Sunday 11 December 2022

(18) Ratajski, (21) Jansen, (AsCh) Nebrida

Krzysztof Ratajski - FRH #19, 539-487 (52.53%), 92.82 scoring (#14), 1.78 consistency
Danny Jansen - FRH #73, 278-318 (46.64%), 87.34 scoring (#75), 4.00 consistency
Paolo Nebrida - FRH #153, 22-15 (59.46%), 81.50 scoring (#87), 13.28 consistency

There have been plenty of players who have won a Pro Tour event out of nowhere. Even just looking at this year, you wouldn't probably have called Scott Williams or Keegan Brown to get one. Maybe not even Jim Williams. But Danny Jansen's win is truly one which makes you think what the fuck. The 20 year old claimed a tour card through the points reckoning back in January, and after a couple of decent wins over Gabriel Clemens, Michael Smith and Ross Smith in earlier events, gained a first board win in March before going all the way on the first of April, defeating Radek Szaganski, Willie O'Connor, Peter Wright, Krzysztof Ratajski (a prelude maybe?), Chris Dobey, Dave Chisnall then Andrew Gilding. Remarkable. Was this to be the birth of a new Dutch star? If it is, he's not backed it up for the rest of the season, as in the remaining 21 events, he only won his board on one further occasion facing a strongest opponent of Ryan Meikle, and before that he would suffer an eleven event streak immediately after the win where he went out in the first round every time but one, that one being a low quality slugfest against Eddie Lovely. So are we saying this was a fluke? Right now, yes. Sure, he's still got multiple years of Development Tour available ahead of him, so he may well develop into a solid player, but from what we can see right now, it's a fluke. Danny finished outside of the top 100 (unfiltered) averages in the Pro Tour, could only just about get into the top 50 on Pro Tour money despite the bink, giving him Jose de Sousa in round one at Minehead where he lost comfortably, he did cash the UK Open after beating someone in from the Development Tour then Scott Mitchell before losing heavily to Ricky Evans, and he was outside the top twenty in averages on the Development Tour, where he only played nine events, getting to one quarter final and one round of sixteen. He did have some minor European Tour success, without which he wouldn't be here, making three events and winning a game in each of them, over Szaganski, van der Voort and Kleermaker, and did push through one round further in Austria with a win over Luke Humphries before dropping his average ten points the next day, not winning a leg against David Evans. Still developing, sure, but right now it seems as this might be a case of a little bit too much too soon and he's just had everything go perfectly on one day.

Nebrida is here through being the finalist in the inaugural Asian Championship, where he lost to Christian Perez, and is moderately unknown outside of this event, but we'll look back a bit further on the debutant shortly. Paolo was in a group with a couple of unknown Japanese players, beating one easily enough but needing a decider to get past the other guy in a straight playoff for a last sixteen spot. From there, he got past Lee Lok Yin, Jun Matsuda and Toru Suzuki, before going down 7-5 to Perez in the final. Averages there were alright, pretty much 85 overall, which isn't too bad, so we'll see how it translates. Maybe a touch worrying is that only 22 of the legs he won were done in 15 darts or less, and he gave away a lot of legs cheaply, so Jansen may be able to capitalise on that. Looking back further, he was one game away from appearing last year having lost in the Philippines qualifier final to Lourence Ilagan, and did appear on the Asian Tour while that was still a thing (and thankfully will be a thing again this upcoming year), and while he didn't get overly deep in any of the events, did make some quarter finals, and got a few good wins over the likes of Perez, Royden Lam, and Harith Lim. These seems like it may be a little bit of a step outside of his comfort zone and a step up in class, but his area produces good players, we've seen some alright scores, and given he's drawn arguably one of the weaker Pro Tour players, may have decent chances to come through this one.

As we crown a new World Master in Wesley Plaisier, a former champion in Krzysztof Ratajski awaits the winner of the two players above in the second round. Like a few players we've talked about already, it is questionable whether his best game is now behind him, but his best game was at a top ten standard fairly recently, and he is still solidly in the top sixteen in terms of year long scoring, so while his official ranking has just slid outside of the top sixteen, it's fairly likely that Ratajski will continue to produce high quality darts for the foreseeable future, and given the consistency score, which is very low, maybe he has just been unfortunate in terms of results over the past twelve months, and while his great major record in 2021 was possibly overperforming, his mediocre TV record in 2022 might be unfortunate. Scanning through his record, his opening round game in the UK Open was against Gerwyn Price, at Blackpool he beat Bunting and then took Peter Wright into additional legs in what was a cracking game, in Leicester he beat Rydz before playing Wright again, losing in a deciding set, a relatively poor record on the European Tour saw him only sneak into the field as the last man in and he lost to Luke Humphries, and while he'd like the Slam qualifier back losing in the first game to Andy Boulton, the second Minehead trip saw him again lose to Humphries, this time in round three after he knocked out O'Connor and de Sousa. So it's fair to say the draws haven't been doing him any favours, although I don't think he'll complain too much about this opening tie. Lower down the order of importance, Europe was a struggle with several opening game defeats as a seed to Lewy Williams, Rock, Evans, Gilding, Woodhouse and Meikle, none of which earned him any ranking money, and has now forced him out of the Euro Tour seeds for 2023, and only one quarter final was achieved. The Pro Tour wasn't as bad, and he did make one final back in August where he lost to Nathan Aspinall, but after that he had a run of eight events where he lost to players he really should be beating, the only ones that might have been slightly less controversial being the last two where he lost to Schindler and Wattimena - the latter fine year long, the other also fine to some extent given Jermaine's recent big upswing. Prior to that final, he was doing just fine, winning his board on ten occasions and pushing things to a quarter or better four times. He ought to be more than comfortable here, and get through to a potentially classic match up against Dimitri van den Bergh.

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