Thursday 29 February 2024

UK Open rounds 1-3 thoughts

OK, going in order of which mini section has the highest FRH ranked player and working down. Bets will follow in another post

(32) Ricardo Pietreczko v (123) Graham Hall or (182) Paul Krohne/(UR) Michael Taylor

Ought to be a moderately easy one to call. Krohne's made a pretty steady start to life on tour and is scoring pretty well, know little about Taylor, the only one I can see on dartsorakel is not overly impressive so I can't see the Rileys qualifier doing much. Hall ought to be a pretty solid second round opponent and I can't see too much between the two assuming Paul moves through, then they're both unlucky to draw Pietreczko who's easily in the top ten of who you wouldn't want to draw at this stage and I can't see Ricardo being pressed massively.

(33) Gian van Veen v (133) Dom Taylor/(UR) Brandon Western or (144) John Henderson/(163) Kevin Burness

Dom's been pretty competent on most circuits for some time now and should easily have enough to handle Western, who's come through Rileys and is playing the Challenge Tour but isn't averaging the sorts of numbers that should trouble Taylor here. Hendo against Burness should be fun, but John's the much better player right now, scoring more over the last year significantly and while he won the world seniors, I've got to assume Kevin tried to qualify and didn't make it. Hendo/Taylor should be fairly competitive, maybe Dom is slightly better statistically but experience and form should make it pretty even. Unfortunately they've drawn probably the one player you don't want to get, and while they've both got enough that they're not drawing dead, Gian ought to be fine here.

(34) Ryan Joyce v (164) Sebastian Bialecki/(UR) Jenson Walker or (UR) Ashley Coleman/(UR) Tim Wolters

Bialecki's been here a few times before, while Walker we've seen a bit on the secondary tours, making the odd run and 2024 CT numbers aren't awful, but Sebastian seems better. Coleman's a bit better again and is probably better known for Youtube things (if I'm thinking of the right guy), and might be a bit of a popular pick against Wolters, who got through Q-School but we've not seen him play yet and the numbers there probably aren't much better, if at all, than Ashley is. I would take Bialecki to make round three, but Joyce seems like he should be far too dangerous and move through to the evening session.

(35) Luke Woodhouse v (76) Dylan Slevin or (95) Arron Monk

Moderately quiet section - Slevin had a good start to 2023 but has quietened down since then to the point where Monk is actually marginally better statistically and trending in the right direction, ought to be tight but maybe Arron has a slight edge, especially if he's on as he does seem a bit streaky. Woodhouse has had a bit of a quiet start to 2024 and isn't so far ahead that round three would be a foregone conclusion, but Luke's still favoured.

(37) Callan Rydz v (166) Lukas Wenig/(UR) Tom Lonsdale or (245) Benjamin Drue Reus/(UR) Bradly Roes

Wenig has been one we've been watching for a few years now and is finally onto the tour, and he'll play Rileys qualifier Lonsdale, who's averaging mid 80's in the Challenge Tour this year and did have some alright performances on the Dev Tour about 4-5 years ago, but Lukas should be fine. Reus may take a bit of time to get up to full speed on the Pro Tour, but has flashed good performances now and again, while Roes is also a name we've seen for a while on the younger circuits, thinking Benjamin should nick it, but Lukas will move through to play Rydz - there it's a case of what Callan shows up as he does run very hot and cold - an average or even better performance should see Rydz through fine, which seems more likely than not given a more than steady start to 2024, but if he has a bit of a stinker the others have enough to cause the upset.

(38) Mike de Decker v (48) Niels Zonneveld or (140) Wessel Nijman/(UR) David Sumner

Sumner won through Rileys and has some Challenge Tour experience from last year but not this year, that's about all we have so I can't think that someone who didn't try Q-School should stand much of a chance against someone with the quality of Nijman. Zonneveld is a real interesting matchup in round two, Wessel to me looks to have the better stuff but Niels is more than capable of picking up wins if he is given chances which I guess is entirely possible. Mike de Decker is going to be a tough opponent for either, I think if it is Nijman it's going to be very close, but if it was Zonneveld then this feels like a 60/40 sort of game in the Belgian's favour? Not a gimmie for Mike at all.

(39) Madars Razma v (60) Rowby John Rodriguez

Nice easy section of players getting third round byes, both are really up and down, Razma feels in a bit of a falsely high ranking, but not as much as Rowby is who had a stinker of a 2023 and seems like he should be the underdog - albeit this is one where if either is on their best game they'll win. Or if they're on a bad day they'll lose. If both are one way or another, we'll either get something special or a dumpster fire. Who knows.

(40) Jim Williams v (142) Leonard Gates/(220) Conan Whitehead or (208) Rhys Griffin/(UR) Harry Gregory

Lendog is probably the big name to have come through the Rileys qualifiers (although not making himself too many friends in the process), and comes up against Whitehead, who we've known for some time but hasn't been massively impressive statistically in the last year or so despite doing enough to get here through last year's Challenge Tour, and should be an underdog in round one. Griffin has been a name we've known for a bit but hasn't had a brilliant start to being on tour, while Gregory looks a bit off Rhys' standard, having a recent Dev Tour quarter and not really getting as deep as he'd like and the numbers are merely so-so. Looks like a Gates/Griffin round two which Leonard ought to have the edge in, but any of these should be well behind Jim, whose numbers don't lie and look to be clearly superior to anyone he might face in the third round.

(41) Martin Lukeman v (44) Jermaine Wattimena

Another all round three bye game and one between two players evenly matched in FRH rankings, both players seem fairly similar in terms of standards, maybe Lukeman's got the overall slightly better numbers but it feels as if Jermaine might be trending in the right direction a bit more, so this feels razor tight and could be a case of who wins the bull.

(42) Steve Beaton v (85) Rusty Jake Rodriguez/(178) Ron Meulenkamp or (128) Josh Payne

First round is an interesting one, Rusty's dropped off the tour now and was reliant on the DT rankings to get back here, but maybe that's for the best and we get something like we saw from Schindler (and maybe seeing from Jansen this year) if him getting there in the first place was a bit too early, and he gets Meulenkamp, a lot more experienced getting in through the other secondary tour and the CT numbers this year aren't bad at all. Seems fine, might be that Ron's experience pays off albeit Rusty has played a lot of darts over the last 2-3 years. Payne's numbers since back on tour aren't anything special and look a bit streaky, we know he can look really good when on his game but it's been pretty rare and I'm not sure he's even a favourite against ever second round opponent as of right now. Beaton can't hate this draw, but it could certainly be a lot easier and while Steve's better than these three, even still as his career is likely winding down, it is not by a great deal and it wouldn't surprise me if anyone from this section wins through.

(43) Matt Campbell v (111) Nick Kenny or (154) Callum Goffin

Interesting Welsh derby to start here, Kenny's been on and off the tour and is pretty steady, and should comfortably have enough to handle Goffin, who was a bit of a surprise card winner just over a year ago and hasn't really shown anything at any point to make us think it was anything other than a fluke. Campbell's a stronger player than Kenny, but hasn't had the most fantastic of twelve month periods and certainly isn't a lock with the occasional pretty poor showings we've seen now and again.

(45) Ricky Evans v (66) Lee Evans or (96) Chris Landman/(UR) Christopher Toonders

Toonders is here through the Dev Tour, but the numbers aren't anything to shout about and in the first CT weekend the averages were down in the 70's which should be pretty easy for someone with the steady nature that Landman has shown over the last 12-18 months. Evans is slightly better, but that second round game is very much one that could go either way. Ricky has had a bit of a resurgence in 2023, and looks to have a fair bit of a statistical edge, such that it feels like whoever he plays he should get through, at a guess, at least 60% of the time, if not two in three, so a live game but one where Rapid ought to feel he is favoured.

(46) Willie O'Connor v (67) Mensur Suljovic

Another all third round bye game. Willie's done alright the last twelve months, although it does feel like it has been a quiet year, which is the same for Suljovic, with 2023 being such a dry spell he missed the worlds and is in some danger of losing his card if he doesn't pick things up this year. The numbers from Mensur aren't terrible or massively behind his opponent here but O'Connor will go into this one as the favourite.

(47) Simon Whitlock v (62) Berry van Peer or (80) Maik Kuivenhoven

Whitlock's still hanging around the top 64, but seems as far away from the top 32 as he's ever been and the numbers don't give confidence that he'll ever get back there, and these look like potential tough opponents whoever it is. van Peer had a great 2023 and is comfortably outperforming Whitlock, while Kuivenhoven would probably only be a small underdog against Simon, so the sensible pick would be for the former Dutch Open champion to move through to round four.

(49) Cameron Menzies v (74) Jules van Dongen/(93) Thibault Tricole or (103) Bradley Brooks/(121) Cameron Crabtree

Menzies is a quality operator and isn't in my list of next new winners on tour for new reason, and ought to be a favourite to get to the last 64, but any of these potential opponents are capable of causing an upset. van Dongen had a very strong second half of 2023, and would probably be the pick to get through this minefield and face Menzies after he reclaimed his card a couple of months ago, but Tricole, while not quite at the same level statistically, is a pretty strong match player and has shown abilities to get the most out of what he has. Brooks dropped off tour for this year and has had a bit of a slow start to 2024 with mediocre results on secondary circuits and low 80's averages on the Challenge Tour, which Crabtree was comfortably outperforming despite Bradley having higher twelve month scoring, so this may be close and down to form.

(50) Florian Hempel v (59) Mario Vandenbogaerde or (225) Jitse van der Wal/(UR) Johnny Haines

van der Wal is another player who got himself onto the tour this season after being in the fringes for some time, and has had a pretty slow start all things considered, so Haines, a steady veteran who has come through Rileys qualifiers before, should have somewhat of a chance here with the experience he has from being a former card holder for some time. Vandenbogaerde actually finished below Jitse at Q-School, but his body of work and quality in the last twelve months which saw him make the worlds, ought to be too strong for whoever comes through round one. Hempel also needed the worlds to maintain his tour card status and did, and his numbers look to be some distance behind Mario's, so I've got to favour the Belgian to move through, particularly with his experience of good results in these sorts of big field events.

(51) Richard Veenstra v (82) Stephen Burton or (145) Owen Roelofs

We've got two players in their second year of a tour card going up against each other, so plenty of data here - it feels as if Roelofs has been a bit more disappointing and the FRH ranking reflects that, but statistically speaking there's really not much to separate the two players, with Burton actually being a tenth of a point behind in twelve month scoring, so this should be a competitive matchup to see who will face Richard, who got on the tour at the same time but has done a lot more with his card, is a clearly better player than either and should comfortably advance whoever he draws.

(52) Alan Soutar v (146) Andy Baetens or (196) Brett Claydon/(285) Thomas Lovely

Claydon has been a known player for over a decade and has been on and off the tour, back on now and the limited data we've got indicates he's had a decent start, which is promising but Lovely, who's never had a card but been a familiar name on secondary tours for almost as long as Claydon, had a very solid Challenge Tour weekend which could be a platform for a minimum of a return here next year, so this appears to be a competitive one. Baetens just sneaked through to round two automatically, and should have no problems defeating whoever comes through, and looks to have a very good chance of progressing a fair bit further, such is the quality of play of the WDF champion. Soutar's figures are a fair bit lower than Baetens' over the last twelve months, but there have been some minor promising signs of late so this might be a little bit closer than it appears on paper.

(53) Michael Mansell v (64) Ian White

A simple all round three game to look at, and it's between players who had a questionable 2022 but a resurgence in 2023. Both players are back up to near where they have been in the past, which gives an advantage to White, given he had a higher level of play and ought to come into this game as a moderate favourite, but with Mickey looking alright this isn't automatic in the slightest.

(54) Keane Barry v (143) James Hurrell or (199) William Borland/(UR) Joe Croft

Croft's an interesting one, related to that Olly, and got through Rileys apparently defeating Leonard Gates the day before Gates won one himself, and had pretty much a whole year on the Challenge Tour last year without ever really getting on my radar. A high 80's average this first weekend however with a fair few high points isn't terrible, and it should ask Borland some questions, the nine dart hero now back with a tour card but not really scoring particularly strongly, so the first round game ought to be an under the radar close one. Hurrell is also on tour now and we've got solid data on him, and he looks a bit better than either first round player, but not by an enormous amount, but still enough to be a favourite. Barry's about the same amount better once more, and comes into this in great form with a Development Tour double, so a combination of good form and superior statistics makes things look good for Keane in this one. 

(55) Steve Lennon or (195) Jacques Labre v (73) Nathan Rafferty/(169) Danny Lauby or (197) Martijn Dragt/(UR) Jack Male

First one where we've got nobody straight through to round three. Lennon's the highest ranked player in FRH but needed to regain his card and did so in style, we've gone on about how good he is plenty on this blog and a first opponent of Labre, who fortunately got a bye but has really disappointed since getting his card, is probably about as good a draw he could have got at this stage. His opponent's going to be interesting - Rafferty's probably the name player, and is steady enough and vastly experienced given he is still Development Tour eligible, but Lauby's an extremely well matched opponent and this is going to be extremely hard to call. The winner of that one should be the favourite to get through to (probably) Lennon - Dragt was a little bit of a surprising card winner, and while he's not been bad he's had a bit of a slow start, while Male is a relatively young player who's come through Rileys, who was OK but not spectacular in the first weekend of the Dev Tour (oddly, he played and beat Rafferty in one event), but he is a previous finalist at that level so should keep Dragt honest, although I'd have to guess that Martin is the stronger player right now. Got to fancy Steve to get through this.

(56) Kevin Doets v (77) Karel Sedlacek or (87) Robert Owen

Fair bit of a smaller section now. Doets held his card and is continuing to improve, and his numbers are more than steady if not spectacular, and while it feels like Sedlacek took a step back in 2023, Karel's numbers aren't too dissimilar to Kevin's - so that could be a good one if and only if he gets through Owen, Robert having course and distance for deep runs here, but his statistics are a clear couple of points behind the Czech's, so it'd have to be an odds against double for the Welshman to get to the last 64 here.

(57) Radek Szaganski/(90) George Killington or (149) Robbie Knops v (71) Mervyn King

Little bit of an odd one in that the highest ranked player is the one starting in the first round, but that's the nature of the tour card system, Radek being the player in question. Killington's been on and off the tour and has shown quality in flashes more than once, albeit flanked by longer spells where he's not been doing much at all. He's still young though so plenty of time to straighten the game out. Knops would then follow in round two, his tour card experience not going great albeit I believe he has had injury issues, he's almost certainly dropping his card back at the end of this year and appears to be a weaker player than whoever he'd play in round two. Also maybe dropping his card is King, although that would be not the end of the world as he would be a pretty strong player on the seniors circuit you feel - not that he's done on the main circuit yet, he's still playing strong enough that he ought to be at a comparable level to where Szaganski is.

(58) Jamie Hughes v (75) Keegan Brown or (135) Darryl Pilgrim/(224) Joshua Richardson

Pilgrim remains one of the strongest players without a tour card and had a very strong start to the year on the Challenge Tour, and ought to be way, way too strong for Richardson, who may not even be the best player in his family and this is the rare spot where the non-card holder is an easy pick. Brown is a bit stronger and has had the occasional purple patch in the last couple of years, but numbers in the last year being below 87 is not a great sign and Pilgrim ought to be a significant favourite again. Hughes has a peak game better than anyone here, but overall he continues not to show it other than in very limited spots, if he finds his game then anything could happen, but I find it hard to say that Darryl isn't the strongest player of this group at this point in time.

(61) Ritchie Edhouse v (63) Boris Krcmar

The last straight round three game we'll look at, and it's between two players very close in the rankings. Hard to pick a winner - Edhouse might have done slightly more on TV, but Krcmar has done a bit more statistically, so maybe the Croat has a marginal edge.

(65) Connor Scutt/(112) Wesley Plaisier or (147) Haupai Puha/(152) Jelle Klaasen v (88) Daniel Klose or (151) Adam Warner

We now get to the stage where we have four tour card holders and the highest placed player is the Rileys' qualifier. Scutt was a bit unlucky to lose the card, but topped the Challenge Tour averages and is probably one that we'll be looking at getting back on tour twelve months from now, if he doesn't auto win a card from the Challenge Tour. Here, he'll face Plaisier, who's also in the top ten on the Challenge Tour and this was my pick of the best (known) game for the first session. On the other half, we've got two players straight onto the tour this year, Puha for the first time and Klaasen back, this feels like it should be a Klaasen win with Puha maybe not quite having the scoring to hang with the former Lakeside champion. Then we've got two second year card holders - Warner was an interesting name to get on tour but he's not done an enormous amount with it, while Klose has shown some good performances and is probably the pick of that entire four player section - although I tend to think that whoever comes through it will be the underdog in the third round.

(68) Adam Gawlas v (167) Robert Grundy/(200) Michele Turetta or (209) Jarred Cole

Pretty simple to analyse this one. Grundy and Turetta are both newly on the tour, Robert's had a bit of a slower start but has a larger amount of data than what we've got on the Italian, and he looks the better player. Cole's the next man up who got here through the Dev Tour and got a bye, and I'm not sure that his level of play, while continually getting better, is quite at the level of the card holders, although it's arguable he probably has more experience than either. Awaiting in round three is Gawlas, who had a great run here last year but he is still very up and down. Consistency will come with time, but he could definitely use being more up than down, as his lower level games aren't going to be enough to convert his ranking into a clear edge in this one.

(69) Vincent van der Voort v (106) Jeffrey Sparidaans or (122) Christian Perez

Perez has finally got a visa and is looking not too bad on the Pro Tour, having a nice semi final run very recently. Jeffrey got his tour card at the same time, and has not been horrific but the numbers haven't really been there and Christian ought to be a marginal favourite. Hard to say where van der Voort is at, the raw numbers aren't too dissimilar to what Perez is at, albeit slightly better and slightly more consistent - but with 2023 being a bit of a disaster results wise, is the form there or is he another that we might be saying goodbye to at the tour card level next year after a long spell with having one?

(72) Ryan Meikle v (99) Geert Nentjes or (109) Pascal Rupprecht

We've got two players straight into round two here - Nentjes is just a bit too old for the Development Tour now, and it feels as if 2023 was a bit of a stalling year, with him missing the worlds and overall numbers not being where they have been in the past. Rupprecht was a bit of a surprise card winner at the start of 2023, but while it seems as if he has been a touch on the quiet side, the numbers over the past year are actually superior to those of Geert and maybe he comes in as favourite. If Ryan was playing his best game, he should smoke either of these, but 2023 was a fair bit of a bad year and statistically he's right off it, this could be one where he uses what isn't the worst draw to get himself out of a funk, or it's one where poor form escalates. Hard to say really.

(79) Christian Kist/(213) Patrick Geeraets or (114) Adam Smith-Neale v (83) Jeffrey de Zwaan or (110) Jurjen van der Velde

We're not getting down to the messy stages here with the last few groups. Kist was very, very good for much of 2023, but then injury hampered him and the first weekend of the Challenge Tour puts him somewhere in the middle - not being awful, but not being near where he was when he was at his best. Geeraets was one of the more random names to come through this year's Q-School, we're still finding out what he's about, but the figures don't seem horrible to say the least so maybe he has his chances. Smith-Neale is probably a better player than Patrick, and while he's not at Kist's level if Kist was playing at his peak, with what we might actually see from Christian, Adam may be favoured and does look to be the best form we've seen out of him, maybe since he got his World Masters win. Maybe ever. On the other half we've got two Dutch players who are in the second year of cards looking to push to retain them - Jeffrey's the more well known name and is in the running, and we all know what he can do at his peak and is not out of the equation of getting in that critical top 64, but Jurjen isn't an enormous amount behind him on the rankings, the Dev Tour first weekend stats indicate he's still pretty solid for his age, but in this one he looks a fair bit behind the level of de Zwaan and the former Matchplay semi finalist should have enough and is probably a small favourite to come out of this cluster overall.

(84) Jeffrey de Graaf/(201) Matthew Dennant or (100) Danny van Trijp v (171) Scott Mitchell/(179) Leighton Bennett or (230) Darren Beveridge/(UR) Jason Hogg

We now get into even more of a messy situation. de Graaf is the highest ranked player, mainly due to his worlds run, and while he's definitely had a slow start being back on tour, looks competent enough and has been around long enough to know what he's doing at this level. Dennant is also finally on the tour, and the numbers he's put up so far are not bad at all - we know he's been around and near to getting there a few times, he's certainly not a random and may actually have a small advantage. van Trijp plays the winner, and I'm thinking Danny is not as strong a player as either of his possible opponents so it's a good chance for either of the newer card holders to get deep in this one. On the other side, it's even more confusing. Mitchell against Bennett is a fascinating matchup of young against old with Leighton finally getting onto the tour and putting up some alright early numbers, while Mitchell qualifies from his Challenge Tour ranking in 2023, and has more data and at a comparable standard, so this should be interesting. Ice Cold also won his way onto the tour this January, and his numbers aren't too dissimilar to those of Bennett, while Hogg is a former world championship player who's been here before but who we've not seen for a fair bit, so while we know he's going to be competent, Darren should be favoured, but in terms of who actually makes the evening? Who knows, it's wide open.

(97) Owen Bates/(102) Andy Boulton or (126) Graham Usher v (127) Ronny Huybrechts or (UR) Harry Lane/(UR) Dominik Gruellich

Finally we have the Master up against Andy Boulton - we've got great data on both, and Boulton might be the slightly better player over the past year, although Bates probably has the better trajectory at this point in time so this could be extremely tight. Usher again has comparable statistics to either player and that second round game could also be extremely close. On the other side, Harry Lane is our final Rileys qualifier, back for another year having won the same qualifier, but numbers on the Challenge Tour are not convincing and Gruellich, who's here from the Development Tour but isn't a player that has really caught the attention like most of the others who got here by that route, might have a little bit too much for Lane, with better Challenge Tour figures at least. Ronny might be that little bit better again, and it may be a spot where experience overcomes youth, but I'm not sure any of those three are as good as any of the other three, so whoever comes through Usher's first game would be my pick to get into the pot with the big guns.

That's your lot, I'll have bets at the start of the live post that I'll hopefully put up this evening, then edit the live post throughout the afternoon session tomorrow with thoughts and further punts as matchups become known. It's the best darting day of the year and I can't wait for it.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, Burness was one win away from qualifying for the Seniors