Thursday 11 April 2024

Into Riesa

Running into a busy period of the schedule, and an important one as we start getting closer and closer to the Matchplay, the next three weekends having half the Euro Tour events before the cutoff so a huge chunk of the money is at stake this month. Before then, of course, we had a couple of Pro Tour events, with Chris Dobey and Danny Noppert being both surprising (given the strength of the fields) and unsurprising (given they're both bloody good players in their own rights) winners, which has done the following to the FRH rankings (which include minimum money for ET3):

1 Luke Humphries
2 Michael van Gerwen (UP 1)
3 Michael Smith (DOWN 1)
4 Rob Cross
5 Nathan Aspinall
6 Gerwyn Price
7 Damon Heta (UP 1)
8 Peter Wright (DOWN 1)
9 Dave Chisnall (UP 1)
10 Jonny Clayton (DOWN 1)
11 Dimitri van den Bergh
12 Stephen Bunting (UP 1)
13 Chris Dobey (UP 2)
14 Luke Littler
15 Joe Cullen (DOWN 3)
16 Danny Noppert (UP 1)
17 James Wade (DOWN 1)
18 Ryan Searle
19 Gary Anderson (UP 1)
20 Josh Rock (NEW)

The big one is van Gerwen overtaking Smith by less than 100 points, but Smith can regain the number 2 spot just by winning one game at ET3 with van Gerwen absent. Heta's bump appears to just be to do with Wright being in bad form, Chizzy and Clayton being in a similar spot. Bunting has had some OK decent runs, obviously Dobey and Noppert won this week, while Rock made a final and Ando's getting the benefits of good form.

So, onto Riesa, and we've got no less than five players who'll enter the FRH rankings so a few names who we'll not have great data on, but they're not all unfamiliar, let's go through in running order.

Jitse van der Wal v Ritchie Edhouse (Michael Smith) - Jitse's a fairly new tour card holder, and has done well to win through to here given he's had a bad start, with just one win and pretty miserable numbers, and plays Edhouse who got qualification to two future Euro Tours yesterday and has had some pretty nice performances, and rates something like an 80/20 favourite albeit on rather limited data. Smith I believe is who Edhouse beat on TV a couple of years back at something like the PC Finals, and he's merely been OK for someone with world champion money on his rankings, maybe only being about a 70/30 favourite against Ritchie.

Kai Gotthardt v Brendan Dolan (Gerwyn Price) - Kai is a name we've seen occasionally, I thought he'd made the Euro Tour more than once before but that's what it looks like, we've also seen him in things like the German Superleague and he's off to a pretty good start on the Challenge Tour, so maybe showing signs of improvement, although he only peaked in the mid 80's in the quali, which is likely not going to be enough to trouble someone as competent as Dolan, who's not had a bad start to 2024 relatively speaking. Price can't complain with this draw and he does like the event, and is doing well enough that he's closer to a three in four than two in three shot for this one.

Alexander Masek v Dimitri van den Bergh (Danny Noppert) - Masek won the Eastern qualifier, and will make his debut having got through to the second stage of Q-School but otherwise being basically unknown, and apart from a real good first round win, didn't threaten much more than mid 80's at any point in that quali, which against someone with the renewed confidence of a recent major win just isn't going to cut it. Another player with recent confidence will of course be Noppert, and that second round game rates as too close to call.

Richard Veenstra v Andrew Gilding (Dave Chisnall) - Stupidly good game to have in the afternoon session of round one, but that's the new quali rules for you, Andrew had a nice run in the last Euro Tour while Veenstra hasn't really kicked on massively after a good worlds, but still looks good enough to make this one an effective coinflip with Goldfinger having only the tiniest of edges. Chisnall won't particularly like this matchup in round two whoever comes through, but still should be in the 60-65% range against either of them, which is an edge but not a game he can remotely take for granted.

Daryl Gurney v Patrick Klingelhoefer (Ryan Searle) - Patrick's pretty much unknown, first appearing in the PDC for real at this Q-School, not making stage two but he does have three Challenge Tour cashes now and makes his debut, albeit only getting higher than the low 80's in one round of the qualifier, so he may well not be able to put up too much resistance against Gurney, who's looked pretty good as he looks to hold in a race to partner Rock at the World Cup. Searle is going to be an interesting opponent, he's better but not that much better and a second round game only gives Searle slightly closer to 60% than 55% chances.

Callan Rydz v Lee Evans (Damon Heta) - Rydz had a couple of good early runs to start 2024 off but has tailed off a bit since then, while Evans has merely been steady if not spectacular, but doing enough to be possible value with Callan only rating around a 55/45 favourite in this opening round encounter. Heta shouldn't be too displeased with this draw, but they both look dangerous enough opponents to warrant having a chance somewhere in the 30% range, Rydz naturally being a bit higher, so it's a good but not perfect draw for the Aussie.

Willie O'Connor v Mervyn King (Ross Smith) - Willie has been pretty average on the floor so far this season, but it's a bit more than King's been doing as Mervyn's battling to save his tour card, although King did at least have the consolation of a solid UK Open run to give him a bit more of a chance. It's the sort of game he needs to win and he's got around a 45% chance to do so, so certainly not out of things, and Ross is kind of in the same spot of "I'll take it but it could be better" in terms of draws, he's just dropped out of the FRH top 20 but, like Heta again, has got somewhere in the 60% chances to win against either opponent, so may be able to nick the spot back dependent on other results, or claim it back outright, a final session run ought to be enough for that.

Michael Unterbuchner v Luke Woodhouse (Stephen Bunting) - Michael is in a second appearance of the season, which is a nice return to form for someone who was making a bit of a name for himself in the BDO days and probably has the best numbers of any of the qualifiers we've looked at so far, not breaking 90 but being closer to that than 80 for the most part. Woodhouse had a good UK Open and has had a good run in midweek as he looks to lock down a Matchplay spot, he's in good shape and ought to be able to get through this one, but then Bunting in round two, although maybe not doing quite as well as he might have done in 2024 given his red hot form towards the end of the year, is going to be a tricky one with the Bullet being closer to 65% than 60% to advance past Woody to a potential matchup with the world champion in the last sixteen.

Jose de Sousa v Cor Dekker (Luke Humphries) - de Sousa is now out of the FRH top 32 and hasn't really been doing enough to make us think he'll be out of the top 32 proper this time next year, currently solidly on the outside looking into the Matchplay reckoning and it's not ridiculous to think he won't be seeded for the worlds this season. Dekker however isn't the worst opponent as the Norwegian makes a first Euro Tour since 2019, he's a name that's been known for some time who's had World Cup appearances, but was wildly up and down in the quali with a couple of 90's but one game down in the low 70's, although did back up making this event in weekend 1 of the Nordic series with making the final of an event last weekend. Jose should have enough, but Humphries should easily win the second round game at least 75% of the time.

Chris Dobey v Dylan Slevin (Krzysztof Ratajski) - An all card holder battle here, Dobey's right in form for reasons stated above, while Dylan has had an OK start to 2024 but nothing quite as good as what he had in early 2023, which is looking more and more like an outlier, albeit in a career that's still very much in its infancy with plenty of time to grow some more consistency to the game as we know the peak game is pretty good. Dobey ought to be extremely comfortable here, a projection of nearly 85% may be a touch overkill but not completely outrageous, and in Ratajski he's got one of the better seeds he could get and looks about a 60/40 favourite in that second round game, assuming he gets past Slevin.

Jan Dueckers v Martin Schindler (Joe Cullen) - Dueckers is another player who's pretty much unknown, did Q-School but didn't make stage two, and did play the German leg of the Challenge Tour picking up one mincash. In the quali he had a good 6-2 win with a 90 average against the in form Franz Roetzsch, but was below 80 in three of the other four games and only just over in the other one, so it's hard to see Schindler having problems here. Cullen ought to be a good test, the projections I'm getting are showing Cullen as a fairly significant underdog with having just a one in three chance, but he's not actually looked bad when we've seen him, so despite pretty middling results in 2024 it might play out a bit closer than what a 2-1 game ought to look like.

Mike de Decker v James Wade (Ricardo Pietreczko) - Real interesting section which could go any way. de Decker got qualification for another Euro Tour this past week, has made the final day once already this season, and is within touching distance of a Matchplay return, while Wade is not actually guaranteed to get there himself and hasn't had the most fantastic start to the season, and actually comes into this game as just less than a 40/60 dog, that's just how competent de Decker is right now. Ricardo isn't a bad seed to draw and has had his moments over the past few months, and actually rates as possibly the worst player of the three, being a 65/35 dog to de Decker and being on the wrong end of a coinflip against Wade, although he will have the benefit of a first game on evening session crowd which always helps.

Cameron Menzies v Simon Whitlock (Josh Rock) - Menzies is continuing to play really good stuff as we move into 2024, with some moderately good runs, while Whitlock is struggling to put up results, and is now out of the FRH top 50 and rates as less than a one in four shot against Cameron, that's just how good he's playing right now (and/or how middle of the road Simon has been of late). Rock made another final this week so looks to be playing well - but actually projects as a tiny underdog if he were to face Menzies in the second round.

Gian van Veen v Raymond van Barneveld (Rob Cross) - Didn't we have this in the last event? Why yes, yes we did. van Veen won that one 6-5, and that sort of close scoreline doesn't look out of the question, with the younger Dutch player projecting up towards, but not quite at, 60%. Really could go either way. Cross would have a similar sort of edge against van Veen, so while Rob will be looking for a deep run and to go one better than he did in Belgium, this is a nasty draw and while there's a logical order to the players in terms of chances of getting through, making an argument that any of them might progress would not be ridiculous in the slightest.

Gabriel Clemens v Peter Wright (Dirk van Duijvenbode) - Clemens is still continuing to look for a first tour win, and hasn't really been getting close this year so far with just the one board win. Wright's been a bit more up and down with a couple of semi final runs, but nobody can realistically say that Peter is anywhere near his best game and we may well be at a stage where that best game is forever in the past - although he still has enough game to be competitive, albeit Clemens does project as a 55/45 favourite despite a lack of results in 2024. Dirk has had a final run on the floor and is probably off our do not touch list, and looks to be flipping against Clemens and having a similar edge against Wright as the German does in round one, so this may well be the tightest mini section of the lot.

Owen Bates v Nathan Aspinall (Jonny Clayton) - Tough draw for the Master here, Owen hasn't gotten off to a fantastic start on the tour with more first round losses than wins and not even a board final to his name yet, but he got through the quali here for what appears to be a debut on this stage. Aspinall's no joke though and being in the playoff spots more than half way through the Premier League is seriously good play. Nathan is actually only projecting around 70/30, which does surprise me and feels like an underestimate, Owen's numbers are a bit inconsistent. Then again, so are Aspinall's. Clayton it feels is someone who's just there right now and kind of making up the numbers of the top sixteen, feels like some time since he's done anything hugely notable - probably since the Matchplay game he lost to Aspinall to be honest. Aspinall actually rates about the same sort of edge to repeat that result as he does against Bates, which seems kind of nuts but Clayton's only just scoring over 90 a turn since the start of September, which is behind a lot of players who are not even in the top 32 in the world right now.

Bets tomorrow morning, don't know if oddschecker will make things easy for us but lines are at least out.

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