Sunday 30 July 2017

Matchplay final preview

There's your stats. We've got the most decorated player in the history of the game, who's overcome the best player of all time, his biggest rival throughout his career, a two time world champion and local opponent and a confident rising talent, against the current UK Open champion, who's come through several tough scraps against in form players who are all playing the best they've ever done. Will we have a fairy tale ending to Phil Taylor's career as he claims a sixteenth Matchplay crown to go with his sixteen world titles, or will Peter Wright put to bed the disappointment of choking away the Premier League and claim the first real big major of his career (as, while Wright will have been delighted with the UK Open, the Matchplay is much bigger and had both Michael van Gerwen and Phil Taylor play in it)?

The current form points to Phil being a favourite, as the bookmakers suggest. The profile of his winning legs is incredibly similar to Wright's - there's just the two legs throughout the course of the tournament where Phil has finished in five turns as opposed to Wright's six, but there's a big advantage in the amount of pressure Phil's put on when the opponent has won his leg, over a six point difference. Over all data (my database stretches back to September), and not just this tournament, Phil still leads this category, but by a much smaller margin, 96.89 to 95.09.

Wright is going to have to do a few things in order to pull this one off. Firstly, he's going to need to limit the amount of chances he gives Taylor to break, and force him to throw a twelve darter to get it. As the stats indicate, Phil will be there or there abouts in four visits if Wright doesn't kill in five turns, piling on the leg upon leg pressure is going to be critically important. He gave Daryl Gurney ten opportunities to break with a fifteen dart leg, Gurney only took five. You'd imagine Taylor will take more than that. Secondly, he's going to have to keep things close and then hope Phil doesn't turn it on when it matters. Against the two Dutchmen, Phil wasn't pressured at all - Adie kept things close through to midway through the fourth mini session last night, but Taylor, from 10-8 up, then put in a burst of five straight legs including three four turn kills - two of them breaks, to finish the game as a contest. Adie might have got the last of those to get a break back if it took place earlier, Phil only holding in six turns, but Lewis couldn't leave a finish after five of his turns. Finally, he's going to have to bag any cheap break chances that are offered up - if Phil doesn't check in five turns, he's going to have to be there to do so himself. Gurney only offered up the three chances to break in more than fifteen darts (two taken), I can't imagine Phil leaving any more than this.

For Phil, he's going to have to keep doing what he has been doing, but realise that he's up against an opponent that won't buckle midway through a match - Wright isn't going to be afraid of him, and Wright has been able to take Phil down in big televised leg play events over the past couple of years - Phil couldn't get a win in the 2016 Premier League, losing one and drawing one, lost a decider in the World Series of Darts finals, lost the Grand Slam quarter final (in what's probably the best comparison, given that was a race to 16), and they split their Premier League games this year before Wright edged the semi final. Whether the pressure of this being a big major and a potential career defining victory (to date) for Wright will tell if it gets down to the wire is another question, and one Phil will have to ask. If he just keeps playing as he has been doing, I can't see that Wright will be able to accumulate a big enough lead where he can get close to the winning line and have a lot of room to play with - a situation where Wright needs one more leg with Taylor not even on double figures seems incredibly unlikely.

I can't recommend any bets in this one, if I was going to bet it would be on Wright, but I can't see there being enough edge to start punting, so I'll call it a day for gambling on this one with a small 0.38 unit profit for the tournament. Even the handicaps for fun don't look that enticing, only being offered evens on Wright +2.5 if we were to think it will be as close as it could be (can't believe that some bookies are offering a Wright +1.5 market, as if you'd ever take the added edge of getting paid if Phil wins a sudden death leg).

Note re: adjusted in the averages section for new readers - a turn is a turn. I don't give free bonus points if you finish in 13 darts as opposed to 15 darts. It's still five turns. Darts in this respect is like waiting for a bus - unless you're at a stop early enough to get the one before, you're still getting on the same bus. A thirteen darter against the throw is equally as worthless as a fifteen darter if the guy throwing first also finishes in five turns - unless you play well enough to finish in twelve darts instead, you're not getting the break.

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