Welcome back to OpenOdds’ Darts Round Up! This week, we take a look ahead to the inaugural Czech Open, in more depth than our coverage last week allowed now that the weekend’s Players Championship action is out of the way. We’ll also take a look at how the two days of darts in Wigan have affected the bookmaker odds ahead of the World Matchplay in Blackpool, and take the chance to look at how the first half of 2019 has affected the picture with regard to professional darts.
The weekend’s darts offered up a mixed bag of outcomes, with James Wade winning one round of the Players Championship to continue his excellent form and maintain his high ranking on the Sunday. Saturday, however, brought a mild surprise as Krzyzstof Ratajski triumphed over Nathan Aspinall in the final. It was the Polish thrower’s first PDC Tour win as a full tour member, adding to the three he won last year as a qualifier, and an encouraging result for a player yet to break into the top echelon of the game.
Underdogs boost their profile in Wigan
Ratajski joined the PDC Tour as a full member at the start of this year, and at 42 it would be a little patronising to refer to him as “one for the future”. However, the Warsaw native has certainly shown in the last couple of years that, if he can deliver more consistently, he could yet be a threat to the world’s best players. This is a feeling he reinforced over the two days at Robin Park, as he beat Aspinall 8-3 in Saturday’s Players Championship 17 final, and then on Sunday rode the momentum to reach the semi-finals of the 18th. There he was beaten by the eventual winner James Wade, but his strong showing over the weekend has seen him break the world’s top 40 for the first time. Ratajski is now assured of a spot in the World Matchplay and believes he can win it; if you agree, you can get him for 100/1 with a number of bookies including Betway.
Wade’s performance was less surprising – a strong run in the Premier League has marked him out as one of 2019’s definite success stories – but his vanquished opponent in the final is another player who has got people talking. Portugal’s Jose de Sousa, who recently cracked the last eight at the Danish Open, ran Wade close in his first career final before the Englishman wrapped up an 8-5 win. De Sousa now sits at 16 in the PDC Order of Merit – a career high – and may well climb further given recent form.
Prague awaits: The usual suspects are back
With a few surprise winners in recent tournaments, the feeling of a more competitive PDC Tour has been hard to avoid, but this era of democracy could be about to come to an end with the return of the big guns at this week’s Czech Open. Rob Cross hasn’t travelled for the inaugural PDC Tour event in Prague, but it’s an otherwise crowded field which includes Michael van Gerwen among other top names – and after a few quiet weeks for Mighty Mike, it’s expected that the World Number One will bring either his A game or a very strong B to the banks of the Vltava, making him unbackable without an odds boost.
The Dutchman is rated as favourite to win, with SportingBet the only bookmaker we could find that is carrying odds for the tournament. However, if you feel that MvG might be a little rusty after a few weeks off, you might have a dabble on James Wade, coming into the tournament off a win and priced very nicely indeed at 20/1.
Halfway to Ally Pally: Can MvG be stopped?
As the world’s top-ranked player, Michael van Gerwen is always seen as the player to beat. This season, he’s been beaten on numerous occasions, including twice by Daryl Gurney, but when the stakes are high he’s still been unstoppable, adding the Premier League to the World Championship he won at the start of the year. The conclusion to draw from this is that the Dutch master knows how, and when, to elevate his game. That’s why, this far out from the 2020 World Championship, he’s already close to even-money to retain his title with all the bookmakers that matter.
So, with 2019 almost six full months old, the question is worth asking: Is there any value to be had through betting on MvG, or anyone else for that matter? The answer is “possibly, as long as you’re ready to lose”. There’s a reason he’s such a resounding favourite, but at the same time he hasn’t dominated the action at Alexandra Palace over the years. His three wins there in the last six years have been impressive, but don’t match his four consecutive wins and seven finals in a row in the Premier League.
The next question is “Who can beat him?”. A quick look at Unibet’s odds shows Gary Anderson as second favourite (11/2), with Rob Cross further out at 9/1. However, after a year in which shocks have been easy to come by, you might look further afield at the likes of Gurney, who has shown he can beat the best in the world, and is priced at 33/1. A punt, for sure, but perhaps a worthwhile call as long as you keep the stake sensible.