Wednesday 1 February 2023

Tungsten Analysis 2022 Awards

Bit late, but let's go:

Best single tournament performance

2017 - Phil Taylor, World Matchplay
2018 - Gary Anderson, World Matchplay
2019 - Peter Wright, World Championship
2020 - Ryan Searle, Players Championship 3
2021 - Peter Wright, Players Championship Finals

Nominees - Raymond van Barneveld, Grand Slam, Luke Humphries, Czech Darts Open, Damon Heta, Gibraltar Darts Open, Josh Rock, Players Championship 28, Dave Chisnall, Players Championship 25, Dirk van Duijvenbode, Players Championship 18

Winner - Ross Smith, European Championship

Seems like a pretty easy winner, with Smith being the longest priced major winner we've had in a while (I'm going to guess Noppert was shorter at the UK Open), performing consistently well to come through four current Premier League players as well as last season's runner up, coming through in clutch situations in every single round. In other tournaments, Barney rolling back the years to beat Gerwyn Price twice and reach a major semi final was an unexpected run, Humphries had one of the tougher runs you can have to win a Euro Tour but didn't drop a beat, if anything Heta's win was tougher with wins over Wright and MvG in the last two rounds, Rock's first title saw him register four averages above 105, while Chizzy and Dirk's wins in their respective championships were equally impressive against really tough fields.

Match of the season

2017 - Rob Cross v Michael van Gerwen, World Championship
2018 - Gary Anderson v Mensur Suljovic, World Matchplay
2019 - Peter Wright v Noel Malicdem, World Championship
2020 - Michael van Gerwen v Joe Cullen, World Championship
2021 - Michael Smith v Jonny Clayton, World Championship

Nominees - Peter Wright v Krzysztof Ratajski, World Matchplay, Michael Smith v Michael van Gerwen, World Championship, Josh Rock v Luke Humphries, Players Championship 28, Michael Smith v Dirk van Duijvenbode, Players Championship 16

Winner - Dirk van Duijvenbode v Ryan Searle, Players Championship Finals

Seems like there's been a bit of a dearth of quality games this season - a lot of majors didn't have much to write home about, I've put the final of the worlds in although there were plenty of games (Rock's last two, Williams/Clemens, DvD/Smith, Searle/de Sousa) that were probably better, the only game from another major on the main stage that I really recall was that back and forth tussle between Wright and Ratajski which went to extra time, while the two finals on the floor listed were super high quality without a greater than five visit leg between them. So I'm going for the hidden gem from board two at Minehead, which went all 19 legs, Ryan averaging a cool 103, which was not good enough to contend with Dirk's incredible 112 standard. 180's for fun, bunches of high checkouts, the game has everything. If you've not seen it, go on Youtube right now and watch it before reading any further. It's that good.

Most disappointing season

2017 - Benito van de Pas
2018 - Rob Cross
2019 - Raymond van Barneveld
2020 - Adrian Lewis
2021 - Jeffrey de Zwaan

Nominees - Mervyn King, Darius Labanauskas, Steve Lennon, John Henderson, Steve West

Winner - Ian White

If you'd have said three years ago that White, off the back of two European Tour victories in 2019, would be so far off the pace that he didn't qualify for the world championships, I'd have said you were nuts. That, however, is the reality, with his seasonal scoring dropping down below the 90 mark and having a horrific run of floor form in the second half to not reach a board final at all and miss out on all the majors. Elsewhere, King looked pretty bad in the first half of the year, has slid hugely down the Pro Tour rankings and, while probably not in a situation where he might lose his card, is certainly going to struggle in 2024. Darius needed the SDC rankings to make the worlds after performances dipped hugely from making a tricky major in 2021, Lennon missed out on the worlds completely, not playing badly but just being really unfortunate with results, while Hendo and West lost their cards, neither getting so much as 20k in prize money and needing to rebuild on the non-pro circuit. John's shown some signs, Steve on the other hand, who knows.

Best young player

2017 - Justin van Tergouw
2018 - Luke Humphries/Leighton Bennett
2019 - Keane Barry
2020 - Callan Rydz
2021 - Rusty-Jake Rodriguez

Nominees - Beau Greaves, Nathan Rafferty, Luke Littler, Sebastian Bialecki

Winner - Josh Rock

Was this ever in doubt? No. I can't recall a breakthrough season of the likes since maybe Cross, and certainly not from someone this young. He's already in the world's elite, he is that good. If it weren't for Rock, it would probably go to Greaves, who's completely dominated the women's side, it's just a pity that she's not attempted the Challenge Tour and the jury is still out on Development Tour appearances. Rafferty gets a spot for actually winning the Development Tour ahead of Rock as well as showing flashes on the senior circuit, Littler continues to look extremely strong on the WDF side at senior level and we'll start to see him in the PDC real soon, while Bialecki remains one of the strongest players without a tour card who showed what he can do at the UK Open with a quarter final run.

Most disappointing news of the season

2017 - Phil Taylor still not getting it quietly
2018 - Everything to do with the UK Open
2019 - Everything to do with the BDO
2020 - Kyle McKinstry and Wessel Nijman match fixing
2021 - Everything to do with the European Tour/European Championship

Nominees - Cancellation/postponement of the 2023 WDF worlds, the European Tour bye situation, no French World Cup team, uninspiring 2023 European Tour venue announcements

Winner - Retrospective awarding of a World Championship place to the Women's Matchplay winner

This one was really quite ridiculous, in terms of the timings and the fact it was done after the event, everyone knows that if it was Aileen de Graaf having won it, they wouldn't have awarded the spot, but as is often the case with the PDC, commercial interests usurp competitive integrity, and it's arguable that someone could easily have lost their tour card on account of really wanting people to watch Ricky Evans win his first round match. Otherwise, it's not been a horrific year in terms of bad news - the worst is probably the WDF pushing back their worlds basically an entire year yet retaining all the places, making the whole point of this season somewhat moot, multiple European Tour events were wrecked on account of late withdrawals and having run home nation qualifiers in such a way that they could not get replacements in, while this has been fixed for next year, the amount of events in Germany seems more ridiculous than ever, while France being snubbed for the World Cup despite Tricole/Labre both looking very strong is a horrific omission which will surely be corrected in 2023.

Personal highlight of the season

2017 - Mensur Suljovic wins the Champions League
2018 - Ian White claims a European Tour title
2019 - The explosion in quality from non-traditional areas
2020 - The PDC's efforts to get some sort of calendar on
2021 - Matt Campbell winning his tour card

Nominees - Australia winning the World Cup, the Dutch Open being back in style, Karel Sedlacek's great season, Prakash Jiwa making the worlds

Winner - Danny Noppert claiming a major title

Will go through the nominees first - Damon Heta holding his own on TV and Whitlock playing his part to finally claim the title after being so close on so many occasions was great to see. Having the world's biggest open being properly fully back, albeit slightly delayed and with limited Dart Connect coverage which has already been addressed in this years' event, was incredible and the tournament is definitely on my bucket list of things to do, Sedlacek doing a bit of a Ratajski impression in running all over the European Tour qualifiers and secondary events to get into multiple majors was a terrific response to (temporarily) losing his card and surely the Czech Republic will finally win a World Cup game this season, while Jiwa getting into a huge event after so many years in and around the tour was something special. But it's got to go to Noppert, criminally underrated for so, so long, it wasn't pretty how he did it in the end, and wasn't rewarded as it should have been with a Premier League spot, but it's given him a world of confidence to have shown how good he can be, which has been followed up on TV multiple times since.

Best new tour card holder

2017 - Richard North
2018 - Danny Noppert
2019 - Glen Durrant
2020 - Damon Heta
2021 - Alan Soutar

Nominees - Ricardo Pietreczko, Connor Scutt, Danny Jansen, Mario Vandenbogaerde

Winner - Jim Williams

I could quite easily have gone with Rock here, and probably should have done so given this is a "better" title, but best young player seemed more fitting, so I'm going to go with the Challenge Tour winner from 2021 in Jim Williams, who's looked every bit a PDC player from the word go. Winning a Pro Tour title real early in the running, and scoring incredibly steadily making himself really tough to beat which was demonstrated at the worlds, 2022 has given him an incredible foundation to work on. Outside of him (and Rock), we've got mostly redoes, so there aren't too many "pure" new card holders. Jansen has to get a mention on account of having won a title, while Pietreczko, Scutt and Mario have all show themselves to be competent players with flashes of real good stuff, and are certainly all in a position where they can look to maybe retain their cards beyond 2023.

Most improved player

2017 - Daryl Gurney
2018 - Jeffrey de Zwaan
2019 - Nathan Aspinall
2020 - Devon Petersen
2021 - Martin Schindler

Nominees - Andrew Gilding, Wesley Plaisier, Karel Sedlacek, Scott Williams

Winner - Martin Lukeman

First up we've got a couple of non-card holders who've looked to be in absolutely phenomenal form in 2022, Plaisier was getting through the Euro Tour qualifiers on an extremely regular basis, as well as winning a Challenge Tour and looking great on the WDF side where he was able to win one of their majors. Sedlacek we've talked about somewhat already, Williams has dominated on the secondary level and looks a legitimate talent. Gilding has shown a great resurgence in 2022, but it's more back to the levels we've seen before and may already have tailed off, so I'm giving this to Lukeman, who's transformed himself from just a guy on the tour making up the numbers, through to an incredibly solid match player who's been able to play himself into all the majors this year. Some higher up players who I thought of nominating included Heta and Humphries, but they were already at quite a high point already.

Player of the year

2017 - Rob Cross
2018 - Gary Anderson
2019 - Michael van Gerwen
2020 - Gerwyn Price
2021 - Jonny Clayton

Nominees - Luke Humphries, Michael Smith, Danny Noppert, Beau Greaves

Winner - Michael van Gerwen

It had to go to Michael, but I've picked the one that most people wouldn't. If he'd won the world final then nobody would have batted an eyelid, it's just Smith's form at the back end, with the two titles including the big one, that is putting things into question. Still, it's got to be van Gerwen for me. Three major ranking titles, the Premier League, and another three Euro Tours to go with getting back to the sort of scoring where he looks like an outlier to everyone else again, that's enough for me. Smith is a totally fair call as well, with an incredibly solid floor game to go with the two wins and further two finals. Humphries did more than enough to be worth a mention, four Euro Tours and multiple good major showings is fantastic considering he didn't have a senior title of any description prior to 2022. Greaves just killed everything on the women's circuit, while Noppert got a major win and has been there or there abouts in lots of stage events, clearly doing enough in my eyes to be worth a mention.

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