Friday 2 December 2022

(15) van den Bergh, (6) Rodriguez, (AsCh) Ilagan

Dimitri van den Bergh - FRH #13, 581-516 (52.96%), 92.93 scoring (#13), 4.05 consistency
Rowby John Rodriguez - FRH #36, 428-416 (50.71%), 89.52 scoring (#50), 3.84 consistency
Lourence Ilagan - FRH #123, 14-19 (42.42%), 78.53 scoring (#90), -1.14 consistency

What a great year for Rowby it's been. Having won his tour card back (by the narrowest of margins), he's had one of the best years of any new card holder (with the exception of Rock), and has planted himself into the world's top 50, which will rise solidly next year defending nothing. The key result was his run to a European Tour final in Trier right before the Matchplay cutoff, having tricky early ties against Noppert (as a first round match lol) then Price, before a moderately comfortable run to the final where he came up one leg short against Luke Humphries. He'd already shown some European form with back to back final sessions in May, but this final was the key one, as it thrust him into the Matchplay out of nowhere. He made the most of his chance as well, taking out Jonny Clayton before falling short against Dimitri, so this second round game could be a spicy rematch. He unfortunately missed out on the Grand Prix by a really narrow margin after having to withdraw from a Euro Tour for understandable personal reasons, but his Euro results elsewhere did get him into the finals tournament, picking up a big TV win over Gerwyn Price before being outclassed by Peter Wright. It looks like he's tightened up a lot of the consistency issues he previously had, but could ideally do with picking up the scoring slightly, an extra treble per leg would really solidify his claim to be a top 32 player.

His first round opponent will be Lourence Ilagan, in what should be an interesting cultural matchup. Lourence is making his seventh attempt here, a fifth in a row, and has yet to win a meaningful game here, his only victory coming way back in the day when they had extremely short prelim matches. He's one of four players to qualify via the Asian Championship, playing extremely good stuff in the group stage with a near 99 average in his first game, and a 95 in his second - which he lost, but still advanced on leg difference, but the knockout stage was a different story. Averaging exactly 18 darts a leg in a last sixteen whitewash was fine I guess, but the average dropped below 75 in his quarter final win over Ogawa, and didn't get back above 80 against Perez in a one-sided semi final. The scoring power in the World Cup wasn't much better, how much was down to Ilagan, I don't know, but they had plenty of help to do OK given they were playing Price and Clayton and still couldn't manage an 85 average. It is pairs I guess, which does kill the rhythm, but it's not great in any case. We know what we're going to get, he should be competent with occasional good legs or spells, but I doubt he has the first nine to be able to generate enough chances against someone qualifying at the top end of the Pro Tour rankings.

Dimitri will wait in the second round, and I think it's fair to say it's been a bit of a disappointing year for the former Matchplay champion, who had that winners' prize money drop off his ranking this season and has slid down towards the bottom end of the top 16 as a result. I say disappointing, as outside of not qualifying for the Grand Slam (maybe that's why I think it's disappointing?), he didn't make enormous inroads into most majors, with the exception of the Matchplay where he got through to the semis having been gifted a win by Rydz, beating Rowby as mentioned, then coming out on top against Peter Wright before MvG was a step too far. Outside of that, it was mostly one and done, last year of course he went down to Florian Hempel, at the UK Open he looked great in the first game before losing a close one to Ryan Searle, the Grand Prix wasn't too bad, edging out Chizzy and Clayton before coming up one leg short against Wright, was again impressive over Gurney in Dortmund before dropping a tight one to Ross Smith, then most recently needed every leg to pip Lukeman and Edhouse before running into an MvG-shaped freight train in the last sixteen. He's made three minor finals, losing 8-1 to Cullen on the Pro Tour and then 8-5 to van Gerwen and 8-6 to Wright on the Euro Tour. Maybe I just get the sense that he's got the quality of game, which is still clear top 16, that he should be winning something, or making deeper major runs. He should do better than last year - he's projecting as about a 75% favourite if he was to play Rowby again, such is the level of play he still has.

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