First of all, I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year. May 2020 be a great year for everyone!
The start of a new year also means we get to see all or most of our amazing players in action again. On the first day of the year, the finale of the PDC World Championship will start, and then Q School will take off. The Asian Tour will start as well, starting at the end of February in Seoul, South Korea. Time for me to take a look at the 2020 Asian Tour and give my perspective on the Tour:
First of all, the tour has expanded which means another weekend is added. The location for two weekends are still unknown, but it’s highly likely that one of them will be held in India. The other tour will probably be in Singapore, as it’s very unlikely that a tour will take place in Hong Kong (the situation is very poor as THE WORLD were forced to cancel their tournament as well). It’s interesting to know which locations are chosen and when in regards to the PDC World Cup, because most Asian teams will be based on the Asian Tour ranking. More about this later in the article.
As I said a couple of times before on my social media channels, I expect Leslie Lee SP to be one of the upcoming players during this year’s Asian Tour. Last year, he participated only at the Singaporean tours and made the last 16 and a QF, which was a very good results for him. During our interview he expressed how he wants to participate more as long as it doesn’t interfere with big soft tip tournaments, so I hope he will choose to compete in not just the Singaporean tour (assuming there will be one), but also the other tours. If he does, I’m absolutely sure he will seal himself a spot for the PDC World Cup, most likely alongside Paul Lim. I can’t wait to see that duo on stage, ‘’the Singaporean legend together with the future’’.
If you haven’t read my interview with Leslie in the Darts Planet TV Magazine, go here for Facebook or here for Twitter.
Besides Leslie, I expect Kasumi Sato to invest even more in steel tip. She came so close to play at the PDC World Championship, only losing to Mikuru Suzuki in the final of the qualification round. Her run at the BDO World Masters was great and I believe she will become a wonderful international player sooner or later. I can’t wait to see what she will bring to the game in 2020 and I’m sure she’s going to play at least Kobe, I’m very curious at how she will do there. Last year, she didn’t get past the L128 but also didn’t play that great, I expect she will do better this year and win games.
The tour in China also gives Chinese players a chance and it will be a good chance for Xiaochen Zong. He made the final of an Asian Tour in 2019 (in China), and if Zong continues playing and continues the growth he has shown last year, he’ll be someone to keep an eye out for. Same goes for Momo Zhou in women’s darts, if she decides to give the Asian Tour a try. Momo might even be the best female soft tipper I know at the moment, she won almost every PERFECT TOUR she participated at. She also gave the PDC Rest of the World Qualifier a try, but had some double trouble and if she can get her steeltip game to the next level, I’m sure there’ll be more opportunities for her soon. Who knows, maybe another shot at the PDC World Cup?
I expect Ilagan, Malicdem and Asada in the Top 4 again, they’re just the best players on tour and I expect them to be for at least another year if they participate every weekend. In 2018, Royden Lam had a T4 spot (Paul Lim had the fifth spot), in 2019 it was Paul Lim who had an amazing run and qualified fairly quick. Yuki Yamada qualified in 2019 because Lam (and Muramatsu) booked no results in the second half of the year. Lam was holding the fifth spot fairly long, meaning he would’ve qualified because Seigo won the Japanese Qualifier. But Lam lost in pretty much all first round matches in the later Asian Tours, with Yuki Yamada booking great results, even winning one tour. If Lam did just a tad better, things would’ve turned out differently. In my opinion, this shows how unpredictable Asian darts and the Asian Tour can be.
If Paul Lim has another season just like this one, he’ll obviously be in the Top4 again. Otherwise, I feel like we might have someone completely different in the top 4/top 5, just like we had Yamada coming out of nowhere this year. But that’s one of the things that make the Asian Tour interesting to me.
I expect a lot of South Korean players who will turn up in Seoul, but will not finish the complete tour. Steel tip darts just isn’t that far in South Korea yet. I can see Kwang Hee Cho, Park Hyun Chul and Choi Min Seok doing well, and Hyelim Seong as the best female South Korean player. During the Kobe Tour in Japan, it should be Seigo Asada who does well, and hopefully Mikuru Suzuki shows that all the experience she had playing the Grand Slam and the World Championship pays off. It would be great to see her during the PDC World Cup as well, partnering up with Asada.
Note, a lot of (Japanese) players will show up in Kobe. Japanese stages in whatever tournament (Asian Tour, THE WORLD) seem to be busier than anywhere else so Kobe will be interesting. Could be anyone’s game really, but I expect Seigo to do well there.
In the Philippines, Ilagan and Malicdem will do great, and after that in China it will be Zong’s time to shine. The results in Taipei and on depend on whoever needs to fight the hardest for a spot on the Order of Merit. If there’s going to be an India Tour, it will be very interesting to see Nitin Kumar there, and to see what hidden talent India and the surrounding countries have. Hopefully it will be on and many players will participate.
PDC World Cup
I expect the PDC World Cup teams to be Asada and Suzuki, L. Lee and P. Lim for Singapore, R. Lam and FB Leung for Hong Kong, Ilagan and Malicdem for PH, and to be fair, I find it hard to predict a Chinese team, but Xiaochen Zong and hopefully Momo Zhou (but that’s very much something I hope to see myself). Hopefully a team from Malaysia will be added in the future, because their players are coming as well (Edison Phung, Tengku Shah).
It will also be an interesting year, because multiple Asian players will try to get their Tour Card. Seigo Asada and Mikuru Suzuki have been confirmed, I believe Yuki Yamada will try as well, and maybe Kasumi Sato.
I hope you’re all looking forward to the Asian Tour as much as I do. The tour is always full of surprises, last year we had a nine-darter from Ilagan, so hopefully we get to see more amazing darts in 2020.