Sunday 11 December 2022

(12) Chisnall, (2) Gilding, (ChaT) Owen

Dave Chisnall - FRH #17, 789-572 (57.97%), 93.48 scoring (#12), 5.14 consistency
Andrew Gilding - FRH #39, 503-404 (55.46%), 92.74 scoring (#16), 3.94 consistency
Robert Owen - FRH #117, 167-158 (51.38%), 88.27 scoring (#65), 3.51 consistency

What a fantastic season it's been for Andrew Gilding, who after a very disappointing 2021 after regaining his tour card, has exploded back to the levels of form he showed at his peak where he reached the semi finals of the UK Open, rocketing to number 2 in the Pro Tour order of merit behind only Josh Rock, and looking back to being an extremely dangerous player with season long scoring well inside the top 20, albeit in the last few months the levels may have tailed off slightly. Let's work through the year - the first few Pro Tours were a little bit slow, and he disappointingly went out early in the UK Open to qualifier Graham Hall. However in early April he made everyone sit up and notice with a Pro Tour final run, losing surprisingly (in retrospect at least) to Danny Jansen, with a sick run eliminating Ross Smith, Lewy Williams, Humphries, Cross, de Sousa and Noppert. Quite the lineup of opponents. May would be decent - playing in three Euro Tours, reaching round two in the first, round three in the second (losing to Dolan in both events, beating de Sousa in the second one), and then a semi final in Zwolle, with another really good run over Plaisier, Ratajski, Searle and van Duijvenbode before Michael Smith was a bit too strong, and another board final was sandwiched in between those. Floor form would continue in the run up to the Matchplay, with wins over Aspinall, Noppert, Heta, Wade and Searle amongst others in a four event spell which saw two quarters and a second Pro Tour final, losing that one to Noppert 8-6. There's been a couple of board wins after that, but nothing spectacular, so what was he doing elsewhere? He got into the Matchplay and Grand Prix for the first time in seven years, taking Michael Smith to overtime in the former and Ross Smith in the latter but losing both times, then he would secure a European Championship debut with yet another final run, eliminating Whitlock and van den Bergh in deciding legs, then Zonneveld and Schindler fairly comfortably, before beating Clayton to reach a final, where he'd suffer a third 8-6 defeat of the year, this time to Dave Chisnall. Gilding would get a tough draw in Danny Noppert at Dortmund, but could maybe have done more at Minehead was maybe a missed opportunity, beating Ricky Evans with a good three figure average, but Keane Barry knocked him out in a deciding leg. Great season, but maybe the best work has already been done?

Robert Owen is his first round matchup, as a battle of former UK Open semi finalists takes shape. Stack Attack is going to be back on the tour after a bit of a hiatus following an excellent Challenge Tour season, finishing second only behind Scott Williams, collecting one title at that level over former Lakeside champion Christian Kist, and getting to two further finals. The averages on that level are a bit misleading, given that in a lot of the earlier rounds you are playing weaker players, but Owen was able to average in the top twelve of players who'd played at least 30 matches, which isn't bad but not brilliant, but it got him enough results to give him a return to the tour and a World Championship debut. The results did allow him to get into quite a few of the Pro Tour events, appearing in eleven and only losing in the first round four times, and against Cullen, Razma, van Duijvenbode and Wright, that's not an unreasonable return. His peak was a last sixteen run in May which featured a year best 104 average in a heavy defeat of Martin Schindler, but one result he may look back to in particular is a result in August, where he won 6-4 over Andrew Gilding. Owen's also taken advantage of non tour card holder status to take part in other non-PDC events, and he got a great result in September where he won the England Classic. While I think that Gilding's form isn't quite as good as it was earlier in the season, I can't see that Owen has enough of a power scoring game to really challenge, and I'd expect Robert to only get the win just over 20% of the time.

The winner will face Dave Chisnall, who looks like he's bearing into form at just the right time of the season, as he looks to defend semi final money. He's not done too much wrong, being in the group of players who are scoring at a level just below MvG (albeit at the bottom of that fairly large group), nearly forced his way into the Premier League with his final appearance in the Masters, assuming they would give it to him if he defeated Joe Cullen, and also adding another two ranking titles to his resume. The first was the bigger one as he claimed a third European Tour title - as mentioned above, it was in Belgium against potential second round opponent Andrew Gilding, but prior to that final he knocked out Klaasen, Aspinall, de Sousa and Noppert, recording a near 104 average in that semi final over a twelve leg spell. The second was on the floor in October, as he claimed another Pro Tour final with a win over Josh Rock, looking in superb form with 100 averages in five of the seven games and never dropping below 95 at any point, the closest being the board final where he got no help from his opponent in a whitewash. So the scoring is going well, he is picking up minor titles, the problem is the same as ever - converting it into something huge on TV, as he continues to be in the conversation of who's the best player without a major title, more so since three new players have won one this year. He was very disappointing in the UK Open against Boris Krcmar, got through one round of the Matchplay before losing an end of second session lead to Gerwyn Price who went on a 7-2 streak to win it, lost a deciding leg in the first round in Leicester to Dimitri van den Bergh, had a good opportunity in Dortmund but fell to Chris Dobey in the quarters, lost a winner takes all decider against Price in the final group game of the Grand Slam, then most recently was upset by Scott Williams in Minehead. This is a tricky opening game, year long I wouldn't give Chisnall even a 60% chance (although he would be the favourite), but given respective form I might nudge him up a few ticks. Get through that one however and it's not a bad section of the draw at all.

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