Welcome back to OpenOdds’ Darts Round Up, and to the first update since the beginning of the PDC World Championship. While we’re a little over two weeks from finding out the identity of the person to lift the 2020 world title, the first few days of the competition have provided some surprises as well as a – perhaps not unexpected – piece of sad news for darts fans. The picture at the top of the betting charts has also changed somewhat, with two of the world’s top-ranked players bowing out at the first hurdle.
Due to the format of the competition, some players have completed their second-round ties while others wait to play the first round. At this stage, for example, we can’t comment on the form of second-favourite Gerwyn Price or judge that the bookmakers are incorrect to place Daryl Gurney with the outsiders. But, as you will see, there are some conclusions that we can reach based on the first four days of play at the Ally Pally, and a chance to see what condition the World Champion is in. But first things first…
Cross and Smith crash out
Considered to be part of the title picture, last year’s beaten finalist Michael Smith and 2018 winner Rob Cross could not actually find their way past their opening opponent, potentially opening up a path to the later stages of the tournament for either their second-round conquerors or someone else who just saw their quartile of the draw blow wide open. Smith faced Luke Woodhouse, a 3-0 winner over veteran Paul Lim, on Sunday. While this marked Woodhouse out as a dangerous “floater”, he could not have been expected to knock Smith out with a 3-1 scoreline. He did exactly that – indeed, had he not missed six match darts, it would have been 3-0.
Cross, for his part, was greeted in the second round by Belgium’s Kim Huybrechts – a player with plenty of potential, but not considered to be much of a threat to a former champion. However, Cross’ poor recent form saw him cut down by Huybrechts, who now moves on to a third round tie against an unconfirmed opponent. However, the Belgian could well face reigning World Youth Champion Luke Humphries in the fourth round. Humphries’ odds at Betfred have already come in from 300/1 to 80, while Huybrechts is now available at 100/1. If you fancy an each-way bet on a promising up-and-comer, now might be your last chance.
Bye-Bye Barney: and this time it’s for good
Raymond van Barneveld announced his retirement back in March after a poor run in the Premier League, and then instantly took it back, saying he would instead bow out at the World Championship. Well, the hopes of a farewell run at the title lasted for as long as it took Barney to play American outsider Darin Young in the first round on Saturday. Young, still 1000/1 with Betway even after removing the former champion, was a comfortable 3-1 winner; he’ll face Barney’s compatriot Jeffrey de Zwaan next, but perhaps the happiest man will be Peter Wright. With RvB and Rob Cross removed from Section 3 of the draw, the Scot is even better-placed – without even having played yet – to make the semi-finals.
Wright’s fellow Scot, Gary Anderson, has been in action, facing Northern Ireland’s Brendan Dolan after the latter eased out Indian qualifier Nitin Kumar. Anderson dropped just one leg on his way to a 3-0 sets victory, throwing seven 180s, and must be considered top dog in Section 2 particularly since the elimination of Smith. Both Scottish stars are currently pinned at 12/1 for the title; your money might be safer with Anderson for the moment, as he has already shown the form that can take him a long way into this competition.
One alarm but no surprises for MvG
The champion was in action on Friday night as the tournament got underway, facing compatriot Jelle Klaasen after the latter had eliminated Northern Ireland’s Kevin Burness. Klaasen won the first set against van Gerwen, and had the throw for a two-set lead before his more vaunted opponent found a 170 checkout to take the set. From that point on there was no looking back for the champion, who this weekend awaits the winner of a Ricky Evans-Mark McGeeney clash. MvG also saw his section of the draw get a little lighter, as ninth seed Ian White was taken out by Darius Labanauskas. The Lithuanian will need to beat some illustrious opponents to ever face the champion, but has certainly posted a fierce statement of intent.
The champion has moved in to Evens with 888 and is, if anything, an even stronger favourite than he was before the tournament. However, future opponents should bear in mind that van Gerwen showed some vulnerabilities in his meeting with Klaasen, and relied on his exceptional talent to avoid going into a 2-0 hole. With seeds falling even at this early stage, those yet to play – which includes Gerwyn Price, Gurney and Wright – must be aware that if they can find some composure now, they might be in with their best chance ever to take the biggest title the sport has to offer.