Monday, 13 January 2020

Tungsten Analysis 2019 Awards

So, Wayne Warren did it. What a story, I'm so pleased he's been able to get the title, pity for Jim, but Wayne played the better darts throughout the week and deserves it in my opinion. There wasn't a great deal to separate the two in fairness, at least in the final, Wayne just managed to nick enough of the key legs.

2019's done. We're just a couple of days away from Q-School, but let's look back before we look forward, and as such, here's my take on the best and worst of the last twelve months in darts. A reminder - players can only win one of the top four individual awards, we don't do stupid things like having Gareth Bale win Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year in the same season. Without further ado, the awards:

Best single tournament performance

Previous winners:
2017 - Phil Taylor, World Matchplay
2018 - Gary Anderson, World Matchplay

Nominees: Ian White, Dutch Darts Masters, Damon Heta, Brisbane Masters, Gerwyn Price, Grand Slam of Darts

Winner - Peter Wright, World Championship

It was very close between Price and Wright for this one. I think the tipping point had to be that Wright beat the two best players in the world in back to back long games in order to claim the biggest title of them all, having previously come through two extremely tough games against the best that Asia has to offer, and then two more very tough games against the best of the young up and comers. He needed to dodge match darts, stem off comebacks, and overcome the end boss in the biggest match of his life. And he did. Price's retaining of the Grand Slam was incredible, beating Gary Anderson in a repeat of the final, finally beating van Gerwen and then taking out who's now the world champion in a very one sided final. Some other ones to mention - White being able to beat van Gerwen in van Gerwen's backyard, in the final, having come through Wright and two other Dutchmen on the same day is a great achievement, and Damon Heta wasn't expected to do that much in the World Series, so to take out four major champions in doing so is worthy of a mention.

Match of the season

Previous winners:
2017 - Rob Cross v Michael van Gerwen, World Championship
2018 - Gary Anderson v Mensur Suljovic, World Matchplay

Nominees: Jeffrey de Zwaan v Dave Chisnall, World Championship, Glen Durrant v Michael van Gerwen, World Matchplay, Michael van Gerwen v Gerwyn Price, Players Championship Finals, Adrian Lewis v Darren Webster, World Championship

Winner - Peter Wright v Noel Malicdem, World Championship

I'm biased, because I was there for the match, but this had everything - an established major winner against someone from a developing area of the world, which had tension and drama aplenty as the game went the distance and kept the fans on their feet throughout. It didn't seem like there were a massive number of high quality games outside of the worlds, which is a bit odd - the Durrant against van Gerwen clash didn't disappoint given the level of hype that there was about the game, and similarly with van Gerwen's against Price saw the clear best two players in the world at that time go toe to toe for nearly the full distance. Most games either were either high quality but one sided, or if they were close, didn't reach the real heights we'd want. So I feel compelled to pick lots of games from Ally Pally - the Webster/Lewis game was real hard to pick a winner and featured one of the best sets we'd seen ever, while the de Zwaan against Chisnall match was a seven set thriller of incredible standard that probably cost Chisnall a Premier League place. For notability, could probably chuck in any of Sherrock's matches as well, or Suzuki against Richardson.

Most disappointing season

Previous winners:
2017 - Benito van de Pas
2018 - Rob Cross

Nominees: Darren Webster, Steve West, Michael Barnard, Richard North, Jamie Lewis

Winner - Raymond van Barneveld

There's plenty of possibilities here - Webster for sure has had some injury issues and has really struggled, West seems like a fraction of his former self, dropping from near the top 20 to probably out of the top 32 very shortly, Barnard's complete collapse in form following his domination of the Challenge Tour is shocking, Jamie Lewis hasn't done much for a few years now but this year hasn't even had the world championship to bail himself out, while Richard North was looking like he could possibly push towards the top 32, but instead will be in a fight to save his tour card. But there can be only one winner here, and that's Barney in his final season. The whole Premier League saw him look like he was going through the motions, then we had the whole 24 hours of retirement farce, when he did play ranked events he was out in the early rounds very frequently, then just when it looked like he might have one last hurrah at the worlds, the decent showing at Minehead was the ultimate false dawn as his final appearance was a huge damp squib against Darin Young. It's all the more disappointing as we know that's it.

Best young player

Previous winners:
2017 - Justin van Tergouw
2018 - Luke Humphries/Leighton Bennett

Nominees: Leighton Bennett, Beau Greaves, Ted Evetts, Callan Rydz, Adam Gawlas, Luke Humphries

Winner - Keane Barry

Where do we start here? The two youth players who we've seen in the BDO as they're too young for the PDC speak for themselves - Greaves getting seeded for the worlds and Bennett coming very close to doing so himself. Ted Evetts completely destroyed the Development Tour, picking up eight titles and looking like he's very close to making huge inroads on the senior circuit, while Callan Rydz was able to win the Challenge Tour after two seasons of coming incredibly close to getting his tour card outright and not looking out of place on stage or on the floor when having the opportunities that his Challenge Tour performances allowed him. Gawlas has been a revelation from absolutely nowhere at an incredibly young age, and is one that could be dangerous in the ever developing eastern European territories, while Luke Humphries claimed the world youth and only fell at the quarters in the worlds themselves to the eventual winner. But I think I have to give it to Barry based on the whole "there's no age limit, but as you get older you need to do more" criteria. Keane won the BDO world youth and World Youth Masters. He won the JDC world youth. It was only Humphries that stopped in the PDC world youth. He won the Tom Kirby and looked solid in his senior worlds debut, and has started doing the business on the BDO senior stage. And he can't legally have a pint yet.

Most disappointing news of the season

Previous winners:
2017 - Phil Taylor still not getting it quietly
2018 - Everything to do with the UK Open

Nominees: Gary Anderson withdrawing from the Premier League, Corey Cadby continuing to be out of action, continued snubbing of certain players for invitational events

Winner - Everything to do with the BDO

There's not a huge deal to choose from this year. Ando not being able to play the Premier League was an irritant, but it gave us the Contenders as an alternative which seems to have worked well enough for them to repeat it next season as well. Cadby only appearing for a couple of months before more issues arose is so annoying as we all want the best players to play in the same place, but is he even that any more? Additionally we keep seeing the likes of Ian White and others being passed up for events which they deserve to play in on merit which massively grinds my gears. There's only one winner though, and that's the BDO. Everything to do with it. That their two biggest events have been clusterfucks to end all clusterfucks only scratches the surface. We've all seen just recently what's happened with the prize funds, continual social media failures and general poor production with their worlds, and we all remember the whole draw/fake draw shenanigans from the World Masters. They're surely on borrowed time at this stage.

Personal highlight of the season

Previous winners:
2017 - Mensur Suljovic wins the Champions League
2018 - Ian White claims a European Tour title

Nominees: Peter Wright finally claiming a big major, Joe Cullen finally getting a European Tour title, Callan Rydz getting his tour card, Glen Durrant finally opting to switch and not disappointing

Winner - The explosion in quality from non-traditional areas

Will explain that one in a second, but let's go through the others - Rydz came so agonisingly close the last couple of seasons, so for Callan to be able to get his card without having to go through the gauntlet that is Q-School is incredibly pleasing. Cullen getting over the line on the Euro Tour, over van Gerwen of all people, and deserving the win after so many last session appearances was very nice to see, similarly it was so good to see Peter Wright claiming the big one. Finally, Glen actually making the switch, getting his card (just), and then going and showing why most of us in the know thought him to be a top ten player. But the winner has to be the game growing exponentially all around the world. Let's just look at the worlds - all the CDC players looked competitive. The ladies looked very, very good. The Asian Tour goes from strength to strength. The DPA circuit has given us another World Series winner. We've had breakthroughs from players in Poland, Portugal, Spain, France, Romania, even slightly more traditional areas such as Ireland are at the highest levels they've ever been. Japan made the World Cup semi final. The game on a global scale has never been so healthy.

Best new tour card holder

Previous winners:
2017 - Richard North
2018 - Danny Noppert

Nominees: Jamie Hughes, Jose de Sousa, Harry Ward

Winner - Glen Durrant

There can only be one winner here, can't there? Hughes has had a very good season, good enough to win a Euro Tour and make the Matchplay on not even a full year's worth of events. de Sousa's come from relative obscurity to win two titles and play at a level that's solidly in the top 32. Ward deserves a mention more or less solely for having won a Pro Tour title as well. But it has to be Glen and it's not even close. Three major semi finals, multiple ranking titles, world quarter finals, into the Premier League. It's the easiest selection of any of these.

Most improved player

Previous winners:
2017 - Daryl Gurney
2018 - Jeffrey de Zwaan

Nominees: Jose de Sousa, Gerwyn Price, Fallon Sherrock, Luke Woodhouse, Krzysztof Ratajski

Winner - Nathan Aspinall

Last year, we were wondering whether Nathan's semi final run was a bit of a fluke. One major title, another televised title, a second world championship semi final and a Premier League place later, and it's not. He looks a danger to win any event he enters now, and we can see him defeat the likes of van Gerwen, Cross etc and we don't bat an eyelid. He's come on that much. Elsewhere, Fallon Sherrock is an obvious mention, coming from someone who most people didn't think was in the top four or five women in the world to someone who's beaten one of the deadliest young players in the world and then a Premier League player is remarkable. Gerwyn Price has continued to rise from someone who's in and around the Premier League, to being in a very short list of players we think can realistically claim major titles. Ratajski continues to up his game, claiming a European Tour title and putting up statistics that leave him in or around the top 10 in the world. de Sousa's ascent from being an interesting player to get a tour card to being a multiple title winner is very quick indeed, while I also have to give a mention to Luke Woodhouse, who didn't do much in his first year with a card, but this year did enough to make the year end majors and look extremely good on the stage with wins over Michael Smith and Daryl Gurney.

Player of the year

Previous winners:
2017 - Rob Cross
2018 - Gary Anderson

Nominees: Peter Wright, Gerwyn Price, Rob Cross

Winner - Michael van Gerwen

This is an incredibly tough one to call. I think it can only go to one of the top four players in the Order of Merit, the FRH rankings, all of whom are in the top five of points per turn this season. Despite him having a season that he'd probably think was disappointing, I think I have to give it to van Gerwen. He claimed two major ranking titles. He swept the non-ranking major titles. He won multiple European Tour events to lead that order of merit by some distance, and it was only players hitting absolute peak form at the right times that stopped him from possibly claiming more titles. Of the others - Wright won the world title, but one event does not make you player of the year, he had a nice purple patch just in the run up to the Matchplay, and won the World Cup, but there's not a huge amount on top of that. Price was able to retain his Grand Slam title, finish top of the Players Championship order of merit and reach that series' final, but similarly had a few early exits in majors which he might have avoided. Finally, Rob Cross needs mentioning for having added to his major title haul with the Matchplay and European Championship, reach another couple of finals in the Premier League and UK Open, but would it surprise you if I said Cross didn't win a non-televised event all year?

There we go. I'm sure plenty will think some of those picks controversial, but we like controversy here. Back maybe Wednesday with some shots in the dark at who's going to get through Q-School, once we know the final entry list.

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