Welcome back to the OpenOdds Darts Round Up. As far as the Oceania leg of the PDC World Series goes, it’s a case of “one down, two to go”, and among other intriguing tidbits from the weekend’s action, the Brisbane Masters delivered a genuinely surprising winner. With Melbourne up next, the feeling around the world of darts is that anything could genuinely be possible. Not least because, as we will see, the more fancied players on the tour seemed to struggle in the first of a three-tournament stint in the Antipodes. Will we see a reversion to the expected order this coming weekend?
There’s no doubt that the early barrages in Australia represented good news for the bookmakers. A winner that surely no-one could have expected, while the big names who will have taken most of the money ended up, by and large, disappeared mostly before the final. If the patterns of Brisbane repeat themselves on the Southeast coast, then we could well come away from the month of August looking at a changed picture with regard to the bigger tournaments to come this autumn.
First things first – how did MvG get on?
With apologies to the players who have been winning tournaments, the biggest story in darts at this moment seems to revolve around the man who usually wins them, but now hasn’t lifted a trophy for close to three months. Michael van Gerwen entered the Brisbane Masters as favourite, and strolled through a first-round win over New Zealand’s Ben Robb, whitewashing the DPNZ qualifier 6-0. A solid Saturday performance for the world Number One, then, but once again his overall tournament performance ended up being disappointing. His quarter-final opponent was Northern Irelan’s Daryl Gurney, and Superchin emerged an 8-5 winner despite MvG throwing a 98+ average.
That’s now seven tournaments that the Dutchman has ended early, and failure in Melbourne will mean he matches the eight-tournament dry spell of 2014. Because he’s Michael van Gerwen, he’s still favourite to win this weekend’s tournament, but his 7/4 price with William Hill doesn’t feel like it represents any kind of value while this run of form continues. It’s always going to be too early to write him off, but unless you can find an odds boost for MvG, our advice would be to steer well clear. Even if you take the charitable line that he’s saving his best darts for the big tournaments, that doesn’t look good considering the next major payday is October’s World Grand Prix in Dublin.
Heta the real story of the week
Rather than making this all about the big name who can’t seem to buy a win right now, let’s focus on the winner of the Brisbane Masters. Usually the Number One’s loss is the gain of someone close behind him in the rankings, but not this time. Damon Heta, entering the tournament as an unseeded representative of Darts Players Australia, becoming both the first-ever Australian, and the first player without a Tour card, to win the tournament. He certainly didn’t do it the easy way either – picking off James Wade in the first round, then taking out former major winners Gary Anderson and Simon Whitlock. In the final, he faced Rob Cross, the defending champ.
Having trailed 3-1 and 6-4, Heta mounted a comeback but still ended up having to throw to stay in the match when Cross took a 7-6 lead in the best-of-15 final. The qualifier held his nerve, despite facing a match dart from the champ, and in the final leg pulled off a double-16 finish to lift the trophy. Having won his matches 6-5, 8-6, 8-6 and 8-7, and having come from behind repeatedly, “The Heat” has done his reputation no harm at all. Now priced at 40/1 with Betway to take the title in Melbourne, surely he can’t pull off an unlikely double? Well, given that the qualifiers in any of these 16-player World Series events are usually considered cannon-fodder, Heta’s already gone far further than expected – so he can move on to Melbourne with confidence.
Who’s the best bet for Melbourne?
It’s generally seen as an article of faith that the qualifiers for a World Series event are there mostly to give the seeds a bit of a warm-up and maybe, through gallant defeat, raise their profile and gain momentum for the future. Heta’s win in Brisbane alone won’t exactly change that, for sure, and we still go into Melbourne with the seeds very much in the box seat with the bookmakers. Nonetheless, there’s every reason for the Antipodean contingent to enter the coming weeks with a bit of hope – if not for the full glory of a tournament win, at least for a morale-boosting shock in the early rounds.
If you want an outside bet, you could do worse than Kyle Anderson. Considered to be Heta’s best mate, Anderson is also the only other regional qualifier ever to have won a World Series event, and was the only qualifier aside from Heta to win a first-round match in Brisbane, defeating first seed Peter Wright before being white-washed by compatriot Simon Whitlock in the quarters. Anderson enters this competition with odds of 28/1 at SportingBet, and may be worth a small punt. If you want a surer thing then Rob Cross, at 7/2, certainly seems to offer better value than Michael van Gerwen, who seems to be have been taking the last few months as a chance to visit interesting countries and play a little bit of darts, then lose. Maybe this will be the week he gets it back, but we’re not holding our breath.