Tuesday 13 December 2022

(26) Dolan, (19) Hughes, (WEurQ) Hendriks

Brendan Dolan - FRH #27, 398-389 (50.57%), 90.87 scoring (#33), 4.20 consistency
Jamie Hughes - FRH #56, 367-354 (50.90%), 90.91 scoring (#31), 5.23 consistency
Jimmy Hendriks - FRH #110, 177-249 (41.55%), 87.54 scoring (#72), 4.76 consistency

It's been a fairly quiet year for Jamie Hughes, not really coming to anyone's attention in terms of results, but statistically holding his own in and around the top 32 level, maybe giving hints that he's heading back in the right direction towards the level where he was when he first switched to the PDC and quickly won a European Tour title, although he is still some way off that. Hughes suffered a first round defeat this time last year to surprise package Raymond Smith, and since then has only appeared in the two Minehead majors - doing alright in the UK Open to get wins over Madars Razma and Adam Gawlas, before being drawn against Gerwyn Price and managing to get all the way to a deciding leg. The Players Championship Finals also saw Jamie reach the last 32, taking out Stephen Bunting in the opening game, but running into an in form Ryan Searle immediately after. Jamie qualified for that with a series of steady if unspectacular floor performances, getting through to the second round more often than not and pushing onto the board final ten times, although he would achieve only the one quarter final on the season, this being in the block right before the Matchplay where he was probably throwing his best stuff, making board finals the day before and after that quarter. Hughes augmented these results with a few European appearances, qualifying five times but not getting past the second round at all, losing to Whitlock, Plaisier and Larsson in the opening games in three of them, only managing the one win over van der Voort given his other second round appearances was as the result of getting one of many byes which were flying around this season. Hughes is safe with a tour card this season despite the second year where he was making majors falling off the rankings over the course of the last twelve months, so this represents a decent chance to start with a fairly clean slate and build back towards the top 32.

Standing in his way is Jimmy Hendriks, the 28 year old Dutchman making his PDC debut through winning what is an always tough western Europe qualifier, defeating former BDO star Richard Veenstra and card holders Maik Kuivenhoven and Max Hopp along the way. This will give him a first appearance but he has appeared on the other side twice, with a best run to the second round at Lakeside nearly a decade ago. Hendriks has been on and off the tour for a while now, and reclaimed a tour card back through the points system in January, but has had a very rough time on the floor circuit, averaging outside the top 150 players (obviously some of those with small sample sizes), and has failed to win his board at all this season, only even being able to even attempt to win it twice, and losing in the opening round more often than he's won in it. The scoring levels indicate that he's a bit off the level needed in order to retain a card after next year barring major improvement, and winning this game seems like way too much of an ask, looking like he only has a 15% chance to win it. He didn't cash the UK Open having lost in the second round to Kenny Neyens after beating Darren Beveridge, clearly was not close to making anything else, and he only qualified for one European Tour event all season, losing in the first round early on in the year to Martin Lukeman. It's great for him that he's qualified, but doing more than that seems like an unrealistic expectation.

Brendan Dolan awaits in round two, and the veteran from Northern Ireland will make his fifteenth straight appearance on this stage, still holding on in the top 32 for now, but how much longer that will be the case for remains to be seen, given his Pro Tour ranking is only just in the top 32, and that his season highlight from 2022, a fantastic run on the floor which went all the way in July with wins over Noppert, Heta and Clayton amongst others, is scheduled to drop off the Pro Tour rankings right before the Matchplay cutoff in 2023. After that win, Dolan's form has dropped somewhat, not winning his board in nine attempts, which also somewhat coincides with a fall in rankings meaning he ceased to be seeded on the Euro Tour, and Brendan didn't qualify for any of the last five events. Earlier on was OK, on the floor Dolan did make a semi and a quarter, and was a Euro Tour regular as a seed, but lost the opening game five times, hence not getting ranking money, only making progress in Leverkusen and Stuttgart with wins over Andrew Gilding twice and Danny Jansen. TV events have been similarly disappointing, as outside of the World Cup he's failed to get a win, losing heavily to Chisnall in the UK Open, being in a good spot against Noppert but losing six legs in a row in the Matchplay, going out of the Grand Prix in straight sets to Stephen Bunting, and Jermaine Wattimena would knock him out of Minehead last time out. The form is a concern, and he's definitely a seed in trouble - year long projections put this one fairly close, but with him playing his best early on, Hughes is probably favoured a bit more than the right side of a flip to knock him out.

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