Wednesday 7 December 2022

(23) Rydz, (1) Rock, (SWEuQu) Justicia

Callan Rydz - FRH #22, 454-380 (54.44%), 91.44 scoring (#25), 4.19 consistency
Josh Rock - FRH #37, 659-499 (56.91%), 94.64 scoring (#4), 4.62 consistency
Jose Justicia - FRH #94, 212-253 (45.59%), 88.02 scoring (#69), 2.74 consistency

What an incredible debut season it's been for Rock. After a bit of a rough start after winning his tour card on the final day, which started with four straight defeats as well as a pretty bad UK Open showing, more or less everything that Josh would have wanted to do in his season has happened, and he now comes into the worlds as one of the shortest prices to win the whole thing. Somewhat hyped through a couple of decent WDF showings in 2021, Rock is averaging only below van Gerwen and Heta in the Players Championship, and is only below the big three in all scoring across the whole of the year. Floor performances didn't quite improve quick enough for Rock to get into either the Matchplay or Grand Prix, but they got better and better, accumulating three quarter finals by the time half the season was done, reaching a first semi in June, before the penultimate block saw him reach a first final, then three days later a first title over Luke Humphries. The accumulation of all that floor money saw him seeded pretty high for Minehead, but he fell at the first hurdle to an excellent Cameron Menzies. Elsewhere, Europe has been great, reaching three quarters to get him to the finals, where he beat Aspinall before averaging 101 in a tight 10-8 loss to Michael Smith. In through the Development Tour, where he's won five titles this season and tops the averages at that level by nearly five points, Rock also made his Grand Slam debut, coming through a very tough group featuring Humphries, Searle and Scott Williams, putting him into a last sixteen tie with Michael van Gerwen, which was an instant game of the year contender, van Gerwen only managing to get the critical break late in the game to nick it 10-8 and hold off Rock's 104 average. The kid is absolutely for real and is already a danger to win any tournament he enters - he's also picked up the world youth championship to secure another Grand Slam return, has done enough on the floor that he should be seeded for the European Tour straight away in 2023, and it is surely just a matter of when, rather than if, he blows up in a TV event and rockets up the rankings. Could even be this month.

His first hurdle comes in the shape of Jose Justicia, the Spaniard winning his card back on the opening day of Q-School after a couple of years away, and is here through winning the south-west Europe qualifier, defeating WDF world finalist Thibault Tricole in the final. This will be his second appearance, making the second round three years ago having qualified through the same method - on that occasion he easily defeated Arron Monk, and would force Stephen Bunting into overtime in a real solid game. Back on the tour this season, it's been a moderately tough year where he's collected less than fifteen grand in Pro Tour money, but did at least get past Darren Webster and Eddie Lovely to cash in the UK Open before falling to Adam Gawlas, where he did hit a nine. European qualification was limited, only reaching the two events, early in the season where he beat George Killington and then took three legs off MvG in Hildesheim, then in Prague he went one round better, taking out a domestic qualifier then Jonny Clayton in a decider, before being one leg short against de Sousa an an Iberian derby. The floor's been mostly disappointing, only averaging a fraction over 90 to end well down the rankings, a best run of a quarter final in April with wins over Wright and Bunting, being unfortunate to not go further losing to Searle in a decider with a 101 average. This was offset with nineteen first round defeats, something he's going to need to improve on if he wants to retain his card beyond 2023 you would think. This is going to be an extremely tough match up, I've only got him winning this matchup 11% of the time. Which in a moderately short two horse race, is not much at all. He's not been playing badly, but this is the worst draw possible.

It's been a real up and down year for Callan Rydz, with this time last year seeing an enormous breakthrough with a run to the quarter finals, starting from the exact same spot (#1 on the Pro Tour) that Rock is right now, that pushed him up into the top 32, and things got better from there on TV with an early decent UK Open showing, taking out Aspinall and van der Voort before hitting Gerwyn Price, and he also had another good showing at Minehead with a quarter final run out of nowhere. Sure, he was helped with the really favourable circumstance of Heta losing in round one so he only had to navigate through Razma, Pietreczko and Barry to get there, all seeded below his #32 spot, but he took the chance when it came, right up until he was heavily outplayed by Jonny Clayton - a weekend where he also made the world youth semi final, but lost to the guy Rock thrashed in the final. In between then though, it's been a bit of a miss really. Winning just five legs in the Matchplay and Grand Prix combined isn't a great look, he only made just over half the Euro Tours despite being seeded for a couple (where he lost his first game both times), in fairness he did have a win over Wright and a good run to a semi final where he beat van Gerwen amongst others, but it wasn't enough to qualify for Dortmund. His floor form has been up and down as well - his averaging is just fine, safely in the top twenty for the year, and while he did have seven board wins, one of which he took to a final and another to the semis, he also had ten first round exits, plenty of them to players he has no business losing too. He absolutely has the top game to trouble Rock, when he's playing well he hits maximums for fun, but the lack of consistency means he's lucky to actually do it much more than one time in four. This looks like back to back posts where the seed will be dropping out.

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