Paul Nicholson reflects on the World Grand Prix and looks ahead to the Premier League Play-Offs in his latest column.
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The double-start World Grand Prix once again lived up to its reputation of providing us with shocks and surprises, but ultimately it ended up with arguably the best player on the planet right now walking away with yet another title.
Gerwyn Price survived a huge scare against heartbroken Dave Chisnall before defeating 200/1 debutant Dirk van Duijvenbode in the final while the likes of Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Peter Wright and Nathan Aspinall crashed out earlier in the competition.
The latter three will bid to bounce back in Thursday’s Premier League Play-Offs alongside regular season table-topper Glen Durrant – but who will walk off with the title?
This week, Paul Nicholson looks back at the drama from the World Grand Prix as well as his thoughts ahead of the Premier League climax.
Dirk’s dream debut
It was a potentially career-changing week for Dirk but £50,000 is no guarantee of long-term success. Look at Kirk Shepherd, be banked the same amount for reaching the World Championship final in 2008 and within two or three years he was forgotten.
Dirk has got to spend the next few days enjoying what he's done with in the World Grand Prix – because it was a fantastic achievement – but he’s got to be careful with what he does next.
He’s got to focus on what he did right and try to replicate that for the rest of the season while he’ll also be in the European Championship, where there could be some fans for him to entertain.
His cheque of £50,000 will keep him on the tour for a couple of years at the very least – whatever happens - but he’s got to take full advantage of it by pushing towards the top 32 because in 2022 he will have to defend the ranking points.
If he’s starting to slide back down the rankings by then it can be a noose around your neck. Just look at Jamie Lewis. He won £85,000 for reaching the semi-finals of the World Championships and it hung over his head for a good 18 months. He knew when that came off, his ranking would plummet because of the form he was in at the time.
I had a similar experience when the £60,000 I won at the Players Championship Finals came off my ranking two months before the 2012 World Championship so I dropped from 9th to 22nd and I felt under real pressure.
Hopefully this won’t happen to Dirk and he’ll instead vault himself into the elite because he’s an exuberant Dutchman who’d be great for the game.
Work, rest or play?
I’m surprised that Gerwyn Price is competing this weekend on the European Tour. I think the right thing for him is to bank the £110,000 from the World Grand Prix, take the weekend off and spend some time with his family.
I don’t think he’s going to be 100% because he’s had a long – albeit brilliantly successful time with four titles and 23 wins out of 24 – period of darts and it could eventually take its toll ahead of another hectic run of majors coming up on the horizon.
If it was me, I’d be taking a short break but perhaps that’s one of my faults. When I was having my best year in 2011, I remember picking up a title in early June which was my third of the year and I was exhausted. I decided to take a weekend off from a double-header in the Netherlands and Gary Anderson went to that tournament and won them both.
People said to me afterwards that I should have gone and potentially stopped him from getting those two titles because I may have finished number one on the Pro Tour that year. Peter Wright told me that once and he reiterated it on a podcast recently – when you’re winning you should keep on going.
Although £2000 doesn’t seem a lot considering he’s just won a six-figure sum, when you win that much for just turning up at an event in the first round, it does all add up. Also, as a seeded player on the European Tour, you have just one match on Saturday and then a maximum of four on the Sunday, which is a lot easier workload than some of the Players Championship series.
Doubles not so troubles
Players who come through the ranks these days do initially seem to struggle with double-start darts because it’s not as prevalent or fashionable as it was in years gone by.
There used to be leagues with a 301 double-start format and also leagues where a double was nominated using a dial on the wall. I played in two double-start leagues every week because they were popular and also helped build character.
Gerwyn Price obviously played locally in South Wales but quickly bypassed the rest of the traditional grassroots blueprint that you were ‘meant’ to follow – such as Super League and county darts - by getting through Q School early on in his career, so his experience of double-start darts was probably non-existent.
For him to have finally found a formula that worked is highly impressive and shows just how adaptable he is – although I don’t think that makes him the best double-start player in the world.
When I was winning tournaments regularly in 2011, every time I walked into the building for the next event, I knew people were thinking that I’d be a real threat that day.
And during this time, it almost felt as if I was watching people lose games in front of me rather than me winning. I remember in a semi-final of an event I won in June 2011, I shouldn’t have won the semi-final but Dave Chisnall missed seven match darts.
After sneaking through, I bossed the final against Steve Brown and won the title. It felt as though it was intimidating for players who faced me and they expected me to get the job done.
They faltered in front of my own eyes and the same happens for Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright and Gerwyn Price during their periods of dominance.
That’s not to say they aren’t playing well, but sometimes their sheer presence and aura causes opponents to buckle in winning positions – similarly to Chizzy against Price in the semi-finals.
There’s no guarantee that had Chisnall hit the double 18 to beat Price that he’d have gone on to win his first major title but it would have been a completely different situation than his previous five finals where he’s faced either Phil Taylor or MVG.
Hearts broke all over the country when he missed those doubles because we all want Dave to win a major – especially this one because he’s undoubtedly one of the best double-start players ever.
From a standard perspective, I've not seen many players better than him anywhere on this planet and there’s no question that he’s the best player never to have won a major.
However, if he’s going to crack this and crash through his glass ceiling then he might need some more help from a psychological perspective to try and get over that line. It's the same with Michael Smith. I see the same sort of barrier when it comes to the final double. They are both such likeable people but perhaps they are too nice and need to find their inner beast.
Gerwyn Price has won on the European Tour, the floor and the televised stage this year to bring up the trifecta. It's not just about where you win. Sometimes it's about keeping the winning streak going wherever you play.
There’s always been players down the years like Andy Smith, Colin Osborne, Denis Ovens, Mark Dudbridge and Colin Lloyd who had reputations for picking up a title or two every year just to keep the winning habit going.
If you can do that, it's less time between drinks isn’t it?
Had Dave Chisnall not lost to Ryan Joyce in a final of the Summer Series event after missing match darts, his mindset and confidence for the events that followed – including the World Grand Prix – might have been different for the better.
The same goes for Michael Smith who is quite frankly parched at the moment because it’s been such a long time but if he was able to win a Pro Tour or European Tour event in the coming weeks, it might vault him into the stratosphere.
Crisis or no crisis?
I don’t think Michael van Gerwen’s Grand Prix was that bad at all so it would be wrong to say he’s in crisis.
Simon Whitlock simply produced one of the most complete double-start performances of all time and it just so happened that he found it against MVG, who ended up with one of the most impressive losing averages in the history of the tournament.
Whitlock does seem to have his number in behind-closed-doors darts so watch out for the next time they meet – possibly at the World Championship – because MVG will really be out to destroy him!
Despite averaging over 100 twice against Chris Dobey and MVG either side of a battling victory over Mervyn King that went the distance, Simon’s overriding emotion may now be one of deflation after failing to reach those same standards in the semi-finals with Dirk van Duijvenbode.
He’s very astute tactically 99% of the time but it has to be said that he got this one wrong. I think he recognised Dirk as an exuberant, confident, fast player, and he was trying to dictate the pace of the game. It didn't work and he will probably hold his hands up and say "I tried to get the tactics to work for me but it failed and blew up in my face."
If he’d gone into the game with the same aggressive mentality as his other matches – which was hit them hard early and rely on his own talents rather than get bogged down with tactics – then I think he’d have got the job done.
This may really play on his mind if he doesn’t end up winning a second big title before he retires.
It feels a lot longer than six weeks since the regular season ended! We’ve had a European Tour event, the Autumn Series, the World Series of Darts Finals and the World Grand Prix so the form they showed in Milton Keynes almost feels irrelevant now.
The first person I want to focus on is Glen Durrant. Obviously there was a lot of expectation on him to have a really good World Grand Prix because of his double-start prowess but there’s now some uncertainty about his game.
He changed his flight shape before the World Grand Prix so that suggests he’s having doubts on what to use for the Premier League Play-Offs.
If he knows definitively whether he’ll use kite shape of pear shape, then fair enough. Based on the evidence we’ve seen over the past few weeks – including the Autumn Series – I’m not so sure.
Peter Wright also got knocked out of the World Grand Prix early after changing his darts, which was a baffling decision at this stage of the season, while Nathan Aspinall was unable to get past the first round either.
All three will now be well rested at least, but I’d say Nathan will have the least amount of pressure because of the way he snatched his play-off spot on the last night
Gary Anderson went back to a pencil-style darts for the World Grand Prix compared to the ones he used during the Premier League regular season so there’s a lot of uncertainty with all four of them.
The only thing we can be sure about, is that they’ll all be glad Gerwyn Price didn’t qualify – because if he had, there would only be one winner on current form.
Peter Wright will be favourite because he’s the highest ranked player but it’s still got to go down as the most wide open Finals Night of all time.
You really wouldn’t be surprised if any of them won it, and we’ve never been able to say that before.
If they all turn up and produce their historically best A-Game then it’ll probably be Gary Anderson beating Peter Wright in the final.
If they all turn up and produce their 2020 A-Game, then Peter Wright will win the title because his level of performance is higher than anyone else’s.
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- Paul Nicholson: Column four
- Paul Nicholson: Column three
- Paul Nicholson: Column two
- Paul Nicholson: Column one
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