By Alex Moss
18 APRIL 2017 •9:30PM
The PDC European Tour returned on Easter weekend with the HappyBet German Darts Masters in Jena, the second of 12 events taking place on the tour in 2017.
Michael van Gerwen won his 15th European Tour title of his career, and first of the season, beating fellow Dutchman Jelle Klaasen 6-2 in the final last night.
ALEX MOSS picks out five things we learned from the last three days of action in Germany…
1. Michael van Gerwen is back to his frightening best
From the moment he took to the stage in his first game against John Michael on Sunday evening, producing a stunning 110.12 average to beat the Greek number one 6-1, Michael van Gerwen looked like a man who was not going to be beaten.
The world number one racked up 26 titles last season, culminating with his second world title, but in the early months of this campaign he has not been as prolific in rattling off tournament wins.
This past weekend in Jena was another van Gerwen masterclass. The world number one followed up his demolition of Michael with four impressive performances on the final day, 110.78, 105.23, 100.58 and 107.33 were the Dutchman’s averages on Easter Monday as he cruised to a 15th European Tour title.
Van Gerwen dropped just 11 legs on his way to claiming the £25,000 top prize, with Cristo Reyes coming the closest to beating the top seed in a 6-3 defeat in the last 16.
Wins over Raymond van Barneveld, Simon Whitlock and Jelle Klaasen followed for van Gerwen, and he did not look particularly troubled in any of them.
We’ve seen van Gerwen produce moments of brilliance already this season, the two nine darters in one game, the 138 checkout to beat James Wade in the Premier League, but this was a sustained level of excellence from the reigning PDC world champion.
A message has been sent out to the rest of the field: catch me if you can!
2. Jelle Klaasen can play through the pain barrier and pick up results
A run to his second European Tour final represented a good weekend for Jelle Klaasen, who has not had the best of starts to 2017.
The 2006 BDO world champion returned to the Premier League for the first time in eight years, but was one of two players, along with Kim Huybrechts, eliminated after Judgement Night last month.
Klaasen has visibly been playing through the pain barrier recently, with a wrist injury which affects his throwing arm, and was a contributing factor to his early exit from the Premier League.
The Dutchman could have been heading home early in Jena, he survived match darts from his fellow countryman Jeffrey de Graaf in the third round, and then went on to beat Kyle Anderson and James Wade to reach the final.
An impressive run, considering his injury problems, but it leaves him with a bigger headache: when does he have surgery to heal his wrist?
How much longer can he continue to play with the injury? It was a successful weekend for Klaasen, but it must not detract him from planning an operation sooner rather than later.
3. Best ever average gives hope for Max Hopp
On the face of it, a victory against the world number 82 in the first round of a European Tour event is not going to set the world alight.
Yet, Max Hopp’s 6-3 win against Wales’ Robert Owen in Jena on Saturday was a noteworthy win for the former world youth champion.
Hopp’s average of 97.27 was his highest recorded in the PDC and at least showed his legion of home supporters that he has the game to compete at a high level.
An 84.99 average in his next round, a 6-1 defeat to the in-form Gerwyn Price, put an end to his involvement in the German Darts Masters.
But his first round performance should give him belief that better times are ahead, and they need to be if he is going to fulfill the potential he has.
4. Rowby-John Rodriguez still yet to find consistency
Of the 48 players who graced Sparkassenarena stage over the Easter weekend, arguably no one had a more up and down weekend than Rowby-John Rodriguez.
The young Austrian has had a poor start to 2017, missing out on qualifying for the UK Open and struggling for results on the Pro Tour.
But there were signs of a change in fortune for the 23-year-old, with a run to the last 16 of a PDC senior tour event for the first time this year, and an appearance in the final day of a European Tour event for the first time in more than 18 months.
A 6-4 win against fifth seed Benito van de Pas in the second round, which saw him average in excess of 94, was a pleasing result, but the following day saw him average just 77.66 in a 6-1 defeat to Michael Smith.
A 17 point difference in the averages between games, separated by less than 24 hours, shows that Rodriguez still lacks consistency, and until he finds that in his game, his progress will continue to stutter.
5. Barney and Lewis intent on being in the European Championship this year
Much was made of Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld missing from the European Championship last year.
The change in qualifying criteria for the televised event meant that the 32 players who qualified would be based solely on performances on the European Tour.
Lewis skipped multiple events on the tour and missed out, while van Barneveld’s last ditch attempt to qualify fell short.
But this year, it appears that the former world champions do not want to make the same mistake twice.
Both Lewis and van Barneveld came through the UK Qualifiers and were in action in Jena for the second European Tour event of the season.
Van Barneveld’s run to the quarter-finals puts him in a good position currently to qualify for the European Championship, while Lewis’ first round exit leaves him with work to do.
Expect to see both Premier League stars in action on the European Tour a few more times this year.