Friday 9 December 2022

(14) van Duijvenbode, (18) Sedlacek, (DPASat) Smith

Dirk van Duijvenbode - FRH #10, 770-612 (55.72%), 94.23 scoring (#8), 3.67 consistency
Karel Sedlacek - FRH #59, 292-301 (49.24%), 89.72 scoring (#47), 5.01 consistency
Raymond Smith - FRH #79, 77-55 (58.33%), 86.45 scoring (#80), 4.22 consistency

After the disappointment of losing his tour card at the end of 2021, 2022 has been an outstanding year by Karel Sedlacek, who will make his third appearance here, still looking to advance through to the second round after a narrow defeat to Ryan Joyce two years previously, and a less narrow defeat to Keegan Brown two years further back again. His performances this year have drawn some parallels to Krzysztof Ratajski from a few years back, in that he dominated one of the regional European Tour qualifiers, which got him into nine of the events and accumulate enough money in order to make the European Championship, a remarkable achievement for a non-card holder (which was almost replicated by Wesley Plaisier), albeit he did lose to Michael Smith, it's not a huge concern. This money, along with over ten grand from Players Championship outings, peaking at a last sixteen run in July, gets him in through the Pro Tour route, and gives him an outside chance of getting a tour card automatically - although that would be a big ask as he'd need to get through to at least the last 32 as a minimum, and it's more likely he'll need to return to Q-School, where he will be favoured by many to get a card. Those Pro Tour appearances are as a result of a successful Challenge Tour season, where he finished seventh in the ranking, getting to two finals losing to Stefan Bellmont and Andy Jenkins. Scoring has been solid, although it has tailed off a bit towards the back end of the season, and he is still somewhat up and down with a higher than average consistency rating, but approaching 90 for the season is extremely competitive and he ought to be more than a match for most international qualifiers.

Unfortunately for Karel, he faces Raymond Smith, who's similarly back for a third effort here and a second in succession, last season seeing him as a big breakout player with a surprise run all the way to the last sixteen, defeating Jamie Hughes, Devon Petersen and Florian Hempel, before getting into a great position against Mervyn King, leading three sets to one before seemingly running out of steam and allowing King to run nine out of ten legs and complete the comeback. That win would have given him a tour card, alas it was back to Australia and the domestic circuit - which he qualified through via winning the DPA satellite tour playoff, winning it fairly comfortably with a 3-0 sets win over Joe Comito. He was able to win plenty of the regional events, but how strong they actually were is very questionable, and also got involved in some WDF events, claiming the Australian Darts Open with a tight 10-9 final victory over Haupai Puha. Perhaps oddly he didn't play any of the World Series events, which would have given us a decent idea of where he stands against top talent, but he has looked strong in the recent Modus event this week with a dominant 13-2 record, although obviously that's not against the highest tier of opposition. This one's going to be hard to call - Sedlacek has played the better stuff over a larger sample size over the course of the year, but we know Smith's ability and he's not too far off the sort of level which will give Karel serious problems.

I suppose it's unfortunate for both that whoever wins will run into Dirk van Duijvenbode, who continues to get better and better, and is now firmly established in the top 16 in the world, is playing better than that with a top eight level of scoring, I suppose the only thing that has been lacking is a big win at a higher level, everything else is there. He's had a pretty decent set of major results - in terms of TV as a whole, the best was a deciding leg loss in the final of the World Series finals, but in events that matter he was able to get to a second major semi final at the European Championship with wins over Razma, Wade and Noppert before falling to Michael Smith, and he also made two further quarter finals, taking out Searle and Smith at Blackpool losing to Noppert, and then at Minehead just recently he got by Mansell, Gurney and Searle again. It's consistent performances, and will insulate him against prize money loss given he is defending quarter final money from two years ago. I suppose the surprise is that he hasn't broken through further - there's a lot of great players out there, but Dirk is capable of beating all of them, and you would think he could have made another final, or at least threatened in the European Tour. That was the weirdest one, he got through his first game ten out of thirteen times, but only made three quarter finals, not progressing any further, losing twice against van Gerwen and once against Gilding. Not making a single semi final seems unthinkable, but that's what happened. The Pro Tour was fine though, van Duijvenbode added two more titles to his resume, the first a nailbiter where he denied Searle and a 104 average in a deciding leg, the other not so much as he defeated Gabriel Clemens in a whitewash. This isn't the easiest draw by any stretch of the imagination, but Dirk's level is that high right now that a 75% chance of winning looks like only a tiny underestimate. The prospect of a last sixteen match with van Gerwen is very spicy indeed.

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