Thursday 11 July 2019

Quarter 2 - it's wide open

There's a heck of a lot of talent in this quarter so let's start from the top. Michael Smith's not done a huge amount in terms of results since making the final of the worlds, he had a nice run in the UK Open and hit a couple of finals at a time where he had dropped out of the Euro Tour seeds, but you'd expect someone of Smith's calibre and quality of play to have won something this season. Jamie Hughes has, and it's a very tight matchup between Smith and the latest European Tour winner. Hard to call, Jamie's probably peaking at the right time but Smith did have a nice run in Vegas to boost confidence. They've only met once, a 6-0 Smith win last season the day after, according to dartsdatabase, Smith was winning an event in Texas while simultaneously losing in the first round to Benito van de Pas in Ireland. You have to laugh.

Dave Chisnall's also been in the winners circle this year, grabbing a Euro Tour title as well as two Pro Tour events, and was probably the player to beat in the early part of the season before maybe cooling off slightly before taking the Denmark title. Max Hopp is his opponent, the German is scoring alright, but has been very run of the mill in terms of results outside of one Pro Tour final where he lost a decider to Harry Ward, as well as making one Euro Tour semi where he really should have been able to beat Simon Whitlock. Chizzy's rightly a nice favourite and ought to have enough to see this one home. They've met several times - Hopp's won a couple of close ones but Chizzy's won the rest, and mostly fairly comfortably, a straight sets win in the last Grand Prix and a 6-1 rout in the World Series finals being the most recent games.

Hard to say what we think about Gary Anderson. He's played next to no competitive darts at all, be that through the injury issues that saw him miss out on the Premier League, continued ignorance of the existence of the European Tour, or through late withdrawals to events he has been in. When he has played, he's not been good, losing to Steve Beaton in the UK Open, then not winning his board in four Pro Tour events with early losses to van der Voort, Whitehead, Nentjes and 6-0 to Wright. Less than 80 legs is no sample, but Noppert's outplayed what Gary's done there over 500+ legs. Danny has quietly been putting together excellent performances, highlighted by a pair of semi finals in the Pro Tour in one weekend, and is playing at an extremely similar level to the likes of Willie O'Connor and Nathan Aspinall, albeit more explosive. That's good enough to equate to a 3/1 shot of beating MvG in a Matchplay final. He's 7/2 right now, which is just silly - heck, their previous TV meeting (when Noppert was still in the BDO) went 10-9 to Anderson, and Noppert won their only meeting since.

Speaking of Nathan Aspinall, the newest major champion and World Series event winner completes the seeds in this section. He's comprehensively shown that the worlds semi was not a fluke. He's nearly added another couple of ranking titles to that UK Open win, and has forced himself up into the top 16 in any reasonable metric you want to use - although it is a debut for him here. One player it's not a debut for is Mervyn King, who was able to deal with van Gerwen and open up the draw for Aspinall, but has been pretty variable in how he's done. He's got a big consistency differential, which has seen him win with some decent legs that project King to be close enough to Aspinall that he has a realistic chance, but his off legs are quite a bit worse. If they have met before, it's only been once and it's not been recently.

Second round is incredibly tight. You can make a reasonable case for anyone who isn't Hopp to make their way to the quarter final out of the top section, such is the parity in their levels of play. In the bottom half, I doubt that King would be able to win two in a row if he did beat Aspinall, but if not, Nathan against either opponent ought to be very tight. I think the top four players are somewhat stronger than the bottom four, but realistically anyone in this quarter has the A-game to make their way out of it if they show up - maybe King lacks the stamina nowadays to come through a quarter final length match, and maybe Hopp lacks the experience of playing that length, but anyone else is completely believable.

Probably get the bottom half sorted over the weekend, along with keeping an eye on the Challenge Tour. Is there any reason whatsoever why they could have the Challenge Tour the week after while the Matchplay is on, and have the Pro Tour this weekend rather than midweek?

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