Monday 11 December 2023

Rydz, Pietreczko, Suzuki

Just under two years ago, we were wondering whether Callan Rydz, who had shown an awful lot of potential prior to his gaining of a tour card (particularly on power scoring), had made a breakthrough, following a six month period where he'd reached the quarter finals of the two biggest tournaments on the calendar. Since then however, the next two years have been more or less regression, with the occasional flash of brilliance, and with that worlds quarter dropping off his ranking after this event, he could be finding himself back outside the worlds top 32 and maybe regressing further. Let's look at his ups and downs over the season. There were some very early promising signs in the first quarter, with back to back quarter finals in the first two Pro Tour weekends, two early European Tour appearances where a win over Matt Campbell was achieved, some other alright Pro Tour runs and a par for the course type of run at the UK Open, defeating similarly ranked Daryl Gurney first up, before losing out in a fairly tight game in the last 32 to Peter Wright. From April however, Rydz would go on a bit of a lean run in the Players Championship, going on an eight tournament run with just two wins, getting to another three European Tour events but only getting the one win over Stephen Burton, not making the Matchplay so failing to defend any of his quarter final money. After the summer break however, there was a very nice purple patch, where Rydz had a one weekend spell where he would bink a title, and immediately follow it up with a semi final run the day after - getting impressive wins over the likes of Peter Wright, Ross Smith, Dave Chisnall, Gian van Veen, Damon Heta and Rob Cross, only having a twelve game winning streak snapped by Luke Humphries. After that, it was OK on the Pro Tour with a couple of board finals and a board win, but numbers were quickly inconsistent, and while that good weekend was in time for the Grand Prix cutoff, Rydz would be heavily outclassed there in the first round by Michael Smith. Rydz would not have done enough to make the European Championship, lost his first game in the Grand Slam qualifier to Mario Vandenbogaerde, and also be the unlucky recipient of a first round draw against Michael van Gerwen in the Players Championship Finals - although with an average nearer 75 than 80, I don't think it would have mattered who he drew in this instance. A return to consistent results is going to be needed going forward, and a run here would be useful, but the draw he's been given is probably one of the more brutal for any seed.

It's been the talk for some time as to who would be the next German to win a first title - would it be Clemens? Would it be Schindler? The answer to that would be neither of the above, as Ricardo Pietreczko, who was showing enough in 2022 to get a mention in the best new card holder category in the year end report I do, continued to develop and made a huge breakthrough right towards the end of the season, claiming the German Darts Championship and opening up a huge number of possibilities for the next twelve months. His season started off pretty well - before March was done he'd got a board win on the floor, done a fair bit better than that in event eight with a run to a semi final, and also have a new best European Tour run to a quarter final, defeating Geert Nentjes, Peter Wright and Stephen Bunting, only narrowly losing to Rob Cross in the last eight, the main disappointment of the early season being a poor showing in the UK Open, losing his first game with a low average against Jelle Klaasen. The run up to the Matchplay showed a steady increase in European Tour events attended, but with limited success, and some of the appearances were as being the highest ranked German not otherwise qualified having overtaken Florian Hempel at this stage, while the floor saw some alright runs but nothing spectacular, leaving him close to making a Matchplay debut, but not quite getting over the line in that. The remaining Pro Tour season was however the peak - a good burst of five board wins in the Players Championship, moving one on to a semi final and one to a quarter final, but the big one as mentioned was in Europe - winning in Hildesheim with victories over Mickey Mansell, Martin Schindler, George Killington, Stephen Bunting, Michael van Gerwen and then Peter Wright. It was a remarkable performance and, at that level, a bit out of nowhere, but it opened all the doors. Ricardo was probably going to be OK for the European Championship anyway, but it improved his seeding and he got to round two, losing a fairly close game to van Gerwen after beating Ross Smith, and it also got him into the Grand Slam, where he was a bit disappointing in a tricky but open group, only getting a win in the last game against Nathan Aspinall after he'd already been eliminated, while his work on the floor got him a very solid seeding for the Players Championship Finals - he would get an effective free win against Christian Kist, but Ryan Searle won in round two in a very good game with Ricardo averaging 103 and still coming out second best. Ricardo's numbers are solid enough to be considered a top 32 player, and with the money he has on the board, it is a question of when, not if, his ranking catches up to that, and he has to be considered the favourite to move on from this section.

Mikuru Suzuki returns for a second appearance here, having nearly got a win four years ago over James Richardson, but falling ever so short in a 2-3 defeat. She makes her return after finishing third on the Women's Series, some distance behind Fallon Sherrock in second and a mile behind Beau Greaves, but comfortably enough above the rest of the field. Mikuru was able to claim three titles over the course of the season, and additionally reach four finals for a solid set of results. The only issue is with the scoring - at 78 in the averages, she finished the season in the Women's Series a clear five points behind Sherrock and seven behind Greaves, indicating she's a bit of a way off the top players on that side of the sport. Mikuru was able to get to the final of the Matchplay, beating Aileen de Graaf and Lisa Ashton, the game against the first of those in particular being a good showing, before losing to Greaves. Suzuki did also play a fair bit of the Asian Tour, finishing a respectable 31st place with a couple of quarter final runs, not too bad in what is an increasingly good field. Involvement in WDF events seems to have been fairly limited, so it's hard to gauge just where things are at with such limited data - only that against someone with the quality of Pietreczko, it's going to be a very tough ask for Mikuru to get anything out of the game. 

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