Sunday, 16 July 2017

Matchplay pod 6 - Now if we make a stand, we'll find our promised land

James Wade (World rank: 6, FRH rank: 6, match odds: 2/5, tournament odds: 50/1) v Darren Webster (World rank: 29, FRH rank: 24, match odds: 5/2, tournament odds: 300/1)


A wide open section of the draw featuring probably the weakest top 8 seed, one of the strongest non-top 8 seeds, a recent Pro Tour winner and a wildcard, first to look at is James Wade against Darren Webster. After a quarter final in the worlds, which is more or less what was expected, Wade has had a mediocre 2017 by his standards, having the best run of his season early on in the last UK Open qualifer, reaching the final with some good victories, following up with a semi/quarter Pro Tour weekend, but then drew Adrian Lewis straight off the bat in the UK Open and lost, and following that, there's not much to shout about apart from a couple of semi finals in April.

Darren Webster had a big break through last weekend, winning on the Pro Tour for a first ranking title in a decade, to get a tournament win to go with the elite form he was showing late last year. Like Wade, he lost in the first money round of the UK Open in a surprise loss to Ronnie Baxter, and aside from the win mentioned, hasn't made as many runs past the last 16/last 32 as he'd have liked, and has had a fair number of hiccups in opening round losses to the likes of Tony Newell, Aden Kirk, Jamie Bain, Mike de Decker and Jimmy Hendriks.

Wade's stats always look mediocre - he's the only top 10 player that doesn't finish at least 10% of his winning legs in twelve darts or less (Webster does), and is only just the right side of 50% in terms of legs won in fifteen darts or less (Webster isn't much better, but is still three points higher). He does have a losing average of 90, indicating that he will be pressuring, and grinding out legs in a sixth visit if given the opportunity, which is where a lot of the Wade cliches come from. Webster might let him in a few times on the Wade throw to do that, but he's playing well enough that he should be able to exploit Wade's lack of ability to break someone throwing fifteen darters. 0.5u Webster 5/2

Michael Smith (World rank: 10, FRH rank: 8, match odds: 3/10, tournament odds: 66/1) v Steve West (World rank: 39, FRH rank: 33, match odds: 10/3, tournament odds: 750/1)


The other match in this section sees Michael Smith, a multiple time European Tour winner who's yet to reach a major final or get past the second round at Blackpool, against Steve West, a player on debut looking to push up into the top 32. Smith managed the first win in a while after a real bad 2016, taking the title in Gibraltar to climb back into the top 10 in the world, and has added a few other very solid results - reaching a European final and semi final in successive weeks, his form in Europe being such that he's likely to be a top 4 seed for the European Championship, and has been clocking up a good selection of quarter final or better returns in general.

West has done little this season, outside of a couple of Pro Tour semi finals. He's here mostly on account of his form in late 2016, where he made a final just in time to qualify for the Grand Prix. This year, he's had six first round exits in Players Championship events, and didn't get a single cash in qualifying for the UK Open. He's doing well enough that he should be absolutely fine for making the majors outside of the European Championship, so maybe I'm being harsh, but it's certainly not been as good this season as parts of last.

Smith should be far, far too strong here given he's rediscovered his form - West only finishes in five visits 43% of the time, so Smith should have plenty of margin for error if needed, and get plenty of opportunities to break the West throw. My stats have Smith at an 85% chance of victory, which might even be on the low side considering both players' respective game right now. 1.5u Smith 3/10

In round two, Smith should be a favourite, against either opponent, but not by as much as he is here, there's a bit of variance but still should be 60% or better against both Wade and Webster. If West did pull off the upset, he'd clearly be a dog again in round two, with less than a 30% chance against either opponent.

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