Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Players Championship Finals - high level preview

I'm off work Thursday so will be able to produce the bets and some more forward projections then, but for now, let's look at each section of the draw and see what we think - and it's a good job I checked the PDC website as Suljovic is out, giving van de Pas a route in. How Benito did enough to even get 65th, I have no idea, but that's where we are:

Section 1 - (1) White v (64) Taylor, (32) Dolan v (33) Barnard, (16) Gurney v (49) Thornton, (17) Payne v (48) Searle

Important section for two players here - Ian White's gone from probably being in the Premier League, to probably out unless he does something special here, with the Barney farewell tour being announced and Wade and Price saying "I'll have a Premier League spot thanks" in the last couple of months. Gurney also needs a bit of a run having not won an event this year, his ranking's still up there but that's really all he's done since coming from a bit too far back to really threaten to make the Premier League finals day. Of everyone else, Taylor's only here on account of one good day and shouldn't threaten, Dolan has looked like he's at least stabilising his form but Challenge Tour legend Barnard is a tough out, Thornton's looked quite decent in spots this year but it's too sporadic and mainly showed on a good qualifying streak for here, while Payne and Searle will both look to build on the Grand Slam and see this as a decent opportunity to maybe make a bit of a run.

Section 2 - (8) Wade v (57) R Smith, (25) Aspinall v (40) Schindler, (9) Chisnall v (56) J Lewis, (24) Dobey v (41) Meulenkamp

Tricky section. Wade is the form player, but Smith's been showing he wasn't just a nine darter flash in the pan and won't be a walkover. Aspinall against a German at this time of year at Minehead will bring back memories of the world youth defeat to Hopp, an event that'll be on Schindler's mind as well as both look to do something in a TV major, Chisnall/Lewis could, if Lewis turns up, be one of those games where both average over 100, while Dobey's made a couple of good floor runs this year as he looks to regain his 2016 form - Meulenkamp however seems to be getting the floor and we saw in Ireland that he's got a dangerous game.

Section 3 - (5) A Lewis v (60) Hunt, (28) Ratajski v (37) Price, (12) Noppert v (53) Rodriguez, (21) King v (44) Stevenson

Lewis has got a pretty high ranking given he's not actually won one of these this season, Hunt's been one to watch for a couple of years now but hasn't really made a statement run after getting his card back from the Development Tour. Ratajski/Price will be one of the ties of the round and a Lewis/Price second round match could be explosive. Noppert's got an OK draw against Rowby, who's got enough game to have won one of the regional qualifiers for the worlds but is still way too inconsistent, while this year King's shown he can still win at the Pro Tour level, Stevenson being a tricky customer but one who probably did his best work earlier in the season.

Section 4 - (4) Wright v (61) Alcinas, (29) Hopp v (36) West, (13) Bunting v (52) North, (20) Mansell v (45) Razma

Loaded section here. Wright is the top seeded player but has had, by his standards, a mediocre year and Alcinas is the sort of player who on his day can be a huge banana skin. Hopp's made the breakthrough on the senior level this year but Steve West is arguably the best player on the circuit who hasn't won a PDC event and ought to be the favourite to come through. Bunting's been alright this year and played well at the Slam, and has cut a lot of the early floor exits out of his game, while North's had a bit of success in making TV events and is getting more comfortable this season. That just leaves Mansell, who on top of his tour win has also got to the quarters on a couple of occasions lest you think it's just a complete one off, against Razma, whose final late in the season was probably a bit late to save his tour card but reminded us of how good he can be, which we'd really not seen since his BDO days.

Section 5 - (2) G Anderson v (63) Tabern, (31) Whitlock v (34) K Anderson, (15) Beaton v (50) K Huybrechts, (18) Henderson v (47) Cullen

If section 4 was loaded, wait until you see this bit. Anderson's brought his best game to the TV this year and ought to handle Tabern, who's done enough to make it here just but has done more work in Europe. Whitlock/Anderson is a tasty Australian derby as Whitlock looks to do what he can to tie up a Premier League return, while Kyle's got this and the worlds where he's defending nothing and should shoot up the rankings accordingly. Beaton's not going anywhere and faces Kim Huybrechts, who's had another disappointing year, at least in the Players Championship series, while Cullen's bossed Europe but has been frankly bad domestically, ending up with Henderson in round 1, who's not made it past a quarter final this year but is usually good for at least a board final, and will be a tough task for the Rockstar.

Section 6 - (7) M Smith v (58) van der Voort, (26) Clayton v (39) M Webster, (10) de Zwaan v (55) Klaasen, (23) Evans v (42) Dekker

Real Dutch feel to this section with four of them in here. van der Voort's been forgotten about somewhat but has done enough to creep in to this as well as the worlds, but Michael Smith's been getting a lot closer to a TV title this year and ought to advance in a 180-filled quick game. Clayton/Webster is a Welsh derby with Clayton making one final lest it go forgotten focussing on his European Tour victory, while Mark's got to a semi and a quarter and might be trending at the right time given his qualification for the Slam. It's a Cobra-off with de Zwaan having a breakout year against Klaasen, who's just been doing enough to sneak into televised events while not doing anything really notable, and Evans, like Clayton, has won quite a few boards under the radar while you're all noticing his European Tour final, while Dekker's not done quite that much but consistent board finals shows he's starting to properly get the PDC circuit.

Section 7 - (6) Cross v (59) Reyes, (27) Joyce v (38) Lennon, (11) Wilson v (54) van den Bergh, (22) Clemens v (43) Gilding

Another interesting section. Cross has had some struggles on TV trying to back up his world championship win, and the sort of player you don't want to face in a short format is someone with Reyes' upside. Joyce's floor form has been excellent with eight board wins but has tailed off slightly in the latter half of the year, while Lennon is looking to push up towards the top 32 and similarly has a good record of picking up a grand here, fifteen hundred there. Wilson's chucked himself into the West discussion for the best player who's not won an event yet, making six quarters or better to get a high ranking, but facing Dimitri on TV isn't the draw he would want, if Dimitri can sort out the floor game which is still not really firing (at least at senior level) then look out. That leaves us with Clemens, the third German in the field who's made one final and another semi for a good opening season, if only he could have added more on the European Tour, against Gilding, who's shown spurts of his (excellent) best game and will look to be more than just a Durrant spoiler as he tries to back up his recent floor semi final.

Section 8 - (3) van Gerwen v (62) Edgar, (30) Brown v (65) van de Pas, (14) Wattimena v (51) Burton, (19) D Webster v (46) de Graaf

Another four Dutchmen here, all in separate matches. van Gerwen we know about and should have enough to handle Edgar, whose late few wins have seen him get here just, Brown's gone from having a real tough opening opponent to almost a free win against van de Pas who's been frankly dreadful for a second straight year, Wattimena's not been that impressive statistically but keeps getting the wins and keeps taking his board, and he'll face Stephen Burton, a relatively unknown player who's going to lose his card but has had a good floor record in reaching board finals. Lastly we have Darren Webster, who's solidified a top 16 spot and looked pretty good on TV for a second year in a row, against de Graaf, another Dutchman who's flown under the radar but eight board finals to back up an early semi final has secured his place in the field. Hugely hit and miss, but if he hits, anyone is in trouble.

Back later in the week with the bets and projections.

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