Sunday 11 December 2022

(27) King, (20) Campbell, (CDCUS) Baggish

Mervyn King - FRH #30, 377-376 (50.07%), 88.94 scoring (#59), 4.09 consistency
Matt Campbell - FRH #58, 385-354 (52.10%), 90.34 scoring (#36), 4.46 consistency
Danny Baggish - FRH #86, 316-333 (48.69%), 87.33 scoring (#76), 4.28 consistency

Matt Campbell's had a solid first year as a tour card holder having won the Challenge Tour in 2021, and competent results on the Pro Tour will see him return for a fourth straight year, albeit still looking for a first victory after having a somewhat unfortunate series of draws. Matt's accumulated just over thirty grand on the Pro Tour rankings this season, a bulk of it coming from a run to the final of Players Championship 13, defeating Hughes, Noppert, Ratajski, Hudson, Kleermaker and Clemens along the way, but coming up a little bit short in the final against Nathan Aspinall. This gave him a solid ranking and enough to get to Minehead, where he went on a bit of a run by taking down Beaton and Kleermaker (who had just defeated Aspinall in the first round, denying a possible rematch), before Danny Noppert was pushed all the way to a deciding leg. That wasn't the only success on the floor, Campbell also managed a quarter final late in the season with back to back ton plus average wins over Willie O'Connor and Josh Rock, but he'd have liked a bit more than just five further board finals, although he did win three of those. Campbell would like the UK Open back, Bialecki's a good opponent but averaging below 75 is just giving a free win for all intents and purposes, and his European Tour qualification was horrific, with just the one appearance in Austria, being beaten by Wesley Plaisier. Additionally, he did play some of the CDC events, albeit certainly not a full calendar, with a peak coming in the opening event in Indiana, winning it with a 7-4 victory over his opponent here in Danny Baggish. The scoring level is just fine, above 90 is very competitive, and I think he'll be pretty happy with how he's done in his first season, while still knowing there are obvious avenues for improvement, at least in results, as he looks to secure the tour card beyond just the two seasons, something he is in a good spot to do.

Someone who's a year ahead of Campbell in terms of tour card cycles is Danny Baggish, who, barring a miracle run to likely the quarter final, is going to be losing his card after two years after never really replicating the stage performances we have seen on occasions in the world championship and north American scenes on the Pro Tour week in and week out. The scoring isn't bad, certainly not by American standards, but it's just not there high enough and consistently enough, and he ended up with less than fifteen grand on the Pro Tour this season, which left Baggish reliant on the CDC ranking table to get here, finishing as one of two players with over a 90 average on that circuit and top in the rankings after two wins, a further three finals and only one event where he failed to reach the quarter finals. As such, he's still showing himself as one of the top players among an improving circuit across the pond, but it just hasn't worked out on the big tour for him. It was a bit of a rough start on the Pro Tour, picking up just two wins in the first fifteen events (both, oddly, against Kevin Burness), but he was able to push through to a best of a board final in event 23, then in the last six events he won more games than he lost (albeit only with a 7-6 record), so hopefully that will inspire a bit of confidence in Danny, particularly his final win against Dirk van Duijvenbode. He did get into three European Tour events at least (although he ended up withdrawing from one of them), losing to Keane Barry in one but getting a win over Thomas Junghans in the other before Ryan Searle knocked him out in round two. It's going to be a fascinating tie given the geographical dynamic, but I can't look past the Canadian in terms of picking a winner, looks a classic 70/30 to me. Danny's a bit better in front of a big crowd, sure, but Matt is kind of the same, so those factors should cancel out.

Both players have got a pretty winnable second round tie, as Mervyn King awaits in round two. Weird to say that given a quarter final at the start of the year, but this season has been a bad one for Mervyn, as at the age of 56, the game does look to be declining both in terms of scoring (under 89 is not where you would expect someone in the top 32 to be), and in terms of results, as his floor game has dropped to a point where he's failed to qualify for the Matchplay for only the second time since moving to the PDC, and then for the first time in each of the Grand Prix and European Championship. What's the cause? Dropping out of the European Tour seedings does not help matters, having to qualify and then beat a seed in order to win 3k, as opposed to just beating a qualifier, is that much more difficult, and outside of a very good run in Zwolle where he knocked out the number 1 seed in Gerwyn Price and then Chris Dobey before losing to Michael Smith in the quarters, it's just not happened, mostly failing to qualify and then, when he has qualified, losing to the seed twice (Noppert after the east Europe qualifier and then van Duijvenbode after a domestic qualifier) and then in the first round once to Bialecki. The floor game has been mostly a struggle, only winning a board twice, the first frankly thanks to an easy draw and his round three opponent not checking out 32, although the second did see a quarter final run and a win over Peter Wright, although Wright threw that game away from 5-2. The only time we've seen King in a major is at Minehead, and he averaged just 83 in losing 10-4 to Bunting in the UK Open, and then lost 6-4 against Ryan Searle last month with a bit of a better average. King's still got just about enough game that he could win this, but make no mistake about it, he will be the underdog against Campbell to the tune of about 60/40 if we do see that match play out. His best days are behind him and likely aren't coming back.

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