By Alex Moss
24 JUNE 2017 • 11:25PM
Given the year Peter Wright has had on the PDC circuit this year, racking up eight ranking titles, including his maiden TV crown at the UK Open, many would have expected the world number three to get the better of world number 91 Kim Viljanen in Vienna tonight.
But darts is not that simple. Wright arrived in the Austrian capital hoping to add a fourth European Tour title to his collection for 2017, yet his bid for more glory on the continent ended at the very first hurdle.
Three 180s and 75 per cent on the doubles for Viljanen was enough to pull off a surprise 6-5 win against Wright, who finished with an average 12 points higher than his opponent (97.66 to 85.14), but finished the match on the losing side.
The month of June 2017 will not live long in the memory of Wright’s most prolific darting months. It started with him returning to play in the Betway World Cup of Darts with Gary Anderson, and the top seeds suffered a shock defeat to Singapore in the first round.
A duo of earlier than expected exits in European Tour events, sandwiched between last 16 and last 32 exits on last weekend’s Players Championship double-header in Wigan, means Wright has now gone five events without reaching a quarter-final or better.
The last time that happened for the world number three? Between September and October 2016, some eight months ago.
Two last 32 exits in the Players Championship double-header in Dublin was followed by a disappointing first round defeat to Brendan Dolan in the World Grand Prix, before early departures in the German Darts Championship and Players Championship 19 made it five events without a quarter-final.
We all know what followed for Wright after that quintet of barren performances, though. In the next 33 tournaments which followed, Wright progressed to the last eight or better of 25 of those 33 events, a run which catapulted the Scot up to a career-high number three in the world and, more recently, saw him end his long wait for a first televised title.
While some may point to ‘burnout’ for a reason behind Wright’s dip in results over the last four weeks, he rarely skips a tournament, unlike his top rivals Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson and co, it is also a valid point to suggest he will simply just play himself back into form again.
The PDC calendar is loaded with tournaments and a free weekend for the players is almost non-existent now, which means an opportunity to bounce back for Wright is never too far away.
Take for example last month, Wright had just been handed the most devastating defeat of his career when he missed six match darts to beat van Gerwen in the final of the Betway Premier League, and two days later he was celebrating a tournament success in Players Championship 11, albeit not as lucrative or high profile, but nevertheless, he had rediscovered the winning formula at the first available opportunity.
So, should Wright be worried about his latest batch of early tournament exits? Well, while yes, after a defeat a player should reflect on their performance and what they can do to improve, the chances are Wright will not allow himself too long to lick his wounds.
No doubt he will back on the practice board in his Suffolk home early next week in preparation to start going deep into tournaments once again.
Wright will be among the top seeds again when the European Tour heads to Leverkusen next weekend, and you would not want to back against him bouncing back again with a run to the final session and another quarter-final.
Picture: PDC Europe