Sunday 14 January 2024

Tungsten Analysis 2023 Awards

Best single tournament performance

2017 - Phil Taylor, World Matchplay
2018 - Gary Anderson, World Matchplay
2019 - Peter Wright, World Championship
2020 - Ryan Searle, Players Championship 3
2021 - Peter Wright, Players Championship Finals
2022 - Ross Smith, European Championship

Nominees - Berry van Peer, Dutch Open, Scott Williams, World Championship, Ricardo Pietreczko, German Darts Championship, Gary Anderson, Players Championship 25, Dirk van Duijvenbode, Players Championship 6

Winner - Andrew Gilding, UK Open

This has to go to Goldfinger. Anyone powering through to a major title that nobody thought they were in with a reasonable chance of getting has to be a strong contender, and I can't not give it. He's had to come through an awful lot of really competitive players and, apart from maybe Dolan briefly, he's not let any of them get close, then come through the ultimate test in van Gerwen in a deciding leg. Elsewhere, van Peer winning the biggest open in the world on home soil, defeating probably the strongest non-card holder (at the time) in the final is absolutely worth a mention, Scott defeating three top ten players in the world to make unprecedented inroads into a major, and the biggest one at that, needs telling, Ricardo coming through an extremely tough draw to claim a first title was a great achievement, while on the floor, Anderson not dropping below a 95 average after round one with four consecutive 105+ averages was a scary level, while Dirk early on in the season was close to unplayable, with this event being the peak, hitting a 115 in early rounds, not falling below 95 ever, and finishing with three straight ton plus averages to win the title.

Match of the season

2017 - Rob Cross v Michael van Gerwen, World Championship
2018 - Gary Anderson v Mensur Suljovic, World Matchplay
2019 - Peter Wright v Noel Malicdem, World Championship
2020 - Michael van Gerwen v Joe Cullen, World Championship
2021 - Michael Smith v Jonny Clayton, World Championship
2022 - Dirk van Duijvenbode v Ryan Searle, Players Championship Finals

Nominees - Dave Chisnall v Luke Humphries, Hungarian Darts Trophy, Jeffrey de Zwaan v Gerwyn Price, UK Open, Michael van Gerwen v Madars Razma, European Championship, James Wade v Josh Rock, Grand Slam, Ross Smith v Chris Dobey, World Championship, Rob Cross v Chris Dobey, World Championship

Winner - Luke Humphries v Joe Cullen, World Championship

Can't really come up with enough superlatives as to how good this game was - real back and forth, little if anything to separate the players, chances for both to win it, sudden death leg, it's everything you want from a game of darts. There were quite a few good games throughout the worlds, mostly featuring Dobey - Cross being able to comeback was a heartbreaker, but his game in an earlier round against Smith was anticipated to be a highlight as soon as the seedings were set and absolutely delivered. Chizzy against Luke in Hungary saw both average over a ton and a deciding leg, at the UK Open, Price was probably the hottest player in the world at that point but saw de Zwaan roll back the years and average 105 to knock him out, Razma got the game of his life in Dortmund but couldn't quite get over the line in a real tough game, while Wade against Rock saw Josh get back to his mercurial best, but lose out in a 16-15 tussle.

Most disappointing season

2017 - Benito van de Pas
2018 - Rob Cross
2019 - Raymond van Barneveld
2020 - Adrian Lewis
2021 - Jeffrey de Zwaan
2022 - Ian White

Nominees - Michael Smith, Mervyn King, Jeff Smith, Gabriel Clemens, Rowby John Rodriguez, Vincent van der Voort, Alan Soutar

Winner - Josh Rock

This is a controversial one, if only because he has not played bad darts. Not at all - his level of play is still elite. But it's a results business - if you had said to me at the start of the year that Rock would not win any event, and outside of his little cameo at the Grand Slam, that his only win would be against fellow nominee Rowby John Rodriguez, I'd have said that would be an absurdly long price proposition. But it's where we're at. It's not a slight on Rock at all, but I'm sure he's got to feel he should have done better in turning performances into results. Otherwise, Smith has had what is pretty much the darting equivalent of the Crucible curse, except all year - he got a Euro Tour and a floor title, but TV, at least in ranking events, was pretty much a graveyard. King missed the worlds by a distance and will be losing his card next year, Jeff has resigned himself to playing the American circuit, Clemens has failed to really capitalise on his great end to 2022, was basically a jobber to the stars on TV, did nothing on the Euro Tour and is still looking for a first title, Rowby's form has gone completely down the toilet, van der Voort I'm not sure has the motivation and I can't recall him doing a thing this year, while Soutar also failed to make the worlds despite being very nearly seeded for it.

Best young player

2017 - Justin van Tergouw
2018 - Luke Humphries/Leighton Bennett
2019 - Keane Barry
2020 - Callan Rydz
2021 - Rusty-Jake Rodriguez
2022 - Josh Rock

Nominees - Gian van Veen, Cam Crabtree, Liam Maendl-Lawrance, Dylan Slevin, Thomas Banks

Winner - Luke Littler

It could only be one, couldn't it? To be honest, barring the huge run he made, I was going to give this to Gian, but being basically neck and neck with him all season on the Development Tour, then completely destroying Gian's major achievements with what he did at the worlds, there's only one answer here. Gian couldn't have done much more at all - form downticked a touch at the end of the season, if he'd have kept things going after the Euros then maybe this becomes a bit more of an interesting question. Elsewhere, Cam's had a very strong season finishing in both the top ten of both the Challenge and Development Tour, winning a title on the former, Liam has looked fairly solid on the Euro Tour and in the WDF circuit, while Dylan broke through early in the season and hasn't looked out of place at the Pro Tour level. Also need to give Banks a shout, he's the same sort of age as Littler, and was able to make the same sort of waves at the UK Open, he's not the same level but he's doing alright given how long he has to develop.

Most disappointing news of the season

2017 - Phil Taylor still not getting it quietly
2018 - Everything to do with the UK Open
2019 - Everything to do with the BDO
2020 - Kyle McKinstry and Wessel Nijman match fixing
2021 - Everything to do with the European Tour/European Championship
2022 - Retrospective awarding of a World Championship place to the Women's Matchplay winner

Nominees - Beau Greaves not testing herself, Wikipedia becoming useless, continued lack of adoption of Dart Connect, Prakash Jiwa allegedly doing things, WDF schedules suffering multiple cancellations

Winner - PDC wrecking the European Tour going forward

This was a late, late entry, but as it came in right before Q-School, I'm counting it for this year. I've gone over this in a previous post, naturally extremely recently, but I don't recall any announcement receiving quite the universal negative reaction ever. For the nominees, Greaves not doing anything on the Development Tour, not even trying Q-School, and taking the easy WDF money rather than going for the PDC worlds has basically killed a year's worth of development, it might make sense financially short term but it's absurdly disappointing to see. Then we have a weird one - the English versions of Wikipedia darts pages have been repeatedly vandalised, truncated and flat out removed by trolls, leaving anyone wanting to do any sort of research either completely stymied or needing to use foreign language versions, indeed while writing this I've mainly used German Wikipedia. It's not a useful site for anything important for years because censorship based on groupthink, but at least for darts it was somewhat comprehensive and accurate. Not any more. The PDC not using Dart Connect for everything continues to be a pain, it would have won this but for the late entrant, it failed in the UK Open, it failed on multiple occasions on the Euro Tour, and it failed in the worlds more than once, including on the first day of the event. It's not just the PDC, the number of WDF events that are not using it, or not using any sort of tracking software at all, if only in the end stages, continues to baffle everyone. Jiwa's I assume still an ongoing case so I won't mention much more beyond that, while the WDF lost the Masters as well as at least one gold level event, and it continues to struggle to maintain a solid schedule, which is a shame as the events they have got on have generally been really solidly run.

Personal highlight of the season

2017 - Mensur Suljovic wins the Champions League
2018 - Ian White claims a European Tour title
2019 - The explosion in quality from non-traditional areas
2020 - The PDC's efforts to get some sort of calendar on
2021 - Matt Campbell winning his tour card
2022 - Danny Noppert claiming a major title

Nominees - Andrew Gilding winning a first title, Berry van Peer's resurgence, the improved World Cup format, Wessel Nijman getting back into form

Winner - A full return for the Asian Tour

Honestly, this doesn't feel like it's been a great year for darts, but to see a solid return for the tour in one of the biggest developing areas in the world, producing a lot of new stars along with returns to form for a lot of familiar names has to be congratulated. Otherwise, Gilding getting a great reward for all his work absolutely brought a smile, as did van Peer demolishing everything in front of him in 2023. The World Cup was a highlight for a lot of people, the expanded format worked pretty well, will chuck in France being vindicated as to their previous omissions as a corollary, I've stated a lot in the past that I'm not a big fan of pairs but for this event it seems to make sense, and while you can think what you like of what Nijman has done in the past, to see him having put the work in while he couldn't play and look like he's progressed his game despite not being able to play competitively until this year, then do what he's done to get his card back, it does seem right that he's been able to do so.

Best new tour card holder

2017 - Richard North
2018 - Danny Noppert
2019 - Glen Durrant
2020 - Damon Heta
2021 - Alan Soutar
2022 - Jim Williams

Nominees - Richard Veenstra, Dylan Slevin, Lee Evans

Winner - Gian van Veen

It's not been a fantastic season for new card holders, with a few exceptions, and van Veen is clearly the highlight. To be so far up the scoring as he has been, and to make the impression he has on multiple vectors, it has to be him. If van Veen had won young player this would have gone to Veenstra, Richard not looking remotely out of place and looking like a strong favourite to push solidly into the top 64 in year two of his card. Slevin and Evans need credit, Dylan's been a bit more up and down while Evans has been more consistent with occasional smaller flashes, but both did enough to make the worlds and give themselves a very good chance of keeping their cards going forward.

Most improved player

2017 - Daryl Gurney
2018 - Jeffrey de Zwaan
2019 - Nathan Aspinall
2020 - Devon Petersen
2021 - Martin Schindler
2022 - Martin Lukeman

Nominees - Gian van Veen, Luke Humphries, Berry van Peer, Darryl Pilgrim, Ricardo Pietreczko, Luke Littler, Reynaldo Rivera

Winner - Radek Szaganski

There's quite a few possibilities here. van Veen was looking solid in 2022, but I'm not sure anyone could have anticipated the jump that he made this year. Humphries is a no brainer mention, going from someone who we're just waiting on to win a major to being arguably the best player in the world, and now world champion. van Peer went from someone we mostly referred to as that dartitis guy to the Dutch Open and Challenge Tour winner, with what could easily have been a very deep worlds run. Pilgrim has been a name that's been known in deep darts circles for a while, but has exploded in 2023, bossing many metrics and it's bizarre that he's not managed to pick up a card for 2024, at least in the manner he didn't. Pietreczko was known about last year, I nominated him for best new tour card holder after all, but he's continued to improve, especially on stage where we're going to see him a lot more in 2024. Littler was a sky is the limit player, but he's gone from "yeah, he should be top 32 no trouble in a couple of years" to "he might be top 10 right now and the Premier League is not ridiculous", while Rivera has come from basically unknown to possibly the best player on the Asian Tour, maybe he's got no better in the last twelve months and he's just showing up, I don't know, but I'm giving it to Radek. At the start of the year, he was basically just a guy making up the numbers on the Tour, and has turned into a Pro Tour winner, being one game away from saving his card at the worlds, and someone you generally don't want to play. It's a very welcome sign that he's been able to get his card straight back.

Player of the year

2017 - Rob Cross
2018 - Gary Anderson
2019 - Michael van Gerwen
2020 - Gerwyn Price
2021 - Jonny Clayton
2022 - Michael van Gerwen

Nominees - Andy Baetens, Beau Greaves, Gary Anderson

Winner - Luke Humphries

This is probably the easiest one of the lot. It probably would have been if Luke didn't bink the worlds, given he'd won three majors, but binking the worlds made it the easiest selection of all time. Baetens and Greaves get mentions through dominating their relative fields of play, Andy we'll see step up in 2024, Beau maybe not so much, while Ando gets a nomination just based on his pure level of statistics, looking like he's absolutely back at his best, even if that's not quite translated into results - you just need to look at his game with Luke at Wolverhampton to know how good he's been in 2023.

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