World Grand Prix – Day One Preview

Tonight sees the start of the World Grand Prix from Dublin, Ireland. The event is unique in the PDC tour as it requires both a double start and a double finish. The format of the first round matches being first to two sets does not give the players too much time to settle so they have to be on it from the first leg!

There are some excellent matches to look forward to, and I have compiled a handy preview for each match with some stats and analysis which hopefully will help with your evening’s entertainment.

O'Connor vs Lewis

William O’Connor
• O’Connor is competing in his 4th World Grand Prix, and will be aiming to win a match in the event for the first time. Previously he was defeated by Barrie Bates (2010), Andy Smith (2011) and Vincent van der Voort (2012).
• The UK Open earlier this year saw O’Connor have his best run in a PDC TV ranking major when he defeated Dean Winstanley, Mark Webster and Ian White, his run was ended in the last 16 by Stephen Bunting.
• His best placing at a tournament this season was at the German Darts Masters back in April. He defeated Ian White and Vincent van der Voort on his way to the quarter-final before losing 6-4 to van Gerwen.

Jamie Lewis
• At the World Matchplay in July he had his best result in a PDC TV major so far when he defeated Justin Pipe to reach the last 16, although he was well beaten by van Gerwen his performance was a lot better than the 13-2 scoreline suggests.
• Lewis has played O’Connor twice, winning on both occasions, most recently in a UK Open Qualifier earlier this year. Their most significant meeting was a UK Open Last 64 match in 2014 when Lewis won a last leg decider 9-8.
• Reached the semi-finals of two ranking tournaments this season, a Players Championship event in May and the Gibraltar Darts Trophy in March.
• Comes into the tournament having hit a 9 dart finish in the Players Championship event played on Friday.

Neither player will have been displeased with this draw especially looking at some of the other first round matches; they will both see this as a good chance to progress to the next round. Both have had some good matches in major tournaments this year. O’Connor has the experience of playing at the World Grand Prix previously though hasn’t won a game on the stage, Lewis is in better form and is pushing close to a place in the top 32. A lot depends on how Lewis settles into the double start format, but the bookies make him favourite and I can’t disagree.

Webster vs Bunting

Mark Webster
• This is his third appearance in the tournament, returning to the Grand Prix for the first time since 2012. On his debut in 2011 he reached the quarter-finals before losing 4-0 to Phil Taylor.
• Webster has only reached the last 16 in a major ranking tournament on two occasions in the most recent 15 he has played.
• The best tournament placing he has achieved this year was reaching the semi-finals at the first UK Open qualifier in February. Webster lost 6-5 to van Gerwen in that semi-final encounter.
• Webster has defeated Bunting in all of their three previous meetings. Their most recent matchup was in 2014 when Webster won 6-1 in a pro tour event.

Stephen Bunting
• Bunting reached the semi-finals last season at the World Grand Prix on his debut at the event, he defeated Peter Wright on his way to the final four but was beaten 4-0 by eventual champion MVG.
• His best tournament this season was at the UK Open when he reached the semi-final, as in his World Grand Prix semi-final he was brushed aside a little easy, Peter Wright winning their match 10-0.
• The first round defeat in the World Matchplay to Ian White in which Bunting performed very well was the first time he had lost in his first game in a PDC major ranking tournament in 8 tournaments since moving to the PDC.

Two former BDO World Champions go head to head in an intriguing first round match. Bunting has performed excellently overall in TV ranking events since he joined the PDC and having made the semi-finals here last year should be confident on the double start format. Webster doesn’t have as much experience in the event as you might this with this being only his third appearance. He did reach the quarter-final in 2011, although he has struggled to recapture the form he showed in that year there have been some positive signs for him this year. The bookies favour Bunting which you can’t really argue with but bear in mind Webster has won all 3 matches against Bunting and if he starts well he may have a chance of overturning those odds.

Huybrechts vs van de Pas

Kim Huybrechts
• Huybrechts is competing in his fourth World Grand Prix, but has yet to win a match in the tournament, and is in fact still to pick up a set having lost 2-0 to Painter, Hamilton and Terry Jenkins.
• It has been nearly 3 years since he reached the quarter-finals of a PDC major ranking tournament. Since reaching the Players Championship Final in December 2012 he has gone 15 events without reaching a final 8.
• His best performances on tour this year have been reaching three finals, including one on the day before this event starts when he reached the final of the pro tour event before losing to Alan Norris; he has also reached three semi-finals along with hitting a nine dart finish in September at a pro tour event.

Benito van de Pas
• This will be his sixth consecutive PDC major ranking tournament appearance, his best performance being at the World Championship last December when he defeated Dave Chisnall on his way to the last 16.
• His best tournament on the tour this year was in June when he reached the final of the International Darts Open, defeating Kim Huybrechts and van Gerwen on his way to the final.
• Benito van de Pas has an excellent record against Kim Huybrechts having won five of their six previous meetings. Four of these win have been in the last two years, two have come during this year, most recently in June at the International Darts Open as mentioned above.

Huybrechts has the experience of previous playing in the World Grand Prix but those memories aren’t great ones having failed to win a set in his 3 previous visits. He did have a good weekend leading into this tournament though reaching the pro tour event final on Saturday. Benito has had a solid season and has an excellent record against Huybrechts which could be a factor in this encounter. I would be thinking a small punt of van de Pas is worth looking into here.

Smith vs Price

Michael Smith
• In his two previous appearances at the World Grand Prix he was defeated in the opening round. 2012 saw a 2-0 defeat against Phil Taylor and last year he lost 2-1 to Dean Winstanley.
• Smith moved into the top 8 in the PDC order of merit for the first time in September having won his 3rd ranking title of the season when he defeated Michael van Gerwen in the final of the European Darts Trophy for the second successive year.
• A disappointment for Smith has been his performances in major ranking tournaments. He is yet to get past the last 16 stage in any that he has played, and has only won 6 of his last 22 matches in major ranking tournaments.

Gerwyn Price
• This is his first appearance in the World Grand Prix, having only joined the tour at the start of 2014. Price reached the quarter-final at the World Matchplay in July, in doing so he defeated both Michael Smith and Adrian Lewis.
• The win against Smith in Blackpool at the Matchplay was his second successive win against his opponent in this match, prior to that Smith had beaten Price in their first two encounters on tour.
• On the pro tour in 2015 Price’s best tournament showing has been a semi-final in a Players Championship event in May. He has reached a further five quarter-finals and is now pushing to break into the top 32.

This is a repeat of their World Matchplay first round tie when Gerwyn Price came through as the winner. Michael Smith has impressed on tour this year winning 3 ranking titles this season but he has yet to really play his best game in the major ranking events. Price looked very comfortable at the World Matchplay on the big stage and has proven a match for anyone since he joined the tour in 2014. I think the bookies have this game priced too much in Smith’s favour and would think Price could be a value bet.

Wright vs Chisnall

Peter Wright
• This is Wright’s fourth appearance in the World Grand Prix since he made his tournament debut in 2011. Last year he won his first game in the tournament when he defeated Jamie Caven before losing to Stephen Bunting 3-2 after leading 2-1.
• Wright’s consistency in the 2015 major ranking tournaments is only bettered by Michael van Gerwen. Wright was beaten in the final of the UK Open and the semi-finals of the World Matchplay by van Gerwen who went on to win both tournaments.
• He won the last meeting with Chisnall in a pro tour event in September but does trail their overall head to head and has failed to beat Chisnall in three matches on the big stage in the Premier League.

Dave Chisnall
• This year will be the fifth year in a row that Chisnall has played in the World Grand Prix. His best performance was when he reached the final in 2013 though the final was one to forget as he lost 6-0 to Phil Taylor.
• Chisnall’s recent form since coming back after the August break has been impressive. He reached two finals, one semi-final and a quarter-final from six tournaments. Notably he also defeated van Gerwen and Taylor in back to back matches on the Friday before this tournament starts.
• All four of Chisnall’s previous first round matches at the World Grand Prix have been decided by a 2-1 set score. Most recently he lost 2-1 to van Barneveld in 2014.

A dreadful draw for both players as both would realistically be contenders to go deep into the tournament. Wright has the edge in consistency in the TV ranking majors but Chisnall’s recent form has been very good and he is very much a confidence player. I find this a very hard match to call and really think it could go either way. One to sit back and enjoy I think.

van Gerwen vs Brown

Michael van Gerwen
• Michael van Gerwen is looking to retain his World Grand Prix title having won it last year. Significantly in 2012 he won his first PDC major ranking tournament at this tournament so he will have very good memories to feed off this week.
• Has won both major ranking tournaments played so far this year, the UK Open and World Matchplay. van Gerwen will be looking to add to his 12 ranking event successes this season.
• The last time van Gerwen lost in the first round of a major ranking tournament was at the Players Championship finals in December 2011 to Gary Anderson.

Keegan Brown
• Brown won his first PDC ranking title earlier this year when he won a Players Championship tournament back in May. His best performance on the TV stage came at the Grand Slam last year when he reached the quarter-final.
• In the 5 tournaments he has played since the August break he has been beaten by 4 players from outside the top 50 in the rankings.
• Although he trails 2-1 in their head to head meetings, he did beaten van Gerwen the last time they played, a 6-5 win in a pro tour event in May.

Michael van Gerwen will be bidding to win his 3rd World Grand Prix this week and 3rd successive PDC major raking title and starts the tournament as the man to beat. His recent form on tour has shown he is beatable but this is the big stage and his motivation will be very high. Brown has experienced victory against van Gerwen and isn’t the type of player who will be scared of the challenge, he has shown he is comfortable on the big stage. I do expect MVG to win the match but Brown is capable of giving him some scary moments and hopefully this should be an entertaining match.

Lewis vs van Barneveld

Adrian Lewis
• Lewis has reached six ranking finals this season, winning three of them. The last of those final appearances though was in early May and he hasn’t gone further than the last 16 of a ranking tournament since.
• His best appearance at the Grand Prix was in 2010 when he reached the final after beating Phil Taylor in the semi-final. Since that tournament he hasn’t gone past the last 16 stage though.
• He has won the first set in each of the ten 1st round matches he has played at the World Grand Prix and has only ever lost in the first round once.

Raymond van Barneveld
• His beat performance at the World Grand Prix has been in reaching the final twice in 2008 and 2009, after reaching the semi-finals in 2010 he has failed to get past the last 16 since then.
• RVB has a lead over Lewis in their past head to head meetings; he beat Lewis at the last UK Open and World Championship, and significantly also won their two previous matches in the World Grand Prix in 2007 and 2008.
• The last ranking tournament won by van Barneveld was also in Ireland, which was in a pro tour event in October 2013.

This could be classed as the tie of the round and again both players will be ruing their luck with the way the draw turned out. Although both have reached the final it is interesting to note that neither have won back to back matches at the World Grand Prix since 2010. A factor to consider in this game could be RVB’s two wins over Lewis previously in the Grand Prix though they did both come a few years ago and were both close encounters. I think this could go to a deciding set and it’s another match that really could go either way.

Klaasen vs Dolan

Jelle Klaasen
• Klaasen is making only his second appearance at the World Grand Prix and he will be looking to win his first leg in the tournament having been beaten 2-0 (3-0, 3-0) by Gary Anderson in 2013. In that match Klaasen only hit 5 doubles from 27 attempts at starting a leg and didn’t have a dart at a double to win a leg.
• He has had some good success on the tour this season with two tournament wins and having also reached two more finals. His most recent tournament win was at only at the end of September
• After losing his first five matches against Dolan he has now won their last two meetings, both in 2015. The most significant meeting was at the UK Open in March when Klaasen won 9-4.

Brendan Dolan
• Dolan has very fond memories of the World Grand Prix, he famously hit a 9 dart finish on his way to reaching the final in 2011, he also reached the semi-finals the following year. In the last two years he has lost in the first round, 2013 to Adrian Lewis and in 2014 to Gary Anderson.
• His best ranking tournament placings this season came in both the opening two pro tour tournaments of the season when he reached the semi-finals
• Since reaching the semi-finals of the 2011 World Grand Prix he has only gone as far the quarter-final in a major ranking tournament on 1 occasion from the last 16 he has played.

Out of the two players it is Jelle Klaasen who has been showing the more consistent form on the tour, winning an event very recently also. Dolan has much more experience on this stage though and some good memories to feed off. The last time Klaasen played here he really struggled with the format so it will be interesting to see if he can adapt better. Klaasen is the slight favourite but I wouldn’t be backing him, I would see Dolan as the better value over a double start short format match.

So there we have it, some great matches to look forward to on the opening night. Let’s hope the standard and entertainment lives up to the expectation. Check my twitter feed for after match stats and back here tomorrow for more previews!


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