Column #CM92 World Grand Prix – The Debutants
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
World Grand Prix Debutants
This year, in the World Grand Prix – which due to the Corona pandemic will not be played as usual in the City West hotel in Dublin but rather behind closed doors in the Ricoh Arena in Coventry – six debutants will take part who are (with the exception of Dirk van Duijvenbode) very close in the the PDC Order of Merit. As the circumstances differ a lot from the other World Grand Prix it is difficult to assess the advantage players who previously taken part in this double-in event might have over the debutants. And almost as difficult is assessing in what form the participants will present themselves – far from all took part in the last PDC event, the German Darts Championship. I nevertheless will attempt to give an overview of their chances based on this year’s results.
Best Performance on TV: quarterfinal PDC World Championship 2019
First Round Opponent: Peter Wright
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 40
Ryan Joyce – born in Newcastle-upon-Tyan and now living in Bristol – first played in the BDO and in 2017 won the British Gold Cup. In the same year he took part for the first and only time in the BDO World Championship but was eliminated in the first round by Martin Adams. In 2018, he took part in PDC Qualifying School and got his Tour Card. In his first Players Championship he reached the semi-finals and all in all played a strong first year on the PDC Circuit – which reached its peak when he reached a quarterfinal but lost to Michael van Gerwen. 2019 was not as good for Joyce although he reached his second Players Championship semi-final. But in the World Championship he already lost first round.
Due to the Corona pandemic it is difficult to assess Joyce form in 2020. He won one of the events of the PDC Summer Series and once reached the top 32 of an Autumn Series event. He lost his first round match in the World Matchplay against Simon Whitlock. Probably Peter Wright will be too strong an opponent in the first round of the World Grand Prix. But this only double-in event has a way of following its own rules and first round upsets happen often. Nevertheless Joyce will probably have to surpass himself to beat Peter Wright – who has a lot more match time at the line this year on his side as well.
Nickname: Heavy Metal
Best Performance on TV: last 16 PDC World Championship 2019
First Round Opponent: Danny Noppert
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 39
Ryan Searle also started his career in the PDC where he prompted negative headlines in 2013 for not signaling his refusal during the World Masters when the caller saw his winning dart inside the double 20 which was landed outside. But it may well be Searle was not cheating as we now know he has big problems with his eyesight due to astigmatism. Since that time, Searle played on the PDC Challenge Tour and was so successful that he got a 2016 Tour Card thanks to his Challenge Tour ranking place. In his first year on the Pro Tour he reached some good placings – among others the Top 32 of the UK Open. In 2018 his only highlight was the quarterfinal of an European Tour event but Searle qualified by the Qualifier for the Grand Slam of Darts. He didn’t survive the group phase. In the PDC World Championship in 2019 he reached the quarterfinals as well where he lost to Michael Smith. Overall, 2019 was unspectacular though again he showed some good performances.
In 2020, before the lockdown Searle would celebrate his biggest success so far winning the third Players Championship of the year beating Michael van Gerwen in the final. During the Autumn Series Searle stood once in a semi-final and twice among the top 32 – it looks he is still in good form. In the first round of the Grand Prix his opponent will be Danny Noppert who is in good or even top form as well. He just stood in the semi-finals of the German Darts Championship and showed impressive performances throughout the event. So, it will be difficult for Searle – especially as Noppert already has some World Grand Prix experience. Should Searle survive the first round the winner of the Rob Cross/Gary Anderson match will be waiting for him. The form of each is a tough call but to be sure both would be hard to beat by Searle.
Jose de Sousa
Nickname: The Special One
Best Performance on TV: last 32 World Matchplay 2020
First Round Opponent: Devon Petersen
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 45
Portuguese Jose de Sousa qualified for the first time for the PDC World Championship but lost there in the preliminary round to Devon Petersen. After that he didn’t appear for several years in the PDC but was quite successful locally both in soft-darts and in steel-darts. In 2017, he tried his luck in Qualifying School but couldn’t get a Tour Card. In 2019, he again qualified for the PDC World Championship and after it took part in European Qualifying School – this time with success. So, now de Sousa is the first and until now only Portuguese player on the Pro Tour. He improved gradually and won one of the Players Championships 2019.
De Sousa didn’t have a great start to 2020 but qualified before the lockdown for two European Tour events. He impressed in the first PDC Home Tour and reached the final of the third Summer Series event. By this he qualified for the World Matchplay but lost first round. De Sousa played a strong Autumn Series as well placing twice among the Top 32, once among the Top 16, a quarterfinal and a semi-final – it looks as though he improved his form during the Corona lockdown. At his World Grand Prix debut he will meet, as in his World Championship debut, Devon Petersen. As good as Petersen is playing at the moment this match could become one of the highlights of the first round of the tournament. I think the advantage is with Petersen but in the end to be able to hit the doubles clinically is, in this tournament, even more important than in other events. And often enough the double-in has driven many top players to desperation.
Nickname: The African Warrior
Best Performance on TV: last 16 PDC World Championship 2019
First Round Opponent: Jose de Sousa
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 42
Devon Petersen has now represented his country South Africa seven times in the PDC World Championship and reached that last 16 in 2014 and 2019. Since 2012, he has taken part several times in the PDC World Cup as well. Once in this time Team South Africa stood in the quarterfinals – the until now best placing. In 2011, Petersen for the first time got a Tour card but he had to put his career on hold due to an injury. In 2015, he won his Tour Card back and travelled back and forth to take part in the tournaments. In 2016, he for the first time stood on the Pro Tour in a quarterfinal and became the first South African in the PDC to throw a nine-darter.
The following years his performances varied and success on the Pro Tour was rare. He joined the Sky Sports commentators team and delighted the crowds from time to time with his stage dance. His performance started to improve in mid-2019 – he played from time to time outstanding averages but still without real success. In February 2020, he for the first time stood in a semi-final of a Pro Tour event and reached in March the semi-finals of the Belgian Darts Championship as well before the lockdown abruptly interrupted his rise.
Petersen reached one semi-final during the Summer Series. During the Autumn Series he stood for the first time in a final. He couldn’t be stopped in the second European Tour event, the German Darts Championship, and showed an impressive performance in the final to defeat Jonny Clayton, folloing which he explained that he’d practiced during the lockdown with Wayne Mardle and Collin Lloyd.
Petersen will meet Ryan Searle in the first round of the World Grand Prix. Searle is a debutant as well and in good from but not as spectacular as Petersen. In round two Petersen wll meet either Michael van Gerwen or Krzysztof Ratajski – a rather difficult task – and should he advance, on his way to a possible final more big names will await. Nevertheless Mark Webster thinks Petersen could be a possible winner though he would tend more to Gerwyn Price or Peter Wright.
Nickname: German Giant
Best Performance on TV: last 16 UK Open and World Matchplay 2020
First Round Opponent: Nathan Aspinall
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 37
Gabriel Clemens‘ biggest success so far is he semi-final of the World Masters in 2017. Since obtaining his PDC Tour Card in 2018 he’s been a regular n the PDC Circuit. In his first year he stood in a Pro Tour final. He has been the most successful German player on the Pro Tour through the last few years and often convinced on the European Tour as well. In 2019, he qualified by the qualifier for the Grand Slam. Clemens recharged the last 16 where he lost a very close match to Glen Durrant. Clemens started well into the year 2020 and was the first German player to reach the Last 16 of the UK Open. During the Summer Series he reached another semi-final and qualified for the World Matchplay where he was eliminated second round by Krzysztof Ratajski. After that, Clemens form dropped and he had a disappointing Autumn Series. He lost second round in the German Darts Championship – with for him rather low averages. Of course it can happen that his form will be back for the World Grand Prix but he has with Nathan Aspinall a really high-class opponent. Should he be able to win the match Stephen Bunting or Jamie Hughes would be his next opponent – not so difficult as both are in the moment far from their best too. In round three he would probably face Gerwyn Price would wait – at the moment probably too much for the German Giant.
Dirk van Duijvenbode
Best Performance on TV: last 32 UK Open 2020
First Round Opponent: Mensur Suljovic
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 73
The upcoming Dutch player Dirk van Duijvenbode is the youngest and in the PDC Order of Merit lowest ranked World Grand Prix debutant. He‘s played since 2011 again and again on the Development Tour, later on the Challenge Tour as well where he had his most successful year in 2014 reaching four semi-finals and one final. In 2015, he tried Qualifying School without success, afterwards several times played on the Pro Tour and threw a nine-darter on the Development Tour.
By the Order of Merit he got 2016 Tour Card but lost it again at the end of 2017. He got it back in Qualifying School 2018 but again lost it at the end of 2019. He won it back in Qualifying School 2020.
It came as a surprise when van Duijvenbode reached the semi-finals of the Belgian Darts Championship – the first event of the European Tour. A short time later he stood among the Last 32 of the UK Open as well.
His form seems to be quite good – during the Autumn Series he twice reached the Top 32. Whether his form is good enough to survive his World Grand Prix first round match against Mensur Suljovic is questionable – though Suljovic showed no brilliant matches this year so far. Van Duijvenbode would have to be clinical on his double-in and Suljovic rather poor. In round two Michael Smith or Dmitri van Bergh will wait should the Dutchmen get through – and I suppose at least that will be the end of the way.
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