Sunday 8 December 2019

Worlds 9/16 - Cross, Huybrechts, Nentjes, Noppert, Lennon, Rydz

Hey guys, remember about six months ago when a bunch of people thought Cross might have been a one hit wonder? That disappeared pretty quickly, as 2019 saw Cross become a multiple time major winner, adding the Matchplay and the European Championship to the world title he won two years ago, and being somewhat unlucky not to add a third title of the year, finishing as the runner up in both the UK Open and the Premier League. Let's have a look at the wins first - the Matchplay saw easy enough wins against Chris Dobey and Krzysztof Ratajski, before getting through real tests against Stephen Bunting and Daryl Gurney to reach the final. Michael Smith would be his opponent there, and Cross got halfway to the finish line before Smith could register a leg, and while Smith would close the gap, the damage had been done already and Cross claimed the title. Göttingen would be the venue for his next big win, having a relatively easy run to the semis, before repeating his semi final win against Daryl Gurney, then turned over Gerwyn Price to gain a chalk in the competition for who's the second best player in the world. Cross seemed to just run out of steam against Nathan Aspinall, while in the other majors, he'd run into Durrant and Wright, tough draws to be fair, although maybe he could have done better in the Players Championship Finals when he lost to Mervyn King, preventing a possible tie against MvG in the quarters. It's perhaps a surprise that Cross has still not won a European Tour title, losing two close finals to Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price, and he was also not able to reach a Pro Tour final, although at this stage Cross is managing his schedule and only played about half of the circuit. It's a good section of the draw, and Cross should be able to advance to at least the quarter finals, and who knows from there?

It's been another year of relative struggle for Kim Huybrechts - while his scoring hasn't dropped off to an enormous degree, he's now outside the top 32 in the world, as well as outside the range where he's been able to qualify for major events with any sort of frequency. What's he done this year? Five board finals on the Pro Tour is maybe a little bit below expectation, and the Belgian was only able to turn one of those runs into a quarter final run in Ireland - beating Aspinall on the way before falling to eventual winner Jose de Sousa. The European Tour wasn't a bad hunting ground, making two final days when he beat Pipe and Clayton, then Horvat and Wade, but only being able to qualify for five events didn't give him quite enough ammunition to make it all the way to Göttingen and the finals. Still, eleven grand on top of what he's done on the Pro Tour saw him safely into the worlds, albeit only in the first round. On TV, Huybrechts was only able to make it to the two events at Minehead - the UK Open might have been a missed opportunity when he lost to Simon Stevenson after beating Pete Hudson, while if he had won a deciding leg against Mensur Suljovic in the Players Championship Finals, the draw wasn't too bad from there. The differential in points between what he scores when he's winning and when he's losing gives some indication that Huybrechts has been a bit unlucky in some spots, if that can change at some point, Kim is the sort of player who can build momentum quickly, and maybe get back towards the sort of level he was at when he was a Premier League player.

For the second year in a row, Geert Nentjes has qualified for the World Championships through the Development Tour, the Dutchman being able to win two events on that tour over Shane McGuirk and Nathan Girvan. Those wins, coupled with another two finals where he lost to Jeffrey de Zwaan and Luke Humphries, were enough to see him finish a clear third behind Ted Evetts and Luke Humphries (who both qualified for the worlds through the Pro Tour), more than enough to reach Ally Pally. Through the Development Tour, Nentjes was the recipient of a tour card at the start of the year, but hasn't been able to make too much of an impression on the senior circuit to date. He did cash the UK Open, beating BDO worlds seed David Evans, young prospect Jarred Cole and then whitewashing Justin Pipe, before losing to Max Hopp, but aside from that it's been a year of learning, only winning his board on the Pro Tour once where he got past Jeffrey de Zwaan, and Geert wasn't able to qualify for the European Tour at all, but while he did get closer later in the season, he only made the final qualifying round twice. Last year, he was unfortunate to run into Nathan Aspinall, and while he's not going to be the favourite here, he should have a bit more of a fighting chance this year.

Danny Noppert's one of many younger players who are looking to force their way into the top 32 in the world, and the former Lakeside finalist has used his second season as a new tour card holder to just about get there, having done more than enough on the floor to start appearing in major events with some regularity. While Noppert wasn't able to add to the maiden title he got in 2018, he was able to make four semi finals on the floor, including two in one weekend, so he's putting himself into the positions where he may be able to add a second title in the near future. Of course, he was close to adding a TV title, albeit an unranked title - the World Series Finals, where he ran through Jeffrey de Zwaan and Gary Anderson, before edging Ian White and Dave Chisnall in deciding legs to reach the final against Michael van Gerwen. He'd lose that finals heavily, but it got him into the Grand Slam - although he should have done better and beaten Ryan Harrington to make the knockout stages. Noppert couldn't do enough in Europe to make the European Championships, but played everything else - maybe he could have done more in the UK Open when he lost to Mansell, wasn't too far off Gary Anderson in the opening round at Blackpool, but he did get a televised win over Daryl Gurney in Dublin, and nearly was able to advance further, falling only to Nathan Aspinall. Danny lost a decider to Mensur Suljovic at Minehead most recently, but there's enough of a combination of decent results and high level underlying stats to make him a solid favourite to reach the last 32 and give Cross something to worry about once there.

Another younger player looking to get towards the top 32 in 2019 was Steve Lennon, but after losing out to Alan Norris in an upset twelve months ago, his career has somewhat stalled - outside of the miracle World Cup final run with Willie O'Connor which got Steve into the Grand Slam. That sort of TV experience that he's gained is close to all he's had this year - he did alright in the UK Open, only being stopped by the eventual champion in a close game after knocking out James Richardson, Stephen Bunting and Mickey Mansell, but his only other wins on TV were over Wesley Harms and James Wade in the Grand Slam (where he lost out on leg difference and didn't make the knockouts) - he only just made Minehead for a second time and lost easily to Ratajski in the opening round. It's all about floor form - on the Pro Tour, Lennon would only win his board once right at the start of the year, only just scraping through to here by making it through the opening round more often than not, and making four European events - Lennon would beat Kevin Munch and Jamie Bain in back to back weeks in his first two to reach the seeds, but could only pick up two legs combined against Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright, but had a shocking 6-0 loss to Dennis Nilsson where he simply couldn't score, and then getting Michael Smith in the opening round was what could be called an unfortunate draw. Getting the draw he's got gives him somewhat of a chance of kickstarting things for 2020, he's just got to reclaim the form he had in 2018.

Callan Rydz will make his debut after finishing on top of the Challenge Tour, claiming two victories on that circuit to finish less than a grand ahead of Jesus Noguera, but for Rydz, who's come agonisingly close to winning a tour card on each of the last two seasons at Q-School, any margin of victory will be perfectly fine for the North East native. That win not only gets him here, but it gets him his tour card for the next two seasons. This season, Rydz was able to get his Challenge Tour wins over David Evans and Cody Harris, both very capable operators, and he was also able to pick up a win in the Development Tour, that one over Luke Humphries. Rydz was within striking distance of the world youth finals as well, but while he averaged 100 in beating Jarred Cole and 95 in winning a decider against Nathan Rafferty, he'd fall at the quarter final stage to Adam Gawlas. What of the senior circuit? His Challenge Tour results mostly came later in the year, so it wasn't until more than halfway through the season when he was able to get into Pro Tour events, and managed to win his board three times in that timeframe - getting some notable scalps in Clemens, Durrant, van Barneveld, Dobey, Beaton, Dolan... we've seen enough to date to think that Rydz certainly has the upside to cause damage in this event, and has the draw to make that happen as well.

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