Mensur Suljovic determined to focus on International Darts Open title defence after beating William O’Connor in opener

Mensur Suljovic kicked off his HappyBet International Darts Open title defence a winner, as he beat William O’Connor 6-3 with a ton-plus average.

Suljovic—the number two seed in Riesa—won the first two legs, but three missed darts at tops allowed the Irishman to break back and get a foothold in the match.

“I lose focus on the game and it goes 2-1, 2-2,” Suljovic told Love The Darts.

“I say to myself, ‘Mensur, please, come back into the game. You focus on the game, you’ll play well.’”

After O’Connor held to level at two, Suljovic threw in a 12-dart hold, before narrowly missing bull for a 161 for another 12-darter two legs later.

Up 4-3, O’Connor left 41 after nine, but Suljovic took out 84, his highest finish of the match, to complete an 11-dart break for a 5-3 lead.

Suljovic then landed tops at the third attempt to complete a victory in his first match since his maiden television title in Cardiff last weekend.

“For me, there’s big pressure now as Champions League winner,” Suljovic said. “But I focus on my game and never think that I’m Champions League winner. That tournament was last week, not this week.”

While Suljovic survived an early scare, multiple top seeds did not, with one last 16 matchup tomorrow being between two unseeded players.

Ron Meulenkamp started the upset train off by knocking out the fourth-seeded Michael Smith 6-3 in a scrappy contest.

“I’ve played Michael Smith four or five times and I’ve always played a good match against him but lost,” Meulenkamp said. “Now I play awful against him and I win, but I’ll take it anyway.”

Smith started strongly, holding throw and leaving 54 after 12 against the darts in the next leg. But Meulenkamp took out 116—the highest finish of the match—to level.

“I didn’t feel comfortable on stage, and the 116 made a difference,” Meulenkamp said. “I settled down a bit. I felt a little bit more relaxed.”

Both players missed a slew of doubles over the next few legs, with Smith himself missing three in a leg in three consecutive legs.

Meulenkamp, who is playing with new, heavier darts, punished him each time, as he won the final four legs of the match.

“I’m a real fighter,” Meulenkamp said. “I’m not the biggest talent, but I can fight like an animal, and I think I did.”

Meulenkamp’s opponent in the last 16 will be Josh Payne, who upset Rob Cross 6-4.

Payne started strongly, averaging over 105 through the first few legs, as he raced into a 3-0 lead.

“There’s a lot more that I could do, but I thought I played well there, especially the first half of the game,” Payne said.

Cross raised his game in the middle legs, wheeling off four in a row, including one with a tournament-high 170 out while Payne himself waited on 170.

But Payne steadied the ship late, winning the last three legs to advance. He now plays Meulenkamp in a battle of players who both recently increased their dart weights.

“My preparation has been really good,” Payne said. “I’ve been working on my practice routine at the moment and progressing my game .”

Earlier in the night, Dave Chisnall put in a top performance, averaging over 100 in a 6-4 win over Darren Webster, while going six and seven darts into a perfect leg.

The pair exchanged holds early on, with Chisnall looking the more comfortable in his legs. Chisnally didn’t require more than five visits in any leg he won, while Webster required at least six in each of his four.

Chisnall kicked off leg five with six perfect darts, but he missed two darts at double to let Webster in for a chance at 140. Webster hit to the two treble 20s, but was well wide of the mark on double 10.

Chisnall cleaned up, and it would prove to be Webster’s only good opportunity to break.

In the final leg, Chisnall kicked off again with two perfect visits, this time against the throw, and added the treble 20 with the seventh dart. He missed with his eighth, but still left a double after nine. He cleaned up second dart next turn to advance into Sunday.

Dennis Nilsson, who spoke with Love The Darts on Friday after his win over Steve Beaton, followed that win up with a last-leg upset of the fifth-seeded Daryl Gurney on Saturday night.

Gurney broke into the lead in leg three, but he missed two darts at double 16 to consolidate the break in the next leg. Nilsson took out 60 to level at 2-2, and the two held the rest of the way.

Nilsson had to withstand an onslaught of six 180s and a 100 average from Gurney, but threw one of his own in the final leg to leave 100. He then took it out on double ten, completing a 12-dart hold and a 6-5 victory.

Nilsson, who is scheduled to compete on Monday at the World Masters in Bridlington, plays Chisnall on Sunday afternoon.

Peter Wright also advanced into Sunday, getting over the line 6-2 in a match with 30 missed darts at double.

Wright won the first two legs, with Quantock missing 11 darts at double in the first leg, but Quantock bounced back to level.

But the world number three was too much for Quantock, as he wheeled off four on the spin, including a 120 out, to win.

Alan Norris put in his best performance on the Euro Tour this year, averaging 105 in knocking out the last remaining German, Max Hopp, 6-1.

Hopp broke in the very first leg, landing 72 after Norris missed three darts at tops. But Norris was nearly perfect the rest of the way, missing only three more darts at double over the next six legs and winning all but one leg in four or five visits.

In the final match of the night, Simon Whitlock had to withstand a scorching start from his compatriot Kyle Anderson, as Anderson won three of the first four legs for a 3-1 lead.

But Whitlock bounced back from there, winning four of the last five legs for a 6-4 win and a 100 average.

Both players hit over half their doubles, but it was Whitlock who created more opportunities in a match where all but one leg was won in five visits.

Picture: PDC Europe

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

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

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

v Diogo Portela

Jelle Klaasen posts highest average since surgery to beat Brendan Dolan in International Darts Open last 32

Jelle Klaasen recorded his highest average since his surgery in May, averaging over 97 in a 6-4 win over Brendan Dolan, in the second round of the HappyBet International Darts Open.

The pair exchanged breaks for the first three legs, before Klaasen held in leg four. Klaasen nearly broke again in the fifth leg, but didn’t get a dart at bull after missing a big number. That allowed Dolan to step in and trim the deficit to a single leg.

However, Klaasen was clinical on his throw the rest of the way, winning five of his six legs in 15 darts or fewer.

The winning double seemed elusive, as Klaasen missed six darts over the last two legs at double. But he eventually pinned double nine for the 6-4 victory.

“I’m happy with the way I played,” Klaasen told Love The Darts after the match. “I know I missed a few doubles at the end, but a 97 average isn’t bad.”

The win follows off a quarter-final run two weeks ago in Mannheim, Klaasen’s best run since having surgery on his wrist in May.

“I’ve been practicing one or two (hours) every day because I can’t practice too much yet,” Klaasen said. “But the feeling is good, and wins like this give you confidence.

“Confidence is maybe 90 per cent (of where I’ve struggled since the surgery).”

Joe Cullen put in the performance of the afternoon—and one of the best all year on the European Tour—averaging 113.77 in a 6-1 win over Richie Corner.

Corner broke in the first leg with a 120-out after Cullen missed double 18, but Corner didn’t get another chance the entire match. Cullen won the next five legs in 12, 13, 12, 12, and 13 darts, including two 87 outshots and a 147.

He then finished the match with a 116 out for a 15-darter. Cullen missed only five darts at double the entire match.

Later in the day, Yorkshire’s Peter Jacques won through to his first final day of European Tour action, defeating Benito van de Pas 6-2 while averaging 97.55.

“I want to progress,” Jacques said. “I feel as though I’ve had building blocks all the time, and the next stage was to get to the final day of a Euro Tour.”

Van de Pas started strongly, breaking in the first leg, but barely got a look the rest of the way. Jacques immediately broke back, taking out double 19 for a 14-darter, before breaking again with an 11-darter in leg six for a 4-2 lead.

There was no way back from there, as Jacques took out 77 to hold in leg seven, before closing the match out on double nine. Jacques only missed four darts at double for the match.

“I improved a lot on yesterday,” Jacques said. “My finishing is sometimes what let’s me down, but you can’t argue with that (performance).”

Gerwyn Price started the afternoon with a victory, beating Ireland’s Steve Lennon 6-4. Both players traded blows early, with Price taking out 167 to break and Lennon a 110 to break straight back.

There were near misses too, with Lennon wiring the bull for a 161 of his own, and Price twice missing double eight, once for a 124, and later for a 136.

However, Price was too much in the end for the young Irishman, as he took out double two to win the match. Price—who was over the ton much of the way—averaged just over 99 for the match.

Ian White overcame a slow start in the second match to beat Keegan Brown 6-3. The two exchanged breaks in the first two legs, including a 22-darter by Brown in the first leg, before White found his groove, wheeling off four legs on the spin. Brown pegged two back, but White took out double 10 to finish the job.

Mervyn King was also a winner Saturday, as he beat Greece’s John Michael 6-2. Michael actually had the higher of the averages, as he averaged just under 95, but King created more chances, as he had 18 darts at double.

In the final leg, both players were left on 121, with Michael missing the bull. King would not let him back in, as he took out the 121 for the match. King and Michael then performed Michael’s trademark Greek dance before Michael departed the stage.

The next two matches featured strong performances from the Huybrechts brothers, as both Kim and Ronny won through.

First, Kim Huybrechts put in the second-highest average of the afternoon, averaging over 99 in a 6-1 win over Christian Kist.

Kist never got going. He managed only two darts at double over the first five legs, and six for the match.

Kim Huybrechts meanwhile was clinical. Although he only had one 180, he had 11 scores of 131+ in the match, as he progressed into Sunday.

Brother Ronny then followed suit, defeating an out-of-form Cristo Reyes 6-4. Reyes never felt comfortable on stage, as Ronny Huybrechts broke twice in the first three legs for a 3-0 lead.

Ronny Huybrechts let Reyes hang around, missing eight doubles in legs four, five, and seven. Reyes punished each time, trimming the deficit to 4-3.

But Ronny Huybrechts—who went six darts into a perfect leg in leg six—was much the better player, and rolled out with a comfortable victory over the Spaniard.

Picture: PDC Europe

Sweden’s Dennis Nilsson hails first-round win over Steve Beaton in International Darts Open as ‘one of the best wins of my career’

Sweden’s Dennis Nilsson pulled off the night’s biggest upset, as he knocked out former World Champion Steve Beaton, while Kyle Anderson and Ronny Huybrechts both put in top shelf performances, in the first round of the HappyBet International Darts Open.

Nilsson and Beaton each hit a pair of ton-plus outs in the early stages, but it was the Swede who moved in front, taking a 5-3 lead. However, Beaton battled back to level at 5-5.

Beaton had the darts in the decider and left 32 after 12, but he missed three at double. Nilsson then stepped in and took out 106 for the match, 6-5.

“(Beaton)’s one of the best on tour,” Nilsson said. “I’ve played the World Championships, Winmau World Masters. This is one of the best wins of my career.

“When he missed in the last leg, I just think, give me one chance. And I took it.”

Meanwhile, Kyle Anderson had the only 100+ average of the night, as he beat Jerry Hendriks 6-1. Anderson was consistent throughout, only missing two darts at double, highlighted by a 130-out in leg two.

“Now, it’s all coming together,” Anderson said. “I’m feeling comfortable hitting doubles now. It’s all coming together as one.”

Yet Anderson still feels he can improve on this performance over the rest of the tournament.

“My scoring wasn’t as good as it’s been over the last four or five tournaments. I need to hit more trebles tomorrow.”

Anderson meets fellow Australian Simon Whitlock tomorrow, following off of them meeting in the World Matchplay and a pair of World Series events recently.

“He can score well, I can score well. It’s going to come down to who can hit their doubles.”

Ronny Huybrechts also won through with a quality performance, averaging over 105 for much of the match before finishing with a 94 average and a 6-4 win over Ted Evetts.

“It was for me really important to win this match because it’s the last time the European Championship is in Belgium,” Ronny Huybrechts told the Love The Darts.

“It’s my fifth year in the PDC, and I qualified the two years in Germany, but never in Belgium.”

Huybrechts jumped out into a 5-1 lead, but Evetts wheeled off three legs on the spin, including two breaks of throw, to narrow the margin.

In the tenth leg, Huybrechts left tops after 12, but almost didn’t get a shot. Evetts missed tops for a 116-out and a 15-darter of his own. Huybrechts then took out tops first dart for the match and set up a second-round encounter with Cristo Reyes.

“Cristo is a good friend,” Huybrechts said. “We practice together. But when you’re on stage, you have no friends. I need to play my best game to beat him.”

Greece’s John Michael also won on Friday, overcoming Hungary’s Euro Tour debutant Nandor Bezzeg 6-3. Michael was comfortably better for much of the match, but missed four match darts before finally taking out double 10.

In the second match of the night, Keegan Brown overcame a slow start to beat Michael Plooy 6-4.

Plooy took the first two legs, with Brown averaging under 70, before Brown wheeled off three legs on the spin and five out of six to grab the lead.

Plooy took out 71 to save the match in the ninth leg to save the match. But Brown nailed double top after Plooy missed double 18 to finish the deal.

The German crowd had reason to cheer in the third match, as Max Hopp overcame a game Mark Webster 6-4.

The crowd were for the most part respectful. But they applauded when Webster busted from 20, allowing Hopp to step in to break for 2-1.

Webster seemed rattled from that, as he was left on 224 after 12 in the next leg, but he came back in the next two legs, including a 14-dart break of throw to level at 3-3.

But in the end, the German was too much, as he edged by 6-4 in a match where both players missed a dozen darts at double.

In the fifth match, Peter Jacques moved closer to qualifying for the World Championship, as he overturned a 2-0 deficit to beat Vincent van der Voort 6-4.

Van der Voort could have been even more in front, but he missed eight darts —including five at double four – for a 3-0 lead. Those were amongst 14 darts van der Voort missed at double in the match, with three more coming in the penultimate leg.

Jacques was not much better on the doubles, missing 13 of his own, including three himself in leg nine, but he hit madhouse to go 5-4 up and never looked back.

Richie Corner silenced the hometown crowd, beating Martin Schindler 6-3.

Schindler broke in leg five for a 3-2 lead, but Corner won the next four, including outs of 81, 120, and 147 to book his place in the second round tomorrow.

Picture: PDC Europe

Ireland’s Steve Lennon steals the show on opening session of International Darts Open in Riesa

Irishman Steve Lennon stole the show Friday afternoon at the SACHSENarena in Riesa, averaging just under 100 in a 6-2 win over Simon Stevenson, in the first round of the HappyBet International Darts Open.

“I’m relieved to win,” Lennon told Love The Darts after the match. “It’s my fourth time on the European Tour this year and it’s a relief (to win).”

The victory follows on the back of a successful debut season on the PDC circuit for Lennon, who stands in the race to qualify for the World Championship.

“My original goal for the year was to qualify for the UK Open, the Players Championships, and a few Euro Tours,” Lennon said. “But it’s gone a lot better than expected. I didn’t think I’d be in the race for Ally Pally.”

Seven other players joined Lennon with wins during the first session of play.

In the first match on Friday, Brendan Dolan whitewashed an out-of-sync Andy Hamilton. Dolan was clinical if not spectacular, hitting half his darts at double.

Meanwhile, Hamilton only had darts at double in two legs, and kept changing his speed of play to play to no avail.

Darren Webster also kept his hot run of form going, beating Luke Woodhouse 6-4 while averaging over 95. Webster kept his cool under pressure, and took out the last three legs, including a 138 out to level in the eighth leg.

Christian Kist was also a winner, as he overcame a slow start to beat Justin Pipe in a last-leg decider.

Kist was averaging 65 through the first two legs, but came back from two breaks of throw down to win.

Pipe had checkouts of 150 and 164, and wired double 7 for a 122. But his game deserted him late, and Kist punished with a 15-dart hold in the final leg.

Later, Chris Quantock put in one of his best performances on the European Tour stage, as he dispatched of host nation qualifier Dragutin Horvat 6-3.

Quantock was 60 per cent on the doubles, and very well could have won 6-1 had Horvat not taken out a 164 outshot—which alongside Justin Pipe was the highest outshot of the session—to stay alive in the seventh leg.

Willie O’Connor joined compatriot Steve Lennon in the second round, beating Dimitri van den Bergh 6-4.

Van den Bergh missed 13 darts at double, including two in the final leg, as O’Connor got the victory despite the lower average.

Mick McGowan could not make it a trio of Irishman into Saturday’s play, as Ron Meulenkamp won his first match on the European Tour this year, 6-1.

Both players struggled to put in big scores, but Meulenkamp created more opportunities in the entire match. He took out ton-plus shots in the first leg, and never let McGowan back in.

In the final match of the afternoon, Josh Payne defeated Germany’s Bernd Roith 6-4.

Roith battled back from 4-2 down to level at 4-4, but Payne took out legs of 14 and 16 to see himself over the line.

Picture: PDC Europe

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

Double qualifying delight in European Qualifiers for van der Voort, Kist and van den Bergh

Vincent van der Voort, Christian Kist and Dimitri van den Bergh have all qualified for the last two European Tour tour events of the season after winning through the European Qualifiers double-header in Riesa last night.

The HappyBet International Darts Open, which starts in Riesa today, and the HappyBet European Darts Trophy, which takes place in Göttingen next month, represent the final two tournaments on the European Tour for 2017.

And with qualification for the European Championship once again based solely on prize money won on the European Tour, the trio have all boosted their chances of qualifying for the major in Hasselt by securing spots in Riesa and Göttingen.

In the International Darts Open European Qualifier, world number 29 van der Voort defeated Yordi Meeuwisse 6-3 in the final round of qualifying, while Kist and van den Bergh won last-leg deciders against Rowby-John Rodriguez and Arjan Konterman respectively.

Other players to come through the qualifier included Ronny Huybrechts, who saw off Willy van de Wiel 6-1 in the final round, John Michael, a 6-5 winner over Jimmy Hendriks, and Jerry Hendriks, who pipped Jermaine Wattimena in a final-leg shootout.

Ron Meulenkamp will make only his second appearance on the European Tour this year after defeating Jan Dekker 6-4 in the final round, while his Dutch compatriot Michael Plooy clinched his spot in the field this weekend with a 6-3 victory against Mario Robbe.

In the European Darts Trophy European Qualifier, the final round saw van der Voort beat Berry van Peer 6-2, van den Bergh see off Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-3, and Kist edge past Antonio Alcinas 6-3.

Recent Players Championship finalist Zoran Lerchbacher secured his spot in Göttingen with a 6-2 win over Jimmy Hendriks, while Dekker qualified with a last-leg victory against Meulenkamp in the final round, and Wattimena defeated Plooy 6-5 to qualify.

Jeffrey de Zwaan secured a second appearance on the European Tour this season with a 6-2 win against Cristo Reyes, while Yordi Meeuwisse qualified for his first European Tour event of 2017 with a 6-2 win over Konterman in the final round.

Last night also saw the Host Nation Qualifier held for this weekend’s International Darts Open, with World Cup team-mates Max Hopp and Martin Schindler among the qualifiers.

Hopp beat Stefan Stoyke 6-3 in the final round, while Schindler edged past Marvin Eßer in a last-leg decider to also qualify.

The duo were joined by Bernd Roith, a 6-4 winner over Christian Bunse, and Dragutin Horvat, who saw off Thomas Junghans to secure a spot in the penultimate European Tour event of the season.

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.