Tuesday 5 December 2023

van den Bergh, Slevin, Hempel

I don't think it's unfair to say that Dimitri van den Bergh has been one of the more disappointing players in the upper end of the darting world, dating back to the heavy semi final defeat last year, having dropped in level of production down to a level outside the top 32, and not adding any titles, but there have been some good spots. Let's go through the season - looking at the majors first, his best performance probably came at the UK Open, where he reached a career best semi final with wins over Gabriel Clemens, Mervyn King, Gary Anderson and Richie Burnett, before running into old adversary van Gerwen. Outside of that, results in TV events have been limited, at least in ranked events, as he did have a decent World Cup and reach the last eight of the World Series finals. DvdB got the better of Ross Smith at Blackpool, but was then outplayed by Jonny Clayton, and then first round defeats to Chris Dobey and Rob Cross would follow, along with missing the Grand Slam altogether. Minehead wouldn't be bad, Jim Williams and Gary Anderson were good wins, as such it was a surprise to see him lose to James Wade in the last sixteen. Lower down, the European Tour ended up relatively dry, missing four events through not qualifying, and failing to make the final session on any occasion - although as one of the lowest seeds in those events, he was typically running into an elite player, so maybe we can forgive that to some extent. On the floor, his averages were a bit down the table, but it was a story of steady accumulation - only the one semi final is a bit of a poor return at the very top end for someone of Dimitri's calibre, but backing that up with a further eight board wins is not a bad overall record. The concern would be that five of those board wins (along with the aforementioned semi final) came in the first ten events of the year, with the last ten events returning a mediocre 11-10 match record. There's clearly still a great player in there, it just needs something to spark it back out on the TV stage. I'm not sure if it happens here though - he's drawn probably one of the worst four opponents he could hope to face in round three (which I would expect him to make) and then van Gerwen if he gets past Bunting. Seems hard to see Dimitri going on a run in this one.

Dylan Slevin is a first year tour card holder, and has made a fairly decent impact after showing some flashes of potential in 2022, both on the Development Tour and in the WDF, where he reached the final of the gold-rated Irish Open, a tournament where he displayed both high averages and good results against seasoned professionals such as Neil Duff and Richard Veenstra. As such, there was a bit of hype being generated around him as to what he could do if he was to get a tour card, and he did this pretty comfortably by getting through stage one at a first attempt, then doing enough to top the UK points table. This was somewhat satisfied immediately - his very first tournament saw him reach the semi final beating a who's who of Irish darts along the way (O'Connor, Rock, Gurney) and making those of us who were paying attention a few quid on the each way market. Naturally this let a potential cat out of the bag, drawing comparisons to the likes of Rock, Barry etc, which is understandable, but following results showed it might be a touch premature. Slevin would continue a decent start with another three board finals early in the season, and also claim a Development Tour title on day one over Luke Littler, but form tailed off after a while. He did cash the UK Open, winning over Maik Kuivenhoven, Shaun Wilkinson and Robbie Knops to reach a tie with Joe Cullen, losing out 10-7, but afterwards form tailed off, and in the last twenty Pro Tour events, he would win his board once but not reach the board final outside of that - seeing him not initially qualify for Minehead at the end of the season as the last man out, but he did get a reprieve and get a call up as a replacement, losing 6-5 to Matt Campbell. Only other thing to mention is the European Tour - here Slevin had an alright run, making five in a row mid season but being a mix of first and second round losses, where if he'd turned one of a few 6-5 defeats into a victory and maybe got to another event, he could have crept into the Dortmund field, as he wasn't too far off. All in all a solid first season with some high points, but still very much a work in progress.

Florian Hempel returns for a third straight season, and he's here through a third different method - making it through the Pro Tour order of merit two seasons ago, the German Superleague last season, and this year after finishing a couple of grand short on the Pro Tour, makes it in through the PDPA qualifier to retain hopes of saving a tour card, which might be possible with just a single win. If he repeats what he did two years ago where he played probably the best game he's ever done in defeating Dimitri, he'd almost certainly be safe. But it's been a tough season for Florian - on the floor, Hempel finished outside the top 100 in averages, and really struggled to generate any sort of momentum, ending up with nineteen first round defeats, and pushing through to the board final on only two occasions, one of which he won but that's still a pretty poor return for someone that's got aspirations of staying in the top 64 and leaves him still to make his debut at the Players Championship Finals.. The European Tour wasn't too bad, he did play in six events, albeit four of those were automatic qualifications through being one of the top two German players not seeded - three of these resulted in a first round defeat so no ranking money was added and just the sole victory over James Wilson was recorded. He did have a good run in Jena, beating Wade and Heta, and got to one more event right at the end of the season, but it would not be anywhere near enough to secure a second appearance in the European Championship. His only real bit of success was at the UK Open - seeded into round three, Hempel drew Jamie Hughes and won solidly to get to the round with the big boys, but instead he got what looked like a winnable game on paper against Richie Burnett, which ended up as a 10-9 reverse in a poor match with both averaging around the 80 mark. So if Florian wanted to do anything to save his card, he needed qualifiers - the Grand Slam saw him lose in the opening round to Daniel Klose, so it was all down to the PDPA qualifier, where he came through Luc Peters, Karel Sedlacek, Ted Evetts and then top seed Alan Soutar in the final game to give himself a chance. This first round game looks like a close one on paper, and maybe Hempel's big stage experience could be key.

No comments:

Post a Comment