World Matchplay Darts – Betting Preview
Fresh from tipping Jonny Clayton to win the Premier League at 12/1, James Lincoln takes a look at the outright market for the upcoming World Matchplay.
Darts’ summer showpiece, the World Matchplay, returns to its spiritual home this weekend as a feast of darts action gets underway at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the event behind closed doors in Milton Keynes last year, but a return to Blackpool also means a return for darts fans.
Our resident bookmakers, Fitzdares, will be offering prices on multiple markets throughout the event and have kindly boosted the selections in this article to be industry best price. All statistics referred to in this article are provided by Darts Orakel, aka ‘The Orakel’ – Sky Sports’ official statistics partner.
The fact the outright betting market is 9/2 the field tells you all you need to know about how wide open this tournament is. The general lockdown trend of new winners of PDC events continued last week with Chris Dobey and Ross Smith claiming maiden Pro Tour victories at the Super Series in Coventry.
Defending champion Dimitri Van den Bergh (11/1) comes into this event in fair form having landed a first Pro Tour victory in Niedernhausen back in late April, whilst he also reached a final and semi-final at the Super Series last week. In between, the DreamMaker performed with great credit on his Premier League debut and can consider himself extremely unlucky not to reach the play-offs, having averaged over 100 for the tournament. His average across all events in 2021 is an impressive 97.81, which places him fifth in the world. The problem the Belgian faces is the first quarter of the draw, in which he sits, looks arguably the hottest part. If he comes through Devon Petersen and a last 16 clash with Dave Chisnall or Vincent van der Voort then Gerwyn Price will likely await in the quarter-final.
Price, the World Champion and 9/2 favourite is fresh after testing positive for Covid-19 in April and missing the entire Premier League campaign. He has returned in the last two batches of Pro Tour events and has served notice that he remains in fine fettle, reaching a final, a semi-final and two quarter-finals. Whilst that may not be an obviously spectacular return, the Iceman has averaged 99.51 across those eight events and his performances were enough to return him to the top of the Orakel Form Rankings (FDI Index). He is talking and playing with confidence and the feeling is that over the long Matchplay format it will take a very impressive performance to beat him. Price will kick off his campaign against Dutchman Jermaine Wattimena who he has beaten in their last 4 meetings, including a 7-0 drubbing in the Premier League last year. The Orakel Predictor Tool suggests a cosy 10-5 win for Price is the most likely outcome. Fellow Welshman, Jonny Clayton (14/1), potentially awaits in the last 16.
If the first quarter is the hottest part of the draw then the second quarter definitely looks the weakest. The badly out of sorts Glen Durrant (200/1) was the seed that every non-seed wanted to face and it was Callan Rydz (80/1) who drew the long straw. The winner of that match will face the winner of Rob Cross (40/1) and Ross Smith (80/1) in the last 16. Former champion Cross is defending the £150,000 that he won when capturing this event in 2019 and, whilst the intervening two years have been extremely disappointing, there have been some hints that Voltage is returning to something like the form of old. His 2021 average (96.05) is more than two and a half points higher than his average across 2020 (93.50) and he is also winning more legs (55.13% compared to 51.49%). Whilst Cross’ Premier League campaign ultimately led to early elimination, he was competitive and recorded comprehensive victories against James Wade and the in-form Jonny Clayton. He followed that up with some solid Super Series results, including a run to a semi-final last month that included victories over Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright. Cross really could not have asked for a better draw here, potentially playing two debutants en route to the quarter-final. Of course, were he to overcome all of that, a likely semi-final with Price/Clayton/Van den Bergh awaits, but at a boosted price of 40/1 with Fitzdares, I’m happy to play:
Number five seed, James Wade (18/1), is favourite to come through the second quarter but has been handed a very tricky opening assignment against Luke Humphries (50/1) who is averaging 96.59 this year, compared to Wade’s 96.27. The pair met in the final of the UK Open back in March where Wade was comfortably victorious, but this is tough to call.
The bottom half of the draw is littered with quality. Peter Wright (15/2) and Jose De Sousa (8/1) are on course for a showdown in the third quarter if they are able to overcome what could potentially be tricky last 16 clashes. Snakebite was imperious in winning the last Pro Tour event played, recording five 100+ averages including 108.84 in demolishing Michael van Gerwen 8-2 in the final in Coventry. He was typically experimenting with a new set of darts there and believes they will win him the Matchplay title. I fancy him to overcome the in-form Danny Noppert relatively comfortably, but recent Pro Tour maiden winner Chris Dobey may prove more challenging in the last 16.
De Sousa is arguably the best player in the world at the moment. The Grand Slam champion reached the final of the Premier League on debut, plundering a remarkable 96 180s in the process, smashing the previous record of 79 set by Gary Anderson. In addition, The Special One has won three Pro-Tour events and reached two other semi-finals. The Orakel Form Rankings (FDI Index) have De Sousa behind only Gerwyn Price and give him a 14.91% chance of winning this event. Whilst the days of getting big prices about De Sousa have clearly gone, it might be that the bookmakers have still not quite caught up with what the Portuguese is producing so consistently. His average (99.52) is the highest on tour this season and he has hit a whopping 73 more 180s than anybody else at a rate of 0.3787 per leg. De Sousa has drawn Gabriel Clemens in the first round, a man he has beaten on the last four occasions they have met, but a last 16 clash with either Michael Smith (30/1) or Ryan Searle (80/1) will be tougher. Whilst his counting and setup play remains a concern, it is still surprising to see De Sousa at a bigger price than both van Gerwen and Wright in the outright market:
In the fourth and final quarter, Michael van Gerwen (5/1) is favourite to progress but could have had an easier draw than Australian Damon Heta in the first round. Heta has the tenth highest average on tour this year (96.44) and has won nearly 60% of the legs he has played. A likely quarter-final clash with either Gary Anderson (22/1) or Nathan Aspinall (25/1) awaits. Aspinall had to withdraw from Super Series 4 after a positive Covid-19 test and has been fairly quiet since an excellent Premier League campaign that saw him reach an unlikely semi-final given his form coming into the event. That included an 8-3 victory over van Gerwen against whom he has a very respectable 45.83% win rate. What to expect from Anderson remains a bit of a mystery, but he showed in this event last year just how tough a TV match player he is when reaching the final when nowhere near his best.
In summary, quarters 1 and 3 are the strongest part of the draw. Whilst Gerwyn Price doesn’t necessarily represent great outright value at 5/1, it will take a big performance to beat him over this format. Jose De Sousa continues to go from strength to strength and there are no obvious signs that the presence of fans will affect his performance. There is a chance that he could come unstuck against somebody like Price who is metronomically consistent (53% of his winning legs are won in 15 darts or less), will not offer up any glaring opportunities and will punish any he is presented with. If Price is able to overcome a tough draw, he could be too strong for De Sousa were they to meet in the final.
Images by Taylor Lanning.