Welcome back to the OpenOdds Darts Round Up, where a week filled with interesting twists and turns ended up with the World Matchplay title still going to one of the favourites. Don’t worry, the story of how things got to that point is more thrilling than the outcome implies. We’ll also have a look ahead to a weekend of Players Championship qualifying – this weekend sees 128 hopefuls land in the charming 11th-Century German city of Hildesheim. There they will take photos of the historic marketplace and beautiful Romanesque Cathedral, and also try to win valuable money in the race to qualify for November’s finals in Minehead.
We’ll also look slightly further ahead to the Antipodean leg of the PDC World Tour. August will be a fruitful month for darts fans Down Under as Brisbane, Melbourne and Hamilton all host Masters tournaments. While the bookmakers (still) consider Michael van Gerwen as favourite for each of these competitions, we’ll be looking at where the value might lie if his recent run of indifferent form continues through the final month of the summer.
Cross wins World Matchplay; MvG and Anderson exit early
There’s a truism in darts, and other solo touring sports like golf and tennis, that the best players can have indifferent form when playing in the weekly bread-and-butter tournaments, but find their inner champion once the majors come around. That was certainly the working thesis when Michael van Gerwen was made runaway favourite to win the World Matchplay even after a run of five tournaments without a win. It held up as he defeated Steve Beaton in the first round, but – in perhaps the most worrying defeat of his recent run – MvG was then out-darted in the second by BDO Champion and PDC rookie Glen Durrant. The Dutchman’s 98+ average in the match represented his best darts in weeks, and Durrant needed the match of his life to win – but an early exit in a major tournament certainly adds heft to suggestions that van Gerwen is not himself right now.
Defending champion Gary Anderson was also knocked out at that stage by unseeded veteran Mervyn King, opening the draw up still further – three of the four quarter-finals featured an unseeded player. Durrant was the only one of those three non-seeds to progress to the semis, following his defeat of MvG with an impressive blow-out of James Wade. The last four ended up featuring Durrant, Michael Smith, Daryl Gurney (who accounted for fancied outsider Peter Wright) and Cross. In a tense clash, Gurney led Cross 15-9 to stand within two legs of a spot in the final, but the English player then picked off eight in a row to win 17-15. Meanwhile, Smith continued a surprising return to form, accounting for Durrant by a 17-10 margin.
It was Cross who would carry his form through Sunday’s best-of-35 decider, winning the first nine legs to take a lead he would not relinquish. Although Smith pulled the margin back to 15-13, Cross took the final three legs to secure World Matchplay glory, and is now 15/2 with Betway to regain the World Championship he won in 2018. There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge before then, but with MvG suddenly looking more vincible than ever before, the Englishman may be a good bet.
Hildesheim awaits; who’s in the field?
This weekend in Germany, 128 hopefuls will enter two days of qualifying across one tournament each day. Players’ Championship rounds 21 and 22 offer the opportunity to bulk out the winnings that decide which 64 professionals will contest the finals in November. The sole deciding factor for qualification is how much money players win across 30 rounds of qualifying, and with James Wade top of the Order of Merit, he can afford to sit this round out. So, too, can Peter Wright (4th), MvG (12th), and the 24th-placed Daryl Gurney. Gary Anderson, sitting 97th, still has ground to make up, but along with the above-named, he’s also left Hildesheim off his travel agenda.
The list of names not there makes for an interesting field, not least because there are more than a few highly-ranked players still having a go in northern Germany. Among these are Gerwyn Price (5th in the Order of Merit) and Durrant, currently 2nd and riding a wave after his run to the semis in Blackpool. There are two nights of darts, and two separate but identical lists of odds at SportingBet, and Durrant is 12/1 in both lists. Looking at his recent work, he seems like a canny punt at that price.
Three Masters in a month; the Antipodean leg awaits
The summer of darts comes to a conclusion this August in the Southern Hemisphere (where, confusingly, it becomes a winter of darts). The smarter players in the PDC will base themselves somewhere in Oceania ahead of three consecutive weekends of competition, starting in Brisbane on the 10th and ending with the newly-minted New Zealand Masters in Hamilton on the 24th. Eight PDC ranking representatives will compete with Oceanic players across the three weekends, hoping to add to their ranking points and be in contention for the World Championships at season’s end.
All eyes are set to fall on Michael van Gerwen, who is favourite in all three competitions. With the field announced this past week for the 2019 Champions League in Leicester, the world rankings leader is also 11/8 favourite with Paddy Power to win that bauble. However, his showing at the World Matchplay has elevated his recent slump in form to a full-on nosedive, and bettors might be advised to look away from the short-odds favourite – potentially to Simon Whitlock, whose mix of a decent ranking and (relative) home advantage might well make him a worthwhile punt even without an odds boost at 33/1 with SportingBet.