Welcome back to the OpenOdds Darts Round Up and, for the top darts players in the world, welcome back to Europe. After a three-week burst of World Series tournaments in the lands Down Under, this weekend will see the players head to Vienna for the Austrian Darts Championship. That field will include Michael van Gerwen, who spent the summer looking for the form that seemed to have deserted him, and seems to have found it somewhere between Melbourne and Hamilton.
The three events in Australia and New Zealand also represented the final 60% of qualifying competition for the eight seeded places in the World Series Finals, taking place in Amsterdam this November. The eight names are now confirmed, with some unsurprising names included alongside some players we didn’t expect. A few others still have a little work to do if they are to be involved in the Dutch city. There’s a pleasant surprise in there for the home fans, which we’ll come to in a short while. As usual, we’ll also see what the bookmakers are putting out there for the competitions to come.
Dutch stars fight it out in Hamilton final
Okay, so you know how the world’s darts press spent much of the spring and all of the summer wondering what was up with Michael van Gerwen? Well, the panic is officially over. After not quite delivering in Brisbane, the world champion has spent the last two weeks demonstrating why he’s favourite for every tournament – first picking up the Melbourne Masters, and this weekend adding the New Zealand title to his hand luggage for the long flight home. MvG negotiated a jittery first-round match against qualifier Kyle Anderson – where he was a single dart away from an immediate exit – and rode that win all the way to the final.
His opponent in the Hamilton decider was compatriot Raymond van Barneveld, whose vanquished foes in the earlier rounds included Daryl Gurney and James Wade. Barney, who retires at the end of the year, was no match for van Gerwen on this occasion, losing 8-1 in a one-sided final. However, his appearance in the final was a popular one, and gives hope that he can end his stellar career on a high note. At 80/1 with SportingBet to win a fifth career World Championship, he’s perhaps not in the running for the top honours, but his farewell tour at least looks like it has a few bright spots left.
World Series finals taking shape
Speaking of Barney, a solid performance over the three weeks of Antipodean action (two quarter-finals and a final) secured the retiring legend enough points to be among the eight top seeds for the World Series finals, which will take place in November. After two consecutive title wins, so is MvG, and the likes of Peter Wright, Daryl Gurney and Rob Cross have also made the cut. Also in the seeded category is Australian qualifier Damon Heta. “The Heat” bowed out in the first round in Hamilton, but his miraculous win in Brisbane was more than enough to secure him the points needed to qualify. The chance to play in a major finals will be a huge fillip for Heta’s career, and his seeding protects him from having to play a megastar in the early stages.
Also going to Amsterdam, but not seeded, are some potential contenders including Nathan Aspinall and James Wade. Wade, who suffered two first-round defeats Down Under to Heta, was in better form in Hamilton, defeating Peter Wright to qualify for the semi-finals where he was knocked out by van Barneveld. However, a rocky summer following his impressive Premier League display has seen Wade’s stock fall, and he now finds himself 16/1 outsider at bwin for the Champions League of Darts at Leicester’s Morningside Arena. Those might be very good odds, given that he has a couple of months to get his spring form back.
Vienna win would mean something to Suljovic
With the Antipodean leg of the calendar now over, the players return to Europe, and first of all to Austria. Specifically, the 48 players who are involved in the Austrian Darts Championship will be playing over three days in the Viennese district of Schwechat. Although the likes of Wade and Cross have given it a miss, the field is headed by the newly-rejuvenated van Gerwen, and also features Wright, Gurney and Gerwyn Price. It’s a chance for Austrian Number One Mensur Suljovic to secure a title in front of a partisan crowd, and he’s seeded seventh for the competition, making him a definite contender.
Suljovic was absent from the action in Australia and New Zealand, which may leave him short of meaningful match practice but will mean he has few worries about adjusting to European time. “The Gentle” is surprisingly priced at 20/1 with William Hill for this competition, long odds for someone playing on home turf and who has looked entirely capable of holding his own with the best this season. As you might expect, MvG is at much shorter odds – 5/4 – and really probably not worth backing unless you can get an odds boost from somewhere.