Wednesday 6 December 2023

Schindler, Wattimena, Sherrock

Martin Schindler's a seed here for the second straight year, and remains one of the top rated players that's yet to break through and win a senior title. Here, he'll look to build on last year where he had a substantial lead in the last 32 against eventual champion Michael Smith, only to fall away in the latter stages. Solidly high in the averages, Martin had a few decent runs on the Pro Tour this year - an early semi final where he was narrowly defeated by Ross Smith being the best, which would be backed up with two quarter finals in one weekend the month after, and a few other board wins saw a mid table finish for the Players Championship Finals - losing out 6-5 in what you would expect to be a tight 32nd versus 33rd seed matchup with Kim Huybrechts. The European Tour was also moderately successful, Schindler being high enough up in the rankings where, if not seeded, he would have been one of the call ups through the German rankings, and he played every event, if he ever was needing to play in round one he certainly never lost at that stage, and he successfully made the last day on eight of the thirteen occasions, with a best run in the third event in Riesa to the semi finals, an event which saw him defeat Raymond van Barneveld, Nathan Aspinall and Jonny Clayton before being moderately outplayed by Michael van Gerwen. These performances would once again see him right in the middle of the seedings list for the European Championship, but despite a decent average he lost 6-1 to Stephen Bunting. On TV, however, Schindler did start to make some progress - the UK Open saw him reach the quarter finals, beating Simon Whitlock, Adrian Lewis and Jonny Clayton before going out to eventual champion Andrew Gilding, and then after losing a tight first rounder at the Matchplay to Danny Noppert, Schindler would hit another quarter final at the Grand Prix, beating Barney again as well as Bunting, but Gerwyn Price would be far too strong. Schindler would miss the Grand Slam after losing out in yet another game to Stephen Bunting in the last round of the qualifier, but he did have some unranked TV success in the World Cup, partnering Gabriel Clemens in a semi final run which did see them knock out top seeds England but lose out to Scotland. He's progressing slowly, but is still progressing, a title win is the logical next step.

Jermaine Wattimena just about makes the field, and while he is still a bit of a way off his best where he was pushing up towards the top 16 in the world, he is hanging around the top 64 and accumulating nicely enough to be steadily away from the rankings where his tour card could have been in danger. This season has just been a steady collection of ranking money without any huge highlights - on the Pro Tour, Jermaine got off to a decent start with three board finals in the first seven events, converting one into a last sixteen run, a sequence he repeated between events 10 and 12, before September would see his best run to the quarter finals, although the only real seeded name he'd have to face was Joe Cullen, and Mike de Decker stopped his run. The performances were just about enough to see Jermaine through to Minehead, where he did alright in getting a couple of wins, the first being a big seeding upset over a clearly not 100% Dirk van Duijvenbode, and he'd then have a good showing in being able to knock out the ever dangerous Richard Veenstra before falling to Ryan Joyce. On the European Tour, Wattimena did a good enough job of making events, coming through six qualifiers - he just couldn't do a great deal once he got into the tournament proper, losing in the first round to Niko Springer, Ryan Joyce, Ross Smith, Andy Baetens and Gian van Veen, picking up his only win in Hungary against Joe Murnan before pushing Jonny Clayton close but falling a bit short. This left him well short of Dortmund, and he remains in a spot where he's not really close to making the "hard" majors, so the only other thing of note would be the UK Open - starting in round three, he got a potentially testing tie against Boris Krcmar, which he would win 6-4, but then in a fourth round game with Willie O'Connor he'd end up in a bit of a rout, losing 10-1 against an opponent that's tough, but not significantly better and one you'd have thought Wattimena could have kept closer. We know roughly what we're going to get with Jermaine, he can be a tad up and down, but he's a solid enough top 64 player with some upside.

Fallon Sherrock returns for a fourth attempt here, having lost in the opening round the last two years to Steve Beaton and Ricky Evans, and is here on the back of a second place finish in the Women's Series, claiming one of the two spots which that tour provided. She finished well below eventual champion Beau Greaves, but looked to be the clear second best player on that circuit with Lisa Ashton dropping off a bit, both in terms of averages and results - Sherrock won five events, four of them on the bounce towards the end of the season, and that would be enough to lock up a spot at Ally Pally, as well as a Grand Slam position. That's probably the best line we have on her level of play - she was convincingly beaten by van Gerwen and Cross, but was able to pick up a narrow win over Martijn Kleermaker to finish third in the group, an opponent that doesn't feel that much different to who she'll face in the opening round here. There's a bit more to look at in terms of PDC events - in the women's Matchplay she lost in the first round to Lisa Ashton, and she did play a fair few of the early Challenge Tour events, getting through to the last sixteen on three occasions, although she didn't attend the last two weekends and finished a long way down the rankings. That's pretty much all we've got - not that she would have played it, but she's nowhere near making the WDF worlds, only being ranked at all on account of the Welsh Open weekend from 2022 still being on her record, the only other thing she seems to be doing is the Modus events, where she has hit a couple of nines but it's hard to say too much about those events in terms of what it actually shows for someone's level of play. It's hard to say how she can get better, unless she manages to bink a tour card somehow, and to be fair she was only a couple of games away from being able to do that, but the women's game (those parts she plays anyway) doesn't offer enough matches against better opponents. This should be a good test, and one Jermaine can't (and won't) underestimate.

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