Sunday 6 December 2020

Section 6 - Anderson, Razma, Suzuki, Suljovic, Kuivenhoven, Edgar


It's been a quiet year for Gary really. He never plays the European Tour, so we weren't going to get any sort of read from that, but he also declined to play the Autumn Series, and only played the one game in the Winter Series, so there's a great deal of mystery about Gary's recent quality of play, particularly in light of looking a bit iffy physically at the Players Championship Finals - he did get through one round of that against Keegan Brown from behind, but despite having won the first event of the year against a tricky run of opponents including two world champions, two world championship finalists, a major winner and a Euro Tour winner, lack of play only saw him in the second quarter of seeds for that and he'd run into Michael Smith in round 2. He'd only make one other floor semi in the year, with an uncharacteristic series of early losses to players such as Beaton, Harms, Joyce (who also stopped him in that semi final run), Telnekes, Hamilton, Clark, Murray, Edgar, Hamilton... not inspiring.

So what of TV? Most of what we know is from the Matchplay, where he produced a lot of his best stuff to reach the final, although with Whitlock eliminating van Gerwen, he dodged most of the big guns, only needing to eliminate Smith and Wade, and wasn't really close at any stage to Dimitri in the final. That got him in the Slam, but he could only finish runner up in his group to Whitlock, and got hammered 10-2 by van Gerwen in the first knockout round. A defeat to Jelle Klaasen in the UK Open is a bit surprising, then finally after a couple of good wins over Cross and Noppert, he'd lose out to van Duijvenbode in the Grand Prix. Generally, there's something still there, but a combination of lack of match practice, possible injury concerns and general distractions make me wonder just how far he can go.

Madars has always been an up and down player, but this year had its fair share of ups, with the Latvian number one having a couple of highlights - one for development in his country was being able to get into the World Cup as a late replacement, and also be able to get a win against Hong Kong in that event, nearly forcing a pairs decider against Belgium as well. On a personal note, the highlight was a run to a Pro Tour final in the Autumn Series - he wasn't able to remotely threaten Wright there, but did get wins over Ian White, Devon Petersen and Dirk van Duijvenbode, getting some good money into the bank to try to build towards next year's Matchplay.

Outside of that it's been moderately quiet - Madars did win his board three times, in those runs being able to get good wins over Price, Petersen, King and Ratajski, and a relatively good record of just eight first round defeats, or a third of all tournaments. The UK Open would be a bit of a disappointment, while he did make the money he then lost to Scott Waites, then at the Players Championship Finals, he'd beat a slightly out of form Chris Dobey then, with a potential second round opponent of Ratajski already out, he'd lose a deciding leg to Karel Sedlacek. Always one that can hit plenty of good legs in quick succession, it'll be a case of being able to do so when it matters.

We'd normally be expecting to see Seigo Asada in the worlds, and with there being two Japanese qualifiers this year - the first the normal one, the second one of the hastily arranged ones to fill in spots late in the qualification process, it's somewhat of a big surprise that he's not here. That is if you ignore his form seemingly falling off a cliff completely. He isn't, and Toru Suzuki won that second qualifier, so will make his world championship debut. What do we know?

Frankly, not much. I can't see a dartsdatabase entry for him, although he did play some of the Asian Tour in 2019, getting a couple of 90 averages in one event, but only having the one run as far as a quarter final, his average across the whole tour being down at 83. The actual qualifier itself is a bit misleading, as he was up against an opponent who, like him, was seemingly making a career out of missing doubles, the two combined missing over sixty in eight legs, but a first nine average of 85 doesn't indicate great power scoring. Maybe he gets lucky and runs into Madars having a bit of a bad day, but if Razma can bring even his B-game I'm not sure how Toru will be able to keep this close.

Mensur's back for another crack, and will be hoping for a better outing than last year when he was stunned by Fallon Sherrock in his first game. It's not been the greatest of years, punctuated by missing the last two majors of the year for reasons somewhat beyond his control, but outside of that it's not been brilliant, as he's slid outside of the top 32, but is certainly doing enough on the Pro Tour and European Tour that he'll be sticking around the majors for a while. In the majors this year he's not made a quarter final - losing out to Jamie Hughes in the UK Open at the last 16 stage, pushing Michael Smith close at the same stage in the Matchplay, then an opening game loss to van Duijvenbode at the Grand Prix before winning one and done (Gurney then, oddly, Steve West) at the European Championship.

His floor performances have been fine though. He was only stopped in the last two European Tour events in the semi finals by Michael van Gerwen (one game was close, the other not so much) and made Sunday on all four occasions. He sat out of the Winter Series, but made a final in the Summer Series (again needing van Gerwen to stop him) and has a respectable record of five quarter finals or better from sixteen attempts, having also missed the last two events prior to the shutdown. While it's arguable that his best may be behind him, he's still a very dangerous player, I just wonder whether there might be a little bit of competitive rust that might be exploitable.

Maik's another debutant this year, and was one of the stories of the initial stages of 2020. Kuivenhoven, a tour card winner from 2019 who didn't make much of an impression in his first year, surprised everyone with a quarter final in the opening event of the year. Would have been easy enough to say he got a brilliant draw, which he did, but then next weekend he did it again - this time eliminating Ryan Joyce, Joe Cullen and Jason Lowe, only being stopped by a 110 averaging Peter Wright. He'd also cash the UK Open, looking pretty strong but being unfortunate to draw Gabriel Clemens in the first money round, and then get the scalp of van Gerwen in the last event before the break.

It kind of fell apart after then though, barring one or two good spots. The second event of the Summer Series was the best run he'd have, and he did manage to get another win over van Gerwen in that, but he'd only get five wins in the remainder of the Pro Tour. He did get a run going at Sindelfingen, beating Gurney and Durrant before losing out to Ian White, which was enough to get to Oberhausen, but was kind of making up the numbers and lost in the first round to Nathan Aspinall. He'd got enough in the bank early on to make the Players Championship Finals, albeit with a fairly low seed and he was swept aside easily by Damon Heta. It's the performances that are the worry - only low 80's in both those major games, and even in that Euro Tour run he only got significantly above 90 in the Gurney game. Probably the case that the interruption hurt Kuivenhoven's game more than most.

Maik's opponent is the leader of the Edgar Nation, who pulled things out right when it was needed by winning the PDPA qualifier, anything else would have resulted in Matt losing his tour card. Edgar took out Gary Blades, Martin Atkins and then finally former Pro Tour winner Josh Payne to claim a return to Ally Pally, and for once he won't play Darius Labanauskas, so might be able to get a win. It'll be Matt's second major of the year - he was pretty close to getting into the Grand Slam but couldn't convert in an effective best of three with the darts against Simon Whitlock, but the other major, the UK Open, was easily Matt's season highlight, getting wins over Callan Rydz and Josh Payne, before Dimitri van den Bergh was just too strong.

Edgar's remainder of the season was a bit of a struggle though, not winning his board on a single occasion and not being able to qualify for any of the European Tour events, having missed out in the final round three times (with some tough draws in those rounds to be fair). Thirteen first round exits will be disappointing, although they were mostly split between the Winter Series, where Edgar went 0-5, and in the eight before the break where he only managed two wins over Atkins and Webster. The middle series were OK - picking up three of his board finals in the summer, and averaging a win in each event in the autumn. The good thing is that he has an opponent in indifferent form, and has actually averaged more than Kuivenhoven over the course of the Pro Tour. We'll see what happens.

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