Like many other darts fans, I was glued to my laptop last week for the resumption of the PDC circuit with the PDC Summer Series in Milton Keynes.

The season finally resumed after a four-month hiatus. In recent months I have enjoyed online matches and competitions, but nothing beats live darts with competitive matches. The PDC Summer Series allowed us to watch the best darts players in the world for five consecutive days.

Still, the big question was. How did these players get through the long hiatus and which players are in shape ahead of the World Matchplay? I noticed five specific things.

Martin Leak

Photo: Martin Leak

Several players lost weight during lockdown

In recent weeks, photos of players who have used the lockdown period to lose weight have already appeared on social media. Apparently quite a few players wore a smaller shirt size as a result when the PDC circuit resumed.

Yet it has also been shown that you do not immediately throw better from losing weight. For example, Michael Smith and Adrian Lewis had lost a lot of weight, but were not able to get good results during the PDC Summer Series.

Positive examples are Rob Cross and Benito van de Pas. A more fit looking Cross was certainly not in his World Championship form from two and a half years ago, but made a better impression on me than in the first months of this season. The former world champion  peaked with a nine-darter and an average of over 110.

Van de Pas seems to be slowly recovering from the lows of his career in recent years. The Dutchman has come out of the lockdown period with three stone less weight and that certainly did not detract from its performance.

Big Ben won a total of seven matches in the five-day event, as many wins as in the first nine ranking tournaments this season. In addition, Van de Pas produced nine 90+ averages, including once above a hundred. However, the way back up is still long, especially for keeping his PDC Tour Card after this season.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Players who started their season well, continue their good form

Players like Dirk van Duijvenbode, Maik Kuivenhoven, Martijn Kleermaker and Devon Petersen had a good start to the season. But had their momentum not broken after the months-long shutdown of the circuit? This appeared to not be the case.

Dirk van Duijvenbode returned home with £3500 in prize money and kept himself in the qualifying spots for the World Grand Prix. Martijn Kleermaker also impressed during with PDC Summer Series, as he made his first PDC ranking Quarter-Final. In addition, Kleermaker was one of the two featuring players in a phenomenal darts match between himself and Luke Humphries. Eleven legs out were exchanged within fifteen darts, two 105+ averages and an insane ending to the contest. With Humphries waiting on 25, the Dutchman took out 140 in the deciding leg for the win.

Maik Kuivenhoven again showed that he has taken steps compared to last year. The Dutchman became famous for beating Michael van Gerwen for the second time this season. Kuivenhoven won £2500 in prize money last weekend and looks good to make his World Championship debut in December.

Devon Petersen is one of the players who developed the most this year. Despite good play, that did not lead to good results during the first four days of the PDC Summer Series.

That changed during the final day in Milton Keynes. The South African was faced with the almost impossible task of qualifying for the World Matchplay. He had to win his first PDC title for that. And how close he came!

With victories over Michael van Gerwen and Daryl Gurney, Petersen made it to the semi-finals of a PDC ranking tournament for the second time in his career. The fans favourite then threw 113.5 (!) average in his semifinal against Gerwyn Price, but his brave attempt to qualify for the World Matchplay was ended by Price after a leg-decider.

Van Gerwen still missing consistency

Partly due to a switch to another darts supplier, Michael van Gerwen made a mixed start to the new season. Suddenly, however, there was his phenomenal performance at the UK Open. In one of his best tournaments ever, Mighty Mike silenced the people who had doubts about him.

But was Van Gerwen back in his top form? At first I thought so, because Van Gerwen won the opening day of the PDC Summer Series. He also claimed victory on the third day, to make it two wins out of three tournaments.

However, the Dutchman finished off with a first round defeat on Saturday and a second round exit on Sunday. On the one hand, there are two titles on his resume, but on the other hand, the world number one also failed three times to reach the last sixteen. There is still a lack of consistency and that cost him his first place on the PDC Summer Series Order of Merit.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Wright and Price remain top rivals for Mighty Mike

The aforementioned PDC Summer Series Order of Merit was won by Peter Wright. Snakebite reached at least the last sixteen during each tournament day, reached two finals and won one tournament. Also worth mentioning; Wright played with glasses for the first time and that went well for him.

Gerwyn Price finished fifth on the PDC Summer Series Order of Merit, but was especially strong with some very high averages. The Iceman came to averages of 115.62, 113.14 and 109.48 in Milton Keynes. Price had his best day on the final day of the PDC Summer Series, in which he lost to Wright in the final. It is clear that the Welshman and the Scotsman are the biggest challengers of Michael van Gerwen during the World Matchplay.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Startup issues for multiple World Matchplay participants

Following the PDC Summer Series, the World Matchplay is scheduled for July 18-26 in Milton Keynes. The PDC Summer Series made two changes for the field. Ryan Searle and Kim Huybrechts lost their place to Ryan Joyce and Ricky Evans.

Many players were already almost certain of their qualification place for the World Matchplay prior to the PDC Summer Series. That was a good thing for them, because quite a few of these players had start-up problems.

Lewis and Smith were mentioned earlier in this column. But also Joe Cullen, Steve Beaton, Simon Whitlock, Jeffrey de Zwaan, Vincent van der Voort, Dimitri van den Bergh, Brendan Dolan and Gary Anderson did not have a good week. They have another week to fine-tune their form.

World Matchplay kicks off this weekend

The next appointment for the world’s top players is this weekend. The World Matchplay is next on the schedule from July 18-26. Contrary to recent years, the event is not played in Blackpool but in Milton Keynes. Due to Coronavirus measures still in force, it was decided to play the tournament behind closed doors.

I am very curious to the influence of this situation to how the tournament progresses. The UK Open 2018 – although combined with freezing temperatures – was also completed without an audience. We saw a lot of surprising results during that event. For players who normally play better on the floor tournaments, this is the chance to achieve a good result on a major tournament. We’ll see…

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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Author: Pieter Verbeek