With the highest stakes week in possibly the history of the PDC ProTour about to begin, Loxley professionals Ryan Searle, Matthew Edgar and Aaron Beeney look to resume their hunt of ranking points, as well as places at the Grand Slam, Players Championship Finals and World Championship all up for grabs.
To begin the week, on a humid night at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, the players will battle it out for a spot in the upcoming PDC Grand Slam, with updated entry requirements offering more opportunities for PDC players to qualify, in the absence of the traditional 8 BDO representatives.
The draw was released around 5pm, with all three Loxley players thankfully managing to avoid each other in the early stages of the draw. All three know that a quarter-final placing will be enough for them to qualify, with 8 players set to be added to what is an already impressive Grand Slam field - Ryan, Matthew and Aaron will all be fighting to add themselves to that list!
Ryan faced a tough task on Board 14 against a former Challenge Tour winner, Ron ‘The Bomb’ Meulenkamp. He will be quietly confident, knowing he’s won 3 of the last 4 meetings between the two, including a tense 6-5 victory in PC18 back in 2018, to reach his first PDC ranking final.
The perfect start for Ryan Searle, who from the outset was one of the favourites to qualify. He brushed aside Ron Meulenkamp in just under quarter of an hour, defeating the Dutchman 5-1. An 88.5 average from Ryan was enough to see him into the L64, though he’ll know he needs to step it up a gear if he wishes to progress into the PDC Grand Slam.
Up next for Ryan was… Ryan! Ryan (Searle) had a tough task ahead, with Ryan Meikle showing signs of brilliance in his previous 5-2 demolition job over Maik Kuivenhoven, averaging just shy of 95.
Another huge performance from Ryan, as he dispatches Ryan Meikle in his second 5-1 victory of the day, averaging 104 in the process, and sealing his spot in the L32 with an incredible 140 checkout, with his opponent leaving 50 in an attempt from Meikle to claw his way back into the match.
No rest for Ryan, as he stepped straight back to the oche. His opponent, none other than the 2019 Czech Open champion, ‘Yozza’ Jamie Hughes. Jamie had defeated Andy Bolton in a last leg decider averaging just under 86 - a huge chance for Ryan to capitalise on Jamie’s poor form.
This he did, averaging 94.4 on his way to earning his third 5-1 win of the day, dominating the match with ruthless scoring - it seemed as if he was hitting scores of 170+ every other throw! He puts himself just one win away from the PDC Grand Slam!
This win would have to come at the expense of Justin Pipe, who has shown signs of brilliance this evening - recording the third highest average of the day in his first round rout of the German star, Christian Bunse.
It was not to be, as an impressive Justin Pipe cruised to victory, denying ‘Heavy Metal’ a spot at the Grand Slam. Ryan’s fourth 5-1 result of the day, this one unfortunately went against him, and he heads back to the hotel room empty handed. All focus on the upcoming Winter Series, starting from tomorrow.
Another Dutch opponent for team Loxley, this time for Matthew Edgar, as he was drawn against 2018 PDC World Matchplay semi-finalist Jeffrey de Zwaan in one of the picks of the first round. A lightning paced game was sure to ensue, with Matthew focused on adapting to the pace of de Zwaan’s throw. Unlike Ryan and Aaron, Matthew starts out in the L64, having received a bye past the L128.
A huge win for the host of EdgarTV, as he dominated a match that had all the signs of being too close to call. Much like his Loxley team-mate Ryan Searle, he enjoyed a 5-1 over his Dutch opponent, defeating Jeffrey de Zwaan in a ruthless performance averaging 88.4 as he booked his place in the L32, just two wins away from an elusive Grand Slam spot.
The waiting game was now on for Matthew, as kept a watchful eye on the Board 12 clash between Martin Atkins (Wigan) and Callan Rydz. It was the youngster Rydz who prevailed, putting in a strong performance to set up a tantalising L32 tie between the pair.
Fresh off of his win against de Zwaan earlier, Matthew followed up with a 5-2 win over Callan Rydz to put himself into the L16, within touching distance of a place in the PDC Grand Slam for the first time in his career. An average of 98 from the ‘Prime Time’ player - he’ll take some stopping today!
Being the first man into the L16, the waiting game was now on. He was drawn to face yesterday's World Cup quarter-finalist Simon Whitlock, who had averaged both 97.9 and 96.3 in making it to this stage of the Grand Slam qualifiers.
Heart-break in the end for Matthew - he will not feature at the Grand Slam. An unfortunate 5-3 loss to a Simon Whitlock means he misses out on an automatic qualification spot, but not to be disheartened, as another spot available for the winner of the Winter Series over the next few days. All to play for!
Meanwhile for Aaron Beeney, he was drawn to play former BDO World Championship quarter-finalist Matt Clark in what’s sure to be a close encounter. A tough draw, yet one Aaron knows he is more than capable to rise to. A tough board for Aaron, with a potential clash against 2017 Winmau World Masters champion Krzysztof Ratajski on offer, should he progress to the L32.
An unfortunate outing for Aaron, as he fell to a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Matt Clark. A lack of match practice was evident, as he averaged just 73.3, compared to Matt’s 79.1 average. On a different day, the match could’ve been a 5-0 victory - up to Aaron now to dust himself off and go again tomorrow, for the start of the PDC Winter Series!
Heartbreak in the end for all three Loxley representatives, yet impressive performances all round. The curtain raiser for what is sure to be an impressive week of darts certainly did not disappoint, with two Loxley players so close to claiming an elusive Grand Slam spot for themselves.
On to Tuesday, as the PDC Winter Series begins - I’ll be following all three Loxley professionals as they look to build on the progress made throughout the year, and push up the rankings in time for the PDC World Championships next month.
Author - Joe Reid