Sunday 10 December 2023

de Sousa, Edhouse, de Graaf

Seems like it's been a pretty anonymous season for Jose de Sousa, not really being able to make a massive impact at any level of the game, and the scoring levels being some way off where they were three to four years ago when he was at the peak of his powers. Might it be the start of a decline out of the top 32? He will be 50 this year, but that's for the future, let's look at now. On the Pro Tour, de Sousa had a couple of decent runs - peaking at a final in event ten, where he was able to get some notable victories over the likes of Luke Humphries and Stephen Bunting, but would get heavily routed by Dirk van Duijvenbode, and he did have another semi final run just before the Matchplay, but aside from that it's been pretty mediocre stuff - outside the top 32 in averages on that tour, twelve first round exits, and only the three board wins outside of the two events already mentioned. A top 32 player should probably be looking to get a bit more production than that. On the Euro Tour, it was pretty much the same story - he's been far enough down the overall Pro Tour rankings for some time now that he generally needs to qualify for these, and he did get into nine of them, which is the sort of return you'd expect someone with de Sousa's quality to make, but he wasn't really able to do a great deal once he got to the tournaments themselves, more or less averaging losing to the seeded player - three third round appearances were countered by two first round defeats, the remaining events being second round exits, and those three third round appearances were all in events where he did actually sneak into the seedings, so it's not as if he got any sort of notable victories in those events. On TV, he's still been able to accumulate enough ranking money to qualify for all the events, with the exception of the Grand Slam where he lost his opening game in the qualifier to Richard Veenstra (tricky draw to be fair), but it's more or less been one and done in all of them. In the UK Open, drawing Darius Labanauskas is probably what would be regarded as a kind draw, but he still made hard work of a 10-8 win, then in the next round he was only able to pick up three legs against Jonny Clayton. The Matchplay and Grand Prix would see tricky draws - he wasn't able to get anywhere near Luke Humphries in the former, but was able to force Gary Anderson to a decider in Leicester, but come up short. Jose did avenge that UK Open defeat in Dortmund, beating Clayton by the odd leg, but then play poorly and only muster a single leg to James Wade's ten in the last sixteen, then finally at Minehead he came in as the higher seed (just) against Kevin Doets, but lose out marginally 6-5. There's still some level of player here, I just don't think it's top 32 any more, and getting through to what would be a huge task against Rob Cross in round three seems like a minimum requirement if he wants to be seeded for here twelve months from now, especially with the 2024 Matchplay race already looking close as to whether he'll even qualify.

Ritchie Edhouse is back here for a fourth attempt at this title, and here for the third straight year, and he'll be looking to improve on a career best of the second round, which he achieved in 2020 (beating Boris Koltsov but losing to James Wade) and 2022 (beating Pete Hudson on the opening night before putting up an OK display against Gerwyn Price), and he'll want to do better than last year where he lost a two set lead to Dave Cameron. Qualification was fairly marginal, and came almost exclusively from the Players Championship - Ritchie couldn't rely on much of anything on the European Tour as backup, reaching just a pair of events, beating Shaun Wilkinson in the first event in Kiel but then losing to Dimitri van den Bergh, then in Sindelfingen he would lose his opening game to Madars Razma. The floor circuit was decent though, collecting enough to reach Minehead in the third quarter of seeds, although he had a moderately tough start, winning just a pair of games in the opening eight events, but would get a bit better in the next eight, only losing in the first round twice but only punching one of those wins through to a (lost) board final. Event 17 set him up nicely though, with a run to a semi final, albeit one where the strongest player he faced was probably Daryl Gurney, prior to a good performance in a narrow defeat to Gerwyn Price. Edhouse would get another board win a week later, before event 26 would see another semi final run, beating Damon Heta, Andrew Gilding and Peter Wright along the way before going down to Ryan Joyce. Another board win in the penultimate event of the season would give Edhouse another couple of grand, which would be just about enough to get him back to the worlds without needing the PDPA qualifier, and while he would probably have been safe if he'd missed out, it locks up the tour card for another year. With these results, TV appearances have been somewhat of a rarity - of course he played the UK Open, but would lose his opening game in round three, although having drawn Luke Littler and having got it to a deciding leg, it's not exactly a failure, then at Minehead later in the year for the Players Championship Finals, Ritchie didn't exactly get a bad opponent given the seeding he had in Brendan Dolan, and he would average higher in that match but lose out by the odd break. We know what we're typically going to get from Ritchie - generally solid play, some occasional upside the likes of what we've seen in previous Players Championship Finals, but not enough on a consistent basis to get up into the top 32, albeit clearly enough to maintain a top 64 place. On any given day however, there's a decent player in there.

Jeffrey de Graaf is making a return here for a third appearance, albeit a first one in five years, and he's still looking for a first win having lost a scrappy, tight game with Noel Malicdem in a deciding set in 2019 to end a tour card spell, and two years prior he got in through leading the European Pro Tour rankings, but lose 3-1 in sets to Jelle Klaasen. de Graaf, now representing Sweden as opposed to the Netherlands, is here through a second placed finish on the Nordic and Baltic circuit, finishing some distance behind Marko Kantele for the overall win, but winning two events (in Finland over Paavo Myller, then in Latvia over Lakeside semi finalist Dennis Nilsson) and reaching a further two finals, both to Kantele in Denmark and Iceland, would be more than enough to comfortably finish second a clear thousand euros ahead of Benjamin Drue Reus. What's he done this year outside of that? Things started with a disappointing Q-School, earning just a couple of points when a third would have got him through to stage two, leaving de Graaf with associate status. This did allow him to enter the Nordic qualifiers for the European Tour - Jeffrey made the eleventh event in Jena where he lost 6-4 to Dylan Slevin, as well as the final event in Hildesheim, where he put on a good showing in forcing Stephen Bunting to a deciding leg. Having played Q-School, Jeffrey did have the option of playing the Challenge Tour, but seemed to just use the natural first weekend as a punt (it always makes sense to play the first weekend, as a win can easily give you some Pro Tour opportunities), playing the first five events but failing to make a real impression, not getting past the last 128 in any of the events and then opting not to play any of them going forward. Jeffrey also played a small number of WDF events, but only getting points in the Swedish Open, and that was only through to the last 32 where he would lose to Dennis Nilsson. Jeffrey's still probably best known for being a bit of a notable player on the BDO circuit nearly a decade ago now, and while his game's not bad, it's probably not at the level it was back then, his 2015 game would probably put him at a level comparable to where Edhouse is now, but in 2023 he's probably an underdog, albeit not a significant one and there's enough of a game still here that this might not be a bad watch.  

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