Tuesday 12 December 2023

Dobey, O'Connor, Patel

2023's been a little bit of a breakout year for Chris Dobey - primarily in unranked events, where he was able to win the unranked Masters and, as a result, get selected for the Premier League and put up a respectable showing there, but he's also shown good consistency in television events, climbing up the rankings to the fringes of the top 16 in the world. On the floor, Dobey's numbers were extremely solid, but actual results might have been better - Chris would make five Players Championship quarter finals, but would not progress past that stage - there's plenty of players that haven't made a final in any given year, but someone of Chris' quality really ought to be making at least one semi final. He didn't have a bad season by any stretch of the imagination, making the board final half the time, but it could have been more. Similar on the Euro Tour - Chris only qualified for the six events, and while he would have a perfect record of making it through to the last 32, he would only advance to the final day once, that being in Munich where he got through Dimitri van den Bergh. Losing to Noppert twice, Rock, Humphries and Wright isn't terrible, but again you would think Chris would have had a better return. On TV however, Dobey delivered the goods, obviously he got that Masters win, but outside of that he was pretty darned solid. In the UK Open, he had a tough opening draw against Ryan Searle, but came through that, only to lose out to Brendan Dolan, then at the Matchplay he'd get a first win and then go further - winning against James Wade and Michael Smith, but would be unable to keep pace with eventual winner Nathan Aspinall in the quarter final. Another quarter followed at the Grand Prix, where Dobey took out van den Bergh and came from a set down to knock out Michael van Gerwen, only to lose a lead against Joe Cullen afterwards. It would be a quarter final again in Dortmund - due to his results he would only just squeeze into the field, but he'd knock out top seed Dave Chisnall and then Stephen Bunting, only to lose by the odd break to eventual champion Peter Wright. Another 10-8 loss would follow at the Grand Slam to James Wade after coming through the group stages, then at Minehead Chris would be a middling seed, taking out Raymond van Barneveld but then playing well in defeat against Dave Chisnall in round two. Overall, Chris has done it where it matters, but a few more performances at lower levels might have given him better chances to do even more.

Willie O'Connor is returning for a seventh straight year, after a so-so year where he remains in that cluster of players that would like to get up into the top 32, has shown flashes that he's capable of doing so (like he did in 2022 reaching a Euro Tour final), but hasn't really progressed much this season. Still qualifying for this after a steady season, it started off a bit hit and miss - on the floor he had just the one win in the first six events, but would qualify for the first two European Tour events, reaching the last sixteen with wins in Leverkusen after beating Marko Kantele and whitewashing Martin Schindler, before running into Rob Cross averaging 110. O'Connor would also have a nice UK Open run around this time, not as good as the previous year but still beating Devon Petersen, Jermaine Wattimena and Danny Noppert to reach the last sixteen, only to fall to a heavy defeat to Adam Gawlas. The remainder of the season was a bit of a flip in form - in the Players Championship, Willie would get to five board finals before the Matchplay, reach a season best quarter final immediately after the summer break and then add another three board finals towards the end of the season, but in Europe, O'Connor only got to a further three events, not getting past the first round in any as he lost out to Jelle Klaasen and James Wade twice. Not easy draws, but you'd think he might have had a chance of at least getting past Jelle. The only other ranked event Willie would play is the Players Championship Finals, where he would play Wade yet again and lose 6-2, having not made it through to the Grand Slam losing to Connor Scutt in the qualifier. Willie would play in a couple of unranked TV events - with a new partner of Keane Barry, Willie played in the World Cup but would suffer a surprise group stage exit to Croatia, and he did make it through the qualifier of the World Series finals, picking up a win over Gabriel Clemens and doing alright against Michael van Gerwen in the last sixteen, but not getting the victory this time. O'Connor's pretty clearly a top 64 player, but he's not shown enough this season to make us think he's in a position to push up further at this point in time.

Bhav Patel's a bit of a random name, and I don't think he thought he would be here - none of us did, until Prakash Jiwa allegedly did things, and he got the call up as a replacement. What do we know about him? It's not a massive amount, Bhav's one of the more unknown players in the field. He was originally the runner up in the Indian qualifier, which looked to be somewhat stacked in the other half with Jiwa, Nitin Kumar and Amit Gilitwala all there, and Bhav came through to the final, peaking with an average in the low 80's in the last 16. Of course, he lost the final 6-1, but that didn't matter in the end. What else do we know? Not a great deal. He appears to be London-based, and seems to play around the Super League level down there, but did show a bit of ambition in showing up to Q-School, losing a couple of close matches on days 1 and 2 with a high 60's average to Luke Smith and Shane Hayward, before getting a win over Richard Fowkes on day 3 prior to a 5-0 defeat to Arron Monk. This did enable him to play the Challenge Tour, and he played in 14 events, averaging in the mid 70's across 19 games, being able to get a couple of notable wins over a winner in the Development Tour and UK Open participant in Joshua Richardson, as well as over Max Hopp. There's not much more to say, he looks a fair bit of a way off the standard of O'Connor, and with most of the names in the Indian qualifier not actually living in India, you wonder how this spot is actually growing the sport?

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