Three reasons why you should watch the Rip Curl Pro, Portugal
With just two events left, the pressure is building at both ends of the tour ratings. Here are the three biggest stories heading into the Rip Curl Pro, Portugal… Adriano beat Kelly to win the 2011 Rip Curl Pro, Portugal. Photo: WSL/Cestari Battle Royale: Mick Fanning vs Adriano De SouzaWith just 450 points separating Australia’s […]
With just two events left, the pressure is building at both ends of the tour ratings. Here are the three biggest stories heading into the Rip Curl Pro, Portugal…
Adriano beat Kelly to win the 2011 Rip Curl Pro, Portugal. Photo: WSL/Cestari
Battle Royale: Mick Fanning vs Adriano De Souza
With just 450 points separating Australia’s Mick Fanning (1st) and Brazil’s Adriano De Souza (2nd), title races don’t come closer or more contested. These two are the tour’s most unashamedly fierce competitors. With the pressure dial cranked to 11 from here on in, the pair will be at their most ruthless in Peniche. The event looks likely to be contested in everything from wedgy ramps at the back up venue Belgas, to perfect pits, and heavy, onshore dumpers at Supertubos. Despite the slim margin separating them, Mick is a mathematical chance of claiming the title in Portugal should he win the event and Adriano finish 13th or worse. At 34 years old, Fanning’s fourth title bid comes on the back of one of the most bizarre and horrifying events in sporting history – the J-Bay shark attack. He is the defending Rip Curl Pro, Portugal champ and owns the second highest career heat average here in history.
De Souza, who is six years Fanning’s junior at 28, is attempting to make the most of what is by far and away his best chance of winning a title. De Souza is also a former event winner here and, with the event looking set for the back-up venue of Belgas – a notoriously rampy beachbreak on the other side of the Peniche peninsula – may have the ascendancy in the early rounds. They line up on opposite sides of the draw with a strong possibility of a blockbuster showdown in the final.
Owen at The Box. Photo: WSL/Cestari
Can Owen Wright Still Win the Title?
With 6300 points between he and Fanning, Owen would need to place second in Portugal and have Fanning finish dead last in order to take the ratings lead. But if he can just chip away at Fanning’s lead by a few heats in Portugal he will send the title race to Pipe in a three-way pressure cooker, and who knows what that holds. A formidable all-rounder with a superior aerial attack to Fanning, and solid form at Pipe, he’s a long shot but still in it.
Big Names on the Chopping Block.
Tahiti’s Michel Bourez is in serious danger of falling off tour just a year after posting his best finish ever (a 5th). Ranked equal 23rd on tour with little to no hope of re-qualifying via the WQS, he is in desperate need of a result in Portugal. His cause is not helped by a heat draw that pits him against world number 3 and potential title contender Owen Wright in his opening heat (depending on a number of results he is in line to end up in a possible showdown with Mick Fanning or John John Florence in round two).
Dusty Payne will almost certainly have to peg his hopes of World Tour re-qualification on a strong finish in the WQS after he was forced out of Portugal with a back injury. Ranked 34th on tour he’s almost certain to miss the cut though remains within striking distance on the qualifying series. He will rely on a strong finish in Brazil and Hawaii – the latter proving particularly fruitful in the past. He is one place below the similarly endangered Sebastian Zietz on the WQS. Zietz, who is also outside the re-qualification bubble at 24th on Tour, must overcome none other than Mick Fanning in round one at Portugal.
Michel Bourez on his way to a breakthrough victory at Margaret River back in 2014. Photo: WSL/Kirstin
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