Sunday 10 December 2023

Razma, de Decker, Horvat

I'm not quite sure how Madars Razma is in the top 32. It looks to be primarily on account of a decent first half of 2022, which did allow the Latvian number one to get into some of the majors. That's coming off of his record in 2024, but in 2023, what did he do? The answer is not a great deal. The floor season started well - picking up at least one victory in all of the first five Players Championship events, winning his board twice and pushing one of those events through to a quarter final, looking like he might be continuing some of his good form from 2022. However, things would go rapidly downhill from that point - not winning a board once all season after that, only getting to a board final twice, and losing the opening game an astonishing sixteen times, often to relatively unheralded players with nearly half those sixteen losses coming to players who have not qualified for the worlds. It would be such a downturn in form that Razma would not even qualify for Minehead, however the European Tour would provide a bit of a better return. Madars would make eight events, and get through the opening game four times, with a best run in Sindelfingen where Madars defeated Ritchie Edhouse and a below par Ryan Searle to reach the final day, only to come up a bit short against Nathan Aspinall in the last sixteen. In majors, Madars was seeded through to round three of the UK Open, but would lose a bit of a surprising one to George Killington. He wouldn't be a massive distance away from making Blackpool or Leicester, but his form on the European Tour did see him qualify for the European Championship for a second straight season, and in a match where he played fantastically, Madars would take Michael van Gerwen the distance in easily his best performance of the year, but miss match darts to dump MvG out and lose 6-5 in a deciding leg. The only other TV appearance was in the World Cup, where Razma partnered Dmirty Zukovs, getting through a group containing New Zealand and Bahrain, but would face top seeds England in the first knockout stage and lose 8-4. The van Gerwen game in Dortmund showed Madars' peak game, which we've known about, but huge portions of his career have been plagued with inconsistency, and that looks to be coming back into his game somewhat, both statistically and in terms of results, and a win through here would do something to try to arrest a bit of a negative slide.

Mike de Decker is here for a fourth straight year, and will be looking to go further than second round exits in each of the last two seasons to Dave Chisnall and Mensur Suljovic, this after a breakthrough season where Mike has upped his game and results, still looking for a first PDC senior title but doing enough all around to have pushed himself into multiple major events for the first time in 2023. Mike's floor scoring is at a top 32 level, and it's been turned into multiple good runs - in the third Players Championship weekend he'd reach a semi final, defeating Josh Rock, Stephen Bunting and Gian van Veen along the way, then go one further a few events later. After a couple of board wins, de Decker would reach the final of event 11, losing out to Rob Cross in the final, but getting the scalps of Luke Humphries and Gerwyn Price in earlier rounds. The second half of the season would be quieter, making another semi final and adding on lower prizes consistently, but it was good progress, which was also seen on some occasions in the European Tour. Mike only made the four events, which kind of took him out of Dortmund contention just on volume, but he won his opening game every time and made the final day twice, once in Riesa where he got through Michael Smith and forced Price to a deciding leg, then in Budapest he'd go one better with a first quarter final appearance at this level, beating Andrew Gilding, Josh Rock and Michael Smith again, but with the draw moderately open, he'd lose the quarter final 6-5 to Scott Williams. As mentioned, de Decker's been doing enough on the Pro Tour that he's got close to a full set of televised appearances - at the UK Open he came through a tight first game against Ryan Joyce, but lose out 10-8 in a local derby against Kim Huybrechts in the last 64. Mike made his debuts in the Matchplay and Grand Prix this season, losing in the first round on both occasions to Joe Cullen, but making a relatively good showing in each of them. Finally, it'd be another inter-Belgian clash that would see the end of his run in the Players Championship Finals, this time in a first round loss to Mario Vandenbogaerde. Mike's overall numbers are in and around the top 32 level, his ranking is about the same with very little being defended relatively speaking this season, and he has a favourable enough draw to perhaps push up into the top 32 proper in fairly short order.

Dragutin Horvat is making a second appearance at the World Championship, seven years after making his debut following a win in the German Super League. That time, he would lose out 2-1 in sets to Boris Koltsov, and it's the same method of qualification that sees him make his return. In the event this year, he was in a fairly weak group with just Max Hopp as a real notable opponent, winning eight of his ten games (losing only to Hopp and Dominic Gruellich) to qualify top of his group and into the knockout stages, where he would come through Nico Kurz, Lukas Wenig and Pascal Rupprecht in the final stages to book a trip back to London. What of the rest of the season? Dragutin started off at Q-School, and was one of the surprise names not to come through the first stage, missing out by a handful of spots on leg difference, leaving him looking at the Challenge Tour as one possible arena to play him. Horvat did, and had some good results - finishing in the top ten of both the rankings and averages. Horvat reached two finals, winning one in Hildesheim where he beat Christian Kist in the final, then next event up in Milton Keynes he'd come up just short against Berry van Peer. Horvat would also have a semi final and quarter final along the way, and looks to have done enough to book a UK Open debut in 2024. Dragutin was also eligible to play in the associate and home nation qualifiers for the European Tour, but would have his worst return in terms of qualification in some time, only making a single event in Munich, where he would beat Scott Waites but lose out to Dave Chisnall in the last 32. That's pretty much all he's been able to play - no WDF events that I can see, so it's pretty much just the Challenge Tour. Ending up with the results he's got backs up that we know he's an occasionally dangerous player, who has in the past looked unplayable for really short spells - if he hits at the right time and is able to get a set, he could make this opening game very interesting very quickly.

No comments:

Post a Comment