro Tour, relying on the West Europe qualifier to get a return, where he eliminated youngster Geert Nentjes, former tour card holder Jeffrey de Graaf and previous Lakeside competitor Derk Telnekes to claim his spot. Why did he need to go through this route? Getting absolutely nothing from the European Tour is a huge reason, only getting as far as the final round of qualifying three times (obviously winning none), which would leave him far too much work to do on the Pro Tour - and only winning more than one game on four occasions isn't going to cut the mustard. He was able to get through his board on three of those four occasions, beating the likes of Michael Smith, Chris Dobey, Mensur Suljovic and Jamie Hughes - Dekker still has the big game in him, but with increasing infrequency. That he got a winnable game to get to the later stages of the UK Open but lost 10-3 to Simon Whitlock is sadly more indicative of Jan's season.

Stephen Bunting's 2019 has been somewhat inconsistent, but he has been able to hit some of the heights that saw him win the Lakeside title, and if he can continue with that sort of peak, who knows what might happen at Ally Pally? Fortunately for Bunting, his best performances came in the last event of the year, where at the Players Championship finals, he was able to follow up on a win over Dimitri van den Bergh with incredibly destructive performances against Jose de Sousa and Ryan Meikle, before Gerwyn Price would be too tough an ask at the quarter final stage. Price would avenge a loss from Bunting's other great run this year at Blackpool - there Bunting beat Price in a deciding leg in the opening round, would also take out Ian White in additional legs, before running eventual champion Rob Cross very close, only losing by the odd two legs in thirty. Stephen would get wins over Keegan Brown and Jonny Clayton to avoid any early major exits, keeping the ranking money rolling in, although an early loss to Steve Lennon in the UK Open would be a disappointment. Away from the big screen, Bunting's Pro Tour campaign would be fairly weak barring one mid-season final loss to Jeffrey de Zwaan, and he would make another final in Prague, losing out to Jamie Hughes in tricky conditions. Some good heights, but some barren spells - at least he's timing the former well.

Six years after his last appearance in a world championship, Arron Monk makes his return on the back of a solid floor season as he attempts to retain his tour card. Monk's qualification is more or less solely based from his Pro Tour results, which faded a little bit towards the end of the season barring his quarter final run in the final event of the season to lock in a bit of confidence, but looked very good in the first half. The peak was in April and early May, where he got one of his two European Tour berths and his only win (over a domestic qualifier before losing to Dave Chisnall), his best floor run of a semi final with key wins over Clemens and Ratajski, and his other quarter final run, taking out de Sousa and John Henderson before losing a decider to Ian White. He's previously looked confident enough on TV to have got out of the groups in the Grand Slam, but that was eight years ago - more recently he's suffered early losses to van der Voort and Clayton at Minehead. Arron's going to need to roll back the years and rediscover his earlier form if he's going to go deep enough to save his card.

Monk's international opponent is another tour card holder in Jose Perales, or Justicia, depending on what naming custom you want. Jose's a debutant here having won the qualifier that's aimed at the Iberian peninsula, most recently won by Jose de Sousa. Perales won that comfortably, not facing anyone of real note until the final where he averaged over a ton in preventing Antonio Alcinas from qualifying, putting his compatriot's card in jeopardy. Having perhaps surprisingly won a tour card two years ago, it's all but lost, and he's mostly notable for an incident with Adrian Lewis on the floor rather than for any real impressive performances - this year he did scrape into the money in the UK Open over a pub qualifier but then was pipped by Ricky Evans, but his record elsewhere wasn't anywhere near enough to get to any more events. Jose only managed one European Tour appearance in Denmark, but lost out to Ryan Joyce in the opening round, and only won his board three times - a best of a quarter final in April, beating James Wade and then whitewashing Rowby John Rodriguez, and could have gone deeper had he not lost a deciding leg to Tytus Kanik. He's going to need to find his best game to truly trouble Monk, but in the penultimate Pro Tour weekend he did at least have two of his better runs, so coupled with his great run in a big event to get here, maybe it's more likely than usual that it happens.

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