William Hill World Darts Championship qualifying update: Diogo Portela becomes sixth player to book spot at Ally Pally

Brazil’s Diogo Portela is the sixth player to have qualified for the 2018 William Hill World Darts Championship.

Portela won the South & Central American Qualifier in Palmas, Brazil on Saturday to earn himself a debut at the Alexandra Palace at the end of the year.

The UK-based Brazilian joins America’s Willard Bruguier, New Zealand’s Cody Harris, Australia’s Gordon Mathers, Finland’s Kim Viljanen and Japan’s Seigo Asada as the six players to qualify so far as international qualifiers.

The 72-player field for the Alexandra Palace event will be made up of the top 32 players on the PDC Order of Merit, the next top 16 players on the Pro Tour Order of Merit and 24 players from international qualifiers and the PDPA Qualifier.

2018 William Hill World Darts Championship (Qualified players so far)
Willard Bruguier (North American Darts Championship winner)
Cody Harris (DartsPlayers New Zealand Qualifier)
Gordon Mathers (DPA Pro Tour #1)
Kim Viljanen (PDCNB Order of Merit #1)
Seigo Asada (PDJ Qualifier)
Diogo Portela (South & Central American Qualifier)

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World Championship South & Central American Qualifier Updates

Updates from the South & Central American Qualifier for the 2018 William Hill World Darts Championship from Palmas, Brazil.

First Round
Bruno Holfman bye
Guilherme Soares bye
Alexandre Sattin 6-1 Fabio Porto
Luis Miguel bye
Eric Babosa 6-0 Rafael Agueria
Samuel Oliveira 6-2 Marlon Araújo
Troy Bhujhawan 6-0 André Concalves
Edson Chaves bye
Sudesh Fitzgerald 6-1 Burno Angel
Anderson Viera bye
Artur Valle 6-2 Rodrigo Pitombeira
Rodrigo Pena bye
Diogo Portlea bye
Roberto Wentz 6-2 Kevin Jacob
Lallchand Rambharose 6-4 Renan Soares

Second Round
Bruno Holfman 6-0 Guilherme Soares
Alexandre Sattin 6-4 Luis Miguel
Eric Babosa 6-3 Samuel Oliveira
Troy Bhujhawan 6-0 Edson Chaves
Sudesh Fitzgerald 6-0 Anderson Vieira
Artur Valle 6-0 Rodrigo Pena
Diogo Portela 6-0 Roberto Wentz
Lallchand Rambharose beat

Quarter-Finals
Alexandre Sattin 6-2 Bruno Holfman
Troy Bhujhawan 6-3 Erica Babosa
Sudesh Fitzgerald 6-1 Artur Valle
Diogo Portela 6-0 Lallchand Rambharose

Semi-Finals
Alexandre Sattin v Troy Bhujhawan
Diogo Portela 6-3 Sudesh Fitzgerald

Final
v Diogo Portela

Mensur Suljovic to begin defence of International Darts Open against Dimitri van den Bergh or William O’Connor tomorrow

Mensur Suljovic will start the defence of his HappyBet International Darts Open title against Dimitri van den Bergh or William O’Connor in Riesa tomorrow.

The world number seven, who stormed to his maiden televised title at the Unibet Champions League of Darts on Sunday, is back in Germany this weekend to try and defend his first PDC title he won 12 months ago.

Following last night’s European and Host Nation Qualifiers, the 48-player field for the penultimate European Tour event of the season has been confirmed, with Suljovic to face the winner of today’s first-round tie between van den Bergh and O’Connor in the last 32 on Saturday.

With world number one Michael van Gerwen deciding to skip this weekend, Peter Wright is the top seed in Riesa and will be bidding to win his 10th title of 2017, with German hopeful Dragutin Horvat or Chris Quantock up first for him tomorrow.

Elsewhere in the draw, third seed Simon Whitlock could start his campaign with another meeting with his fellow Aussie Kyle Anderson on Saturday, if the Auckland Darts Masters champion gets past Jerry Hendriks in the first round today.

Gibraltar Darts Trophy winner Michael Smith, the fourth seed, faces either Ron Meulenkamp or Mick McGowan, fifth seed Daryl Gurney goes up against Dennis Nilsson or Steve Beaton, while sixth seed Alan Norris will play Max Hopp or Mark Webster in his first outing of the weekend.

Last year’s beaten finalist in Riesa, Kim Huybrechts, the seventh seed, starts against Justin Pipe or Christian Kist, eighth seed Jelle Klaasen will play either Brendan Dolan or Andy Hamilton, while ninth seed Benito van de Pas has a second-round meeting with Vincent van der Voort or Peter Jacques on Saturday.

2017 HappyBet International Darts Open
First Round Draw
Dragutin Horvat vs. Chris Quantock
Ted Evetts vs. Ronny Huybrechts
Brendan Dolan vs. Andy Hamilton
Vincent van der Voort vs. Peter Jacques
Dennis Nilsson vs. Steve Beaton
Darren Webster vs. Luke Woodhouse
Ron Meulenkamp vs. Mick McGowan
Bernd Roith vs. Josh Payne
Dimitri van den Bergh vs. William O’Connor
Steve Lennon vs. Simon Stevenson
Justin Pipe vs. Christian Kist
Keegan Brown vs. Michael Plooy
Max Hopp vs. Mark Webster
Martin Schindler vs. Richie Corner
Jerry Hendriks vs. Kyle Anderson
John Michael vs. Nandor Bezzeg

Second Round Draw
Peter Wright (1) vs. Horvat/Quantock
Cristo Reyes (16) vs. Evetts/R Huybrechts
Jelle Klaasen (8) vs. Dolan/Hamilton
Benito van de Pas (9) vs. van der Voort/Pipe
Daryl Gurney (5) vs. Nilsson/Beaton
Dave Chisnall (12) vs. D Webster/Woodhouse
Michael Smith (4) vs. Meulenkamp/McGowan
Rob Cross (13) vs. Roith/Payne
Mensur Suljovic (2) vs. van den Bergh/O’Connor
Gerwyn Price (15) vs. Lennon/Stevenson
Kim Huybrechts (7) vs. Pipe/Kist
Ian White (10) vs. Brown/Plooy
Alan Norris (6) vs. Hopp/M Webster
Joe Cullen (11) vs. Schindler/Corner
Simon Whitlock (3) vs. Hendriks/Anderson
Mervyn King (14) vs. Michael/Bezzeg

Premier League watch: Four players from 2017 line-up who could be dropped next year

In part two of this three-part series, I take a look at four players who played in the 2017 Premier League and have been Premier League regulars over the past few years. I make a case for them being dropped, in addition to a case against them being dropped.

Adrian Lewis

The Case For

It hasn’t been the greatest 20 months for the double world champion. Since losing out to Gary Anderson in the 2016 World Championship final, Adrian Lewis has failed to reach a premier TV final, apart from the pairs format World Cup. His only other TV final of any level came in a World Series event in Auckland. Outside the Matchplay, he hasn’t been past the last 16 of a single ranking major, and in the floor events he’s managed just one title since February 2016. If he doesn’t improve soon, he could be out of the top 16 come January. And that doesn’t even get to the fact that he struggled mightily in the Premier League this year.

The Case Against

His form is no more worrying than that of Gary Anderson a few years ago, and it didn’t cost Anderson his spot in the Premier League. Moreover, he’s given flashes to make us think an upswing in results isn’t too far off. And none of that gets to the most important point that Adrian Lewis is, after Phil Taylor, the biggest active name in English darts. With Taylor retiring, the Premier League will suffer a major headlining hit. It is a business, and Adrian Lewis’s CV says he deserves a free pass, at least for next year.

Dave Chisnall

The Case For

He’s already been dropped from the World Series rotation, missing out on the last five World Series events, including Germany. That’s on top of some indifferent form since the summer recess, losing all four matches he has played at the European Tour and in the Champions League this month. He’s only won his board at half the Players Championship events he’s played this year, a low number for a Premier League-caliber player. And he’s gone out second match at both the UK Open and the World Matchplay, the two ranking TV majors to date.

The Case Against

Despite falling short of the play-offs this year, Dave Chisnall was undoubtedly the best player during the second half of the Premier League. He went unbeaten, and just missed a couple of tricks that in the end cost him a spot at the O2. His form up to the final in Shanghai is about as good as anyone has shown in the World Series events this year. Okay, he hasn’t had a deep run in a ranking TV event this year, but he’s made a good account of himself. And we all know Dave Chisnall’s best darts generally come deep into autumn. Even if he hasn’t done enough right, he’s not done anything to merit getting dropped.

Raymond van Barneveld

The Case For

Outside the World Championships, there’s not much to distinguish Raymond van Barneveld from the other contenders for the Premier League. He played all the World Series events and made just one final, and his form in the Premier League this year was as bad as it has ever been. All that would be fine if the PDC wasn’t already going out and trying fresh faces. But the PDC has been, and those fresh faces have reached two World Series finals (Daryl Gurney and Corey Cadby) and won another (Kyle Anderson). The days of Barney getting free passes may be limited.

The Case Against

He’s Raymond van Barneveld. He’s a five-time world champion who is still nearly as popular now as he’s always been. And with Phil Taylor retiring, losing van Barneveld from the Premier League will be a huge marketing loss. Moreover, he’s shown he still has it. Had it not been for an untimely power cut, Barney may well have won the UK Open, and he never got going in the Matchplay because he had to play Phil Taylor second round. And then there was the Champions League this past weekend, where he beat Michael van Gerwen and only got knocked out in the semi-final by a 160-out from Mensur Suljovic. It’s not panic time yet for Barney.

James Wade

The Case For

Since the UK Open, James Wade has entered 21 ranking tournaments and has only made it further than the last 16 twice. He went out first round of the World Matchplay, and his performances in the World Series events have been at best uneven, including a defeat to Canadian Dawson Murschell in Las Vegas. He’s dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in over a decade, and is outside the top 24 in seasonal ranking earnings, which no one has ever done and still made Premier League. Add in that he only finished seventh in the Premier League, ahead of only Adrian Lewis, and got only three points against the top 6 in the second half of the season, and it might be time for Wade to get another break from the Premier League.

The Case Against

Although Wade hasn’t gotten results as of late, he put in some turn-back-the-clock performances in New Zealand and Australia. Moreover, he’s not defending that much money in the back end of 2017, which could see him rise back into the top 8 or even top 6 by just a marginal increase in form. Wade will have ample opportunities over the next few months to make an even stronger case, and it’s hard to imagine someone of Wade’s talent not making one or more deep televised runs before the World Championship. His case may now look shaky, but give it time and it will make itself.

Premier League watch: Six players who could potentially be in the running to make their debuts in 2018

As we reach the final few months of the season, the battle to earn one of six wild cards to the 2018 Premier League starts to take centre focus. Next year is poised to be one of the more wide open years in recent history, as Phil Taylor is due to retire and as many as six of the other nine participants from 2017 cannot feel that their spots are secure.

In part one of a three-part series, I take a look at six players who have never been in the Premier League and make a case for and a case against each of them receiving a debut invitation in 2018.

Mensur Suljovic

The Case For

The world number seven — besides being ranked number seven — just added his first TV title to a 2017 resume that includes two European Tour finals and a run to the World Matchplay quarter-final. That TV title included five consecutive wins over 2017 Premier League participants in the space of 32 hours. And it came with the crowd warming to him, showing that despite his esoteric style, he’s a crowd favourite.

The Case Against

His 2017 hasn’t been nearly as good as his 2016. Granted, some of that came down to family obligations, as his wife spent much of the season pregnant with the family’s second child, but it has led to a leaner CV than he might otherwise have. Moreover, his standard hasn’t been as good. Suljovic routinely was averaging just over the ton in 2016, while this year it has been more around the 97 to 99 mark, indicating that he may be regressing.

Daryl Gurney

The Case For

Daryl Gurney is one of just two people to reach the semi-finals of both the UK Open and World Matchplay, the other being Peter Wright. That’s on top of his first PDC title, alongside four other finals, including one in a World Series event. He’s just going from strength-to-strength, and he always looks up to the task.

The Case Against

Can he keep this going? Right now, Gurney seems a lock for the Premier League. But Gurney’s still a timing player, and hasn’t shown he can consistently maintain his A-game for extended periods of time. That might cause him some trouble over the next few months, when we’ll see him play lots of longer-format matches. Still, it’s hard to see a scenario where he does not make the Premier League.

Gerwyn Price

The Case For

He’s reached a ranking TV final, which no one else other than Mensur Suljovic has done amongst the potential first-time invitees. And he backed that up with a run to the World Cup final alongside Mark Webster. He played the first three World Series events, reaching the semi-finals of two of them. Moreover, he won a pair of ranking events last year, which only Rob Cross this year has matched amongst those leading the way for their first-ever invite.

The Case Against

If you asked a few months ago, there didn’t seem much one could say against his selection. But since then, immaturity has sometimes outshone his accomplishments. Price has missed multiple events due to registration problems, and he fell out of the World Series rotation after getting invited to the first three World Series events of 2017. He hasn’t been past the quarter-final of a ranking event since April, and he only averaged 88 against Taylor in the Matchplay.

Darren Webster

The Case For

Since the start of November, he’s whitewashed Phil Taylor on television and taken a 6-0 lead over Michael van Gerwen in a TV semi-final. He’s won his first ranking PDC title in over a decade and pushed up the rankings with regularity. Two months ago, he made the quarter-final of the World Matchplay, losing out to Peter Wright in a competitive match. He’s only getting better.

The Case Against

Other than that title in July and the run to the Matchplay quarter-final, Webster has only reached two other quarter-finals or better in 2017. When’s he’s on, he’s one of the most electric players on the circuit, but he has too many off matches. He takes well to television, but he needs to show a lot more in the back end of 2017.

Kyle Anderson

The Case For

He’s won a TV title, something no one else on this list other than Mensur Suljovic has done. And he’s began climbing up the rankings, despite losing out on a lot of prize money from the end of 2016 due to his visa problems. He’s recorded big wins on stage against most of the top players in the world now, and has shown he has the game to rival anyone. Since the World Series, he went on a string of five consecutive Euro Tour matches where he averaged over 100.

The Case Against

He’s only made two ranking TV quarter-finals, and both were last year. He’s thrown in more than his fair share of clunkers on TV, including as recently as the World Cup against Russia. His last six weeks have been very good, but he had an indifferent 2017 before that, including a run of four months where from March to June where he only reached one quarter-final on the Pro Tour and failed to qualify to five Euro Tour events. He needs to prove this isn’t just a hot run of form.

Rob Cross

The Case For

Rob Cross has made Stephen Bunting’s debut season in the PDC look pedestrian, and Bunting got a Premier League invite after the year. Cross has already won two titles, and just made his first Euro Tour final, where he ran out of steam against a brilliant Michael van Gerwen. He accounted himself well in his Matchplay debut, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe he’s going to slow down now.

The Case Against

The comparison to Bunting is his strongest argument for a Premier League invite, but it’s not a fool-proof case. Bunting came to the PDC as the reigning BDO world champion, and he made two television semi-finals and a World Championship quarter-final at the back end of the year. Until Cross matches Bunting’s TV results, his case for a Premier League spot next year is weak. He’s got the talent, but his resume by Premier League standards is still lacking.

Race to Wolverhampton: Champions League triumph secures Grand Slam spot for Mensur Suljovic

Mensur Suljovic’s stunning victory in the Unibet Champions League of Darts at the weekend has secured him a spot in the bwin Grand Slam of Darts in November.

The world number seven was a 40/1 pre-tournament outsider to win the title in Cardiff, the Austrian upsetting the odds with consecutive victories over Gary Anderson (twice), Peter Wright, Dave Chisnall and Raymond van Barneveld to clinch his maiden televised title in the PDC.

The victory for Suljovic has seen him become the 15th player to have now pre-qualified for the Grand Slam of Darts, with the criteria including the finalists from the Champions League.

TV event winners alongside Suljovic include reigning Grand Slam of Darts champion Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor, Peter Wright, Raymond van Barneveld and Corey Cadby, while finalists Gary Anderson, James Wade, Berry van Peer, Gerwyn Price, Dave Chisnall and Mark Webster are also currently qualified for the 32-player field for the Wolverhampton event.

Among the eight BDO representatives, Glen Durrant, Danny Noppert and Peter Machin have all qualified, and they will be joined by the top five ranked players from the organisation’s rankings on September 30.