Sunday 10 December 2023

Gurney, Beaton, Nijman

It's been a pretty good season for Daryl Gurney, who's playing probably the best darts he has since he was a Premier League regular and winning major titles, scoring in the top twenty in the world and showing signs that he might be able to reverse a slide down the rankings. Results have been a bit up and down, but generally OK, so let's go through what he's done. On the Pro Tour, Daryl has been extremely consistent, not reaching any finals would be a bit of a disappointment as there's probably enough of a player to reach one and win one, but he did reach one semi final, a further three quarters and just half a dozen first round exits. Scoring on that circuit has been good, and in particular the most recent results have looked great, with all of his last five victories being with over a 100 average, including one huge average against Ian White. The European Tour has been a little less fruitful, although he's shown a pretty good record of qualifying, only missing the two events out of thirteen. His best result would come in Austria where Daryl would get through to the semi final, coming through a brutal schedule of Stephen Bunting, Luke Humphries, Andrew Gilding and Danny Noppert, before ending up one leg short in the semi against eventual champion Jonny Clayton, but apart from that, he would only reach the last sixteen on one occasion - losing in the opening round four times and the second round five times, so it's primarily been a case of steady accumulation of small prizes. That's been more than enough to make all the majors outside of the Grand Slam where he'd lose in the qualifier to Steve Lennon. Gurney got a winnable tie at the UK Open but didn't get the job done against Callan Rydz, but he would have a best run at the Matchplay for four years, reaching the quarter finals after getting an overtime win against Rob Cross, then following up with a fantastic display against Gary Anderson, averaging well into three figures and only drop the four legs. Joe Cullen would be a bit too strong in the quarter final, with Joe having a perfect first session and Daryl only being able to split the remaining legs. The rest of the majors weren't great, getting a really tough draw in the Grand Prix against Luke Humphries, while he was able to get a win over Josh Rock in Dortmund but then lose to Gian van Veen in the last sixteen. Finally, Niels Zonneveld would knock Daryl out of the Players Championship Finals at the first hurdle with a solid performance. Daryl's certainly got the ability to get through this mini section and make a bit of a run, but a low seed puts him up tough opposition in the last 32, so he's going to need to be on his game.

Steve Beaton continues to stay a relevant figure in the world's top 64, and will continue his streak of world championship appearances which dates back to 2002 in the PDC and 1992 across both codes, and qualifies through the Pro Tour after another steady season. On the floor, Beaton averaged safely in the top 64, but didn't get brilliant results - usually winning his first round game, but not winning his board a single time, getting to the board final ten times but losing ten times. That would leave Steve in the spot where he barely got into Minehead at the end of the season, and a draw with Gary Anderson where he kept it close but came up one leg short. As such, Steve would need some results in Europe to get back to the worlds - a quarter final in the first event certainly helped, where he beat Adrian Lewis, Nathan Aspinall and Joe Cullen before going down to Jonny Clayton. Beaton made a further four events, winning his opening game each time but also going down to the seed each time, but the level of opponent he was getting in round one certainly wasn't trivial so getting that far was somewhat of a result. The end result was that he fell one place short of getting to Dortmund, which is fairly unfortunate, but with those results all coming before the Matchplay, coupled with the steady accumulation on the floor, did book Steve in for a Matchplay return after a couple of year's absence - useful additional TV money for sure. On TV, Steve had a nice little run at the UK Open, starting in round three and defeating Connor Scutt and Rowby John Rodriguez to reach the last 32, before going out in a one sided game to Rob Cross. Another one sided game would be seen at Blackpool as Steve drew Michael Smith, only being able to claim a couple of legs, and that would be that with Martin Schindler knocking him out of the Grand Slam qualifier. It's great that Steve is still able to play at a competent level after this long, but I doubt there's the ability at this point in his career to get back up to the top 32, and it's a case of how long he holds his card for from here.

Wessel Nijman is making his debut here, a successful return to the sport after a couple of years' absence because reasons, and he's done it through a good season on the Development Tour, finishing third - a distance behind the top pair of Gian van Veen and Luke Littler, but a solid distance ahead of Nathan Rafferty, and with van Veen making the worlds through the Pro Tour, Nijman was able to claim the second Development Tour qualifying spot, along with a two year tour card starting in January. Wessel was still unable to play when Q-School came around, so that took the option of the Challenge Tour out of the equation, and he's made no appearances in WDF events, so all we have in terms of gauging his performances is the Development Tour. Here, Nijman's made a great return to the sport - winning three of the events throughout the season, with final victories over former world youth finalist Nathan Girvan, and tour card holders Dylan Slevin and Gian van Veen. Wessel would also make one further final, and in terms of averages he was the highest out of anybody on the tour, more than the two players who finished ahead of him in the prize money table, more than any of the tour card holders that would play the circuit, anyone. Nijman also played the World Youth Championship, easily coming through his group and then defeating Cam Crabtree, Nathan Rafferty and Owen Bates, but in the semi final van Veen would edge it in a deciding leg despite Wessel having three clear darts at 24 to reach the final. Nijman was talked about and seen to have some potential from before he was absent from the sport, now it looks like he's starting to fulfil it and should be able to give Beaton a very tough game, and there's a strong argument that he's the favourite to win this match.

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