Saturday 22 January 2022

Tungsten Analysis 2021 Awards

Alright, let's get through this, but got to give huge props to Scott Williams for picking up BOTH Challenge Tour events yesterday. That's one hell of a display of not only good play but also stamina, it's something that has been done before, but not since 2014, will certainly put him in an excellent position to get onto all the early Pro Tours and in pole position to get a tour card and World Championship position for 2023. The absence of Sherrock is baffling - it is in her back yard, it is a legitimate route to getting a tour card, and we've said for a while she needs to work on her floor game. So she misses the weekend. Very odd.

A reminder of the provisos we have for this - a player can only win one of player of the year, most improved player, best new tour card holder and best young player (in that order), we're not professional football writers who'll say Bale is the best player and best young player at the same time. Don't be greedy.

Best single tournament performance

Previous winners:
2017 - Phil Taylor, World Matchplay
2018 - Gary Anderson, World Matchplay
2019 - Peter Wright, World Championship
2020 - Ryan Searle, Players Championship 3

Nominees: Aaron Beeney, Players Championship 10, James Wade, UK Open, Rob Cross, European Championship, Joe Cullen, Players Championship 13, Brendan Dolan, Players Championship 5

Winner - Peter Wright, Players Championship Finals

There's not really a standout performance, unless you consider Jonny Clayton in the Premier League, but I'm not entirely sure whether batting slightly north of .500 over the course of the season then coming up good in the final is really worth it, could also chuck in John Henderson in the World Cup, but that is a team event and while he more than pulled his weight, I'm not sure I can give it. We'll go with Wright winning the last major before the worlds - he had one heck of a tough run despite being the number two seed, Keane Barry in the first round is a real tricky customer, then he got a twice world champion, an ultra dangerous Damon Heta, MvG, before Clayton in the semis then was pushed all the way by Ryan Searle in the final. Of notable mentions, Beeney's run to the semi final where he took out two world champions was a true highlight, Wade's UK Open win was deceptively tough with Joyce, Cross, Clemens, Whitlock, Price and Humphries being his route. Speaking of Cross, he may not have run into the toughest names, but apart from MvG in the final, nobody got close to him, and given the pressure he was under with the amount of money being defended, it's definitely worth the mention. Then we've got a couple of PC wins to round it out - Cullen going through White, Wade, MvG and Price from the last sixteen onwards is a tricky run, while Dolan got no easy games in his bink, with Lowe averaging a ton in round one, the oft-dangerous Jamie Hughes, then Price, Heta averaging 104, Mitchell averaging even higher, the one-seed Cullen before edging out Michael Smith in the final.

Match of the season

Previous winners:
2017 - Rob Cross v Michael van Gerwen, World Championship
2018 - Gary Anderson v Mensur Suljovic, World Matchplay
2019 - Peter Wright v Noel Malicdem, World Championship
2020 - Michael van Gerwen v Joe Cullen, World Championship

Nominees: Ryan Meikle v Dirk van Duijvenbode, Players Championship Finals, Michael van Gerwen v Nathan Aspinall, European Championshp, Michael Smith v Gerwyn Price, World Championship, Fallon Sherrock v Dimitri van den Bergh, Nordic Darts Masters, Gerwyn Price v Kim Huybrechts, World Championship

Winner - Michael Smith v Jonny Clayton, World Championship

This game had it all in the rare occasion where an evenly matched (in terms of seedings at a minimum) pair in a hyped up match delivered epically, with Smith coming from a 2-0 deficit in sets to send us to overtime in a deciding set, which he's just able to nick right before we hit sudden death. Elsewhere, it's been a little bit of a lean year in terms of classic games, as an awful lot of matches seem to be somewhat one sided - the Meikle/Dirk game was hidden away on board two but is a true must see with both players averaging over 105, Aspinall and Sherrock produced epic comebacks in the respective games I've listed, Fallon getting over the line but Aspinall running into an eleven on throw from Michael in the decider, then we've got a couple of Price games in the worlds - the game against Smith was almost as good as the game Smith was involved in from the previous round, while Huybrechts was able to bring his best game to get a lead, then when we thought he was done after Price rolled off six straight legs, he was able to hold his nerve and take us to set seven, which went all the way to a decider.

Most disappointing season

Previous winners:
2017 - Benito van de Pas
2018 - Rob Cross
2019 - Raymond van Barneveld
2020 - Adrian Lewis

Nominees: Glen Durrant, Michael van Gerwen, Steve West, Devon Petersen, Jermaine Wattimena

Winner - Jeffrey de Zwaan

It seems like an age ago since de Zwaan was a Matchplay semi finalist, winning ranking titles, looking like eliminating Peter Wright in the worlds he was able to win, now he's had a horrific year where he won his board just once on the Pro Tour, and collapsed in the rankings from being high enough to qualify for the Masters, then fall enough to be outside of the world's top 32 and not even make the world championship. Elsewhere, Durrant's issues have been well documented, van Gerwen won basically nothing of note at all which is a huge disappointment for someone playing as well as he has been doing this season, finishing off with being screwed in the biggest event of all, West is in severe danger of losing his tour card after having a horrible year on the floor (albeit he did win more than de Zwaan did), Petersen's suffered a horrible regression in form after an epic 2020, while Wattimena has fallen back severely, just scraping around and only just getting into the major events, and not looking useful when we have seen him.

Best young player

Previous winners:
2017 - Justin van Tergouw
2018 - Luke Humphries/Leighton Bennett
2019 - Keane Barry
2020 - Callan Rydz

Nominees: Luke Littler, Callan Rydz, Sebastian Bialecki, Fabian Schmutzler, Bradley Brooks, Nathan Rafferty

Winner - Rusty-Jake Rodriguez

Incredible year for the Austrian, only just missing out on getting a card through Q-School, he was able to get into pretty much all the main tour events he wanted, average very solidly there (within the top 50), as well as claim five Development Tour titles to score more cash as the next two players in the rankings combined. A phenomenal year that shows he belong on the Pro Tour to stay. Other players of note saw Littler make huge waves on what consists of the non-PDC scene to qualify for the WDF worlds as a seed despite not even being old enough to play on the Development Tour, Rydz follows up his win last year with more Pro Tour titles and big major runs, Bialecki made his name with a nice UK Open cameo where he made the fourth round and hit a nine darter, as well as claiming titles on both the Development and Challenge Tours, Schmutzler came from nowhere to dominate the second weekend of the EU Development Tour, winning two titles and making a further final to qualify for the worlds, Brooks followed up his world youth title by claiming three Development Tour wins and the outright UK tour win, and had a very good showing at the Grand Slam where he gave Gerwyn Price a great scare, performances almost matched by Rafferty, who's continued to develop and will finally get to show what he can do on the main tour in 2022.

Most disappointing news of the season

Previous winners:
2017 - Phil Taylor still not getting it quietly
2018 - Everything to do with the UK Open
2019 - Everything to do with the BDO
2020 - Kyle McKinstry and Wessel Nijman match fixing

Nominees: Deaths of Kyle Anderson and Andy Fordham, Sportradar somehow getting worse, Gerwyn Price being forced out of the Premier League, the WDF calendar being massacred, all the withdrawals from the World Championship

Winner - Everything to do with the European Tour/European Championship

Where to start on this one? While an awful lot of this is out of the PDC's control, this could surely have been handled much, much better. There were weeks across the summer where one could have been put together, in England if necessary, and they're holding unranked exhibitions in multiple European countries, which could probably have been cancelled and European Tour events held in their place, pushing the European Championship Finals back to the end of October. As was, we somehow had less events post-meltdown this year than we did in 2020, and the lineup was a joke as a result, with multiple big names missing out due to a couple of quick events, the comedy situation where players could win just one match and be in, and if it was in Gibraltar it took preference, it was a complete clusterfuck. Elsewhere, we've lost two of the sport's nice guys way before their time, the bane of the statistician's life, Sportradar, redesigns and makes it even harder to get any useful information, and the PDC's continued usage of it when Dart Connect is a clearly better system in every sense is baffling, we're still yet to see a full return to a non-PDC calendar with the WDF's worlds being pushed back (probably too soon), still no sense that we'll see a Dutch Open any time soon - then we come to the withdrawals. The PDC could easily have worked their schedule around to accommodate Price's false positive result. Have him pull double shifts later. They've done this before, they could have got their world champion and world number one into their biggest exbo. Then we saw a top three player and multiple others being denied the chance at the worlds - here the scheduling and the likely conditions they were working under probably didn't give them much chance to work around it, but it seriously damaged their main event of the year.

Personal highlight of the season

Previous winners:
2017 - Mensur Suljovic wins the Champions League
2018 - Ian White claims a European Tour title
2019 - The explosion in quality from non-traditional areas
2020 - The PDC's efforts to get some sort of calendar on

Nominees: Chris Dobey finally winning a title, John Henderson getting a World Cup win, Jose de Sousa's triple tops out vs Aspinall, Borland's nine

Winner - Matt Campbell winning his tour card

The amount of effort that Jeff Smith has had to go through with the ridiculous Canadian restrictions to play in the Pro Tour has been well documented by him. For Campbell, it's just as bad, except the lower prize money on the Challenge Tour makes things much more of a risk, so for him to commit to the EU Challenge Tour, and then to claim three titles and his card under those circumstances was incredibly pleasing to see. In other spots, the reaction of Henderson to be able to claim the World Cup where he was arguably the better player in the team was great to see, there were a couple of really nice moments where de Sousa brings out the exhibition (is it?) checkout against Aspinall and where Borland produces the leg of his life when it mattered the most, and Dobey was finally able to break his title duck, which will surely relieve a lot of pressure and allow him to push forward to greater things in 2022.

Best new tour card holder

Previous winners:
2017 - Richard North
2018 - Danny Noppert
2019 - Glen Durrant
2020 - Damon Heta

Nominees: Florian Hempel, Jason Heaver, Lewis Williams, Scott Mitchell

Winner - Alan Soutar

It has to be Soots really. He did so much early with his dominating performances and UK Open showing that there was only going to be the one winner here. Certainly within the realms of possibility that if he continues this level of play that he's up in the top 32 by the end of the season. Great stuff. Hempel could have run him close if he hadn't missed much of the early part of the season, certainly one to watch and is in a tight run to see who will partner Clemens at the World Cup with the returning (i.e. not new) Schindler and Hopp. We've then got three players who all did enough to qualify for the worlds in their first season, Mitchell is probably the best known players from his BDO days, but has looked extremely competent, winning multiple boards, Williams did flash occasionally on the Development Tour and in the UK Open before getting a first run at the main tour and more than holding his own, then we've got the lesser known Jason Heaver, a bit of a random name in terms of card winners, but he was able to get through to an early Pro Tour semi and generally produce enough to make the worlds, where he got a win and is at least giving himself a shot at holding a top 64 spot at the end of next season.

Most improved player

Previous winners:
2017 - Daryl Gurney
2018 - Jeffrey de Zwaan
2019 - Nathan Aspinall
2020 - Devon Petersen

Nominees: Ryan Searle, James Wilson, Chris Dobey, Aaron Beeney, Raymond Smith, Florian Hempel

Winner: Martin Schindler

We were seeing spots of this last season, where Schindler was probably the best player statistically not to have made the worlds, but what he's done since then is pretty remarkable, completely crushing Q-School, winning the German Superleague, and just relentlessly scoring all over the place and seemingly winning his board every other Pro Tour. In other mentions, Searle is at the level where he's making major finals, winning Pro Tours, and being talked of as a possible Premier League wildcard (at least before they reduced the field), Wilson really upped his game in 2021 compared to previously and was looking in terms of numbers back like a top 32 player, if not in results, and wasted zero time in getting his card back. Dobey's figures are at a top ten level, he's finally won Pro Tours and there is no ceiling in terms of how far he can go, Beeney upped his game hugely, even outside of that previously mentioned semi final, certainly not looking like the free win he was for most of 2022, Smith's performance in the worlds indicates he's got a heck of a lot better than he was when we last saw him, which given how the domestic scene in Australia has got a lot weaker given how everything is fragmented is quite the achievement, while Hempel is a name we've seen for a while on the fringes of the European Tours, but we've not seen him play anywhere near as well as he has done this season.

Player of the year

Previous winners:
2017 - Rob Cross
2018 - Gary Anderson
2019 - Michael van Gerwen
2020 - Gerwyn Price

Nominees: Peter Wright, Gerwyn Price

Winner: Jonny Clayton

Wright and Price may have won more major titles, but in terms of how they have all performed in comparison to where they started at in 2021, it clearly has to be Clayton. Winning the Masters was a bit of a surprise, but that happened, it got him into the Premier League, he won that, was able to get an effective clean sweep of unranked TV titles by getting the World Series finals as well, and then crushed the world number one to claim a first ranked major in the Grand Prix. A remarkable year to push himself up into the top four in terms of quality.

That's the lot, feel free to disagree in the comments!

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