World Grand Prix - The Debutants

This year in the World Grand Prix - which will due to the Corona pandemie not be played as usually in the City West hotel in Dublin but behind closed doors in the Ricoh Arena in Coventry - six debutants take part who are with the exception of Dirk van Duijvenbode very similar in the PRDC Order of Merit. As the circumstances differ a lot from the other World Grand Prixes it is difficult to assess the advantage players who already took part in the Double-In event have over the debutants. And almost as difficult it is to assess in which form the participants will present themselves - far from all took part in the last PDC event the German Darts Championship. I nevertheless tried to give an overview of the debutants chances based on this year's results.

Ryan Joyce
Age: 35
Nick Name: Relentless
Best Performance on TV: Quarterfinal PDC World Championship 2019
First Round Opponent: Peter Wright
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 40

Ryan Joyce - born in Newcastle-upon-Tyan and now living in Bristol - first played in the BDO and won in 2017 the British Gold Cup. In the same year he took for the first and only time part in the BDO World Championship but was eliminated first round by Martin Adams. 2018 he took part in PDC Qualifying School and got his Tour Card. In his first Players Championship he reached the semi-finals and played all in all a strong first year on the PDC Circuit which reached its peak when he played himself in the quarterfinals where he lost to Michael van Gerwen. 2019 was not as good for Joyce though he reached his second Players Championship semi-final. But in the World Championship 2020 he already lost first round.
Die to the Corona pandemie it is difficult to assess Joyce form in 2020. He won one of the events of the PDC Summer Series and once reached the top 32 of an Autumn Series event. He lost his first round match in the World Matchplay against Simon Whitlock and probably Peter Wright will be too strong an opponent in the first round of the World Grand Prix at his debut. But the only Double-In event follows his own rules and first round upsets happen often. Nevertheless Joyce will probably have to surpass himself to beat Peter Wright - who has a lot more match praxis this year on his side as well.

Ryan Searle
Age: 32
Nick Name: Heavy Metall
Best Performance on TV: Last 16 PDC World Championship 2019
First Round Opponent: Danny Noppert
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 39

Ryan Searle as well started his career in the PDC where he wrote negative headlines in 2013 when he didn't signal his refusal during the World Masters when the caller saw his winning dart inside the double 20 which was landed outside. But it can well be Searle was not cheating as we now know he has big problems with his eye sight due to astigmatism. Since that time Searle played on the PDC Challenge Tour and was so successful that he got 2016 a Tour Card thanks to his Challenge Tour ranking place. In his first year on the Pro Tour he reached some good placings - among others the Top 32 of the UK Open. 2018 his only highlight was the quarterfinal of an European Tour event but Searle qualified by the Qualifier for the Grand Slam of Darts. He didn't survive the group phase. In the PDC World Championship 2019 he reached the quarterfinals as well where he lost to Michael Smith. 2019 was similar unspectacular though again he showed some good performances.
In 2020 before the lockdown Searle could celebrate his so far biggest success and won the third Players Championship of the year beating Michael van Gerwen in the final. During the Autumn Series Searle stood once in a semi-final and twice among the top 32 - it looks he is still in good form. In the first round of the Grand Prix his opponent will be Danny Noppert who is in good or even top form as well. He just stood in the semi-finals of the German Darts Championship and showed impressive performances throughout the event. So it will get difficult for Searle - especially Noppert already has some World Grand Prix experience. Should Searle survive the first round the winner ode the Rob Cross/Gary Anderson match will wait for him. The form of both is a tough call but to be sure both would be hard to beat by Searle.

Jose de Sousa
Age: 46
Nickname: The Special One
Best Performance on TV: Last 32 World Matchplay 2020
First Round Opponent: Devon Petersen
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 45

Portuguese Jose de Sousa qualified for the first time for the PDC World Championship but lost there in the preliminary round to Devon Petersen. After that he didn't appear for several years in the PDC but was quite successful locally both in soft-darts and in steel-darts. 2017 he tried his luck in Qualifying School but couldn't get a Tour Card. 2019 he again qualified for the PDC World Championship and after it took part in European Qualifying School - this time with success. So now de Sousa is the first and till now only Portuguese player on the Pro Tour. He improved gradually and won one of the Players Championships 2019.
De Sousa had no great start into 2020 but qualified before the lockdown for two European Tour events. He impressed in the first PDC Home Tour and reached the final of the third Summer Series event. By this he qualified for the World Matchplay but lost first round. De Sousa played a strong Autumn Series as well with twice a place among the Top 32, once among the Top 16, a quarterfinal and a semi-final - it looks he improved his form during the Corona lockdown. At his World Grand Prix debut he will meet as in his World Championship debut Devon Petersen. As good as Petersen plays at the moment this first round match could become one of the highlights of the first round of the tournament. I think the advantage is with Petersen but in the end to be able to hit the doubles clinically is in this tournament even more important than in other events. And often enough the Double-In already drove many top players to desperation. Relating strength of nerve and bottle is see both players head-to-head.

Devon Petersen
Age: 34
Nickname: The African Warrior
Best Performance on TV: Last 16 PDC World Championship 2019
First Round Opponent: Jose de Sousa
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 42

Devon Petersen by now represented his country South Africa seven times in the PDC World Championship and reached 2014 and 2019 the last 16. Since 2012 he took part several times in the PDC World Cup as well. Once in this time Team South Africa stood in the quarterfinals - the till now best placing. 2011 Petersen for the first time got a Tour Card but he had to put his career on hold 2013 due to an injury. In 2015 Petersen won his Tour Card back but to begin with travelled back and forth to take part in the tournaments. 2016 he for the first time stood on the Pro Tour in a quarterfinal and became the first South African in the PDC to throw a nine-darter. The following years his performances varied and success on the Pro Tour was rare. He joined the Sky Sports commentators team and delighted the crowds from time to time with his stage dance. It looked his performance started to improve since mid-2019 - he played from time to time outstanding averages but still without real success.
In February 2020 he for the first time stood in a semi-final of a Pro Tour event and reached in March the semi-finals of the Belgian Darts Championship as well before the lockdown interrupted his rise abrupt. Petersen reached one semi-final during the Summer Series. During the Autumn Series he stood for the first time in a final. He couldn't be stopped in the second European Tour event - the German Darts Championship - and showed an impressive performance in the final to defeat Jonny Clayton. As he told he practiced during the lockdown with Wayne Mardle and Collin Lloyd. Petersen will play in the first round of the World Grand Prix Ryan Searle - debutant as well and in good from but not as spectacular as Petersen. In round two Michael van Gerwen or Krzysztof would wait for him - a rather difficult task - and on his way to a possible final more big names would wait for him. Nevertheless Mark Webster thinks Petersen could be a possible winner though he would tend more to Gerwyn Price or Peter Wright.

Gabriel Clemens
Age: 37
Nick Name: German Giant
Best Performance on TV: Last 16 UK Open and World Matchplay 2020
First Round Opponent: Nathan Aspinall
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 37

Gabriel Clemens biggest success so far is he semi-final of the World Masters 2027. Since 2018 he's got a PDC Tour Card and can be found on the PDC Circuit. Already in his first year he stood in a Pro Tour final. He stayed the most successful German player on the Pro Tour through the last few years and often convinced on the European Tour as well. 2019 he qualified by the qualifier for the Grand Slam. Clemens recharged the last 16 where he lost a very close match to Glen Durrant.
Clemens started well into the year 2020 and reached a s first German player the Last 16 of the UK Open. During the Summer Series he reached another semi-final and qualified for the World Matchplay where he was eliminated second round by Krzysztof Ratajski. After that Clemens form dropped and he had a disappointing Autumn Series. He lost second round in the German Darts Championship - and all with for him rather low averages. Of course it can happen that his form will be back for the World Grand Prix but he has with Nathan Aspinall a really high-class opponent. Should he be able to win the match Stephen Bunting or Jamie Hughes would be his next opponents - not so difficult as both are in the moment far from their best too. Round three probably Gerwyn Price would wait - at the moment probably too much for the German Giant.

Dirk van Duijvenbode
Age: 28
Nick Name: Titan
Best Performance on TV: Last 32 UK Open 2020
First Round Opponent: Mensur Suljovic
PDC Order of Merit: Rank 73

The upcoming Dutch player Dirk van Duijvenbode is the youngest and in the PDC Order of Merit lowest ranked World Grand Prix debutant. He played since 2011 again and again on the Development Tour, later on the Challenge Tour as well where he had his most successful year in 2014 when he reached four semi-finals and one final. 2015 he tried Qualifying School without success, afterwards several times played as successor on the Pro Tour and threw a nine-darter on the Development Tour. By the Order of Merit he got 2016 a Tour Card but lost it again end of 2017. He got it back in Qualifying School 2018 but again lost it end of 2019. He won it back in Qualifying School 2020.
It came as a surprise when van Duijvenbode reached the semi-finals of the Belgian Darts Championship - the first event of the European Tour. But a short time late he stood among the Last 32 of the UK Open as well. His form seems to be quite good - during the Autumn Series he twice reached the Top 32. Whether the form is good enough to survive the World Grand Prix first round match against Mensur Suljovic is questionable though Suljovic showed no brilliant matches this year so far. Van Duijvenbode would have to be clinical on his Double-In and Suljovic rather poor. In round two Michael Smith or Dmitri van Bergh would wait for the Dutchmen - and I suppose at least that will be the end of the way.

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