PDC Players Championship Finals – Day One (Afternoon) Preview

Friday sees the start of Players Championship Finals from Butlins in Minehead. Played over three days and broadcast live on ITV4, the tournament features the top 32 players from the PDC ProTour Order of Merit, which takes into account prize money won in UK Open Qualifiers, Players Championships and European Tour events.

Last years tournament was won by Gary Anderson and served as perfect preparation for his winning run at the World Championships. The two previous winners of this tournament (van Gerwen and Taylor) also went on to lift the World Championship trophy a month later, will the trend continue?

Due to the way this tournament is seeded on Pro Tour performances only it can throw up some unusual early fixtures. An example of this is Gary Anderson and Phil Taylor meeting in the first round, both have opted not to play a full Pro Tour schedule throughout the year and as a result they aren’t ranked as highly as they would normally be.

Here is the full tournament draw.

Players Championship Finals Draw
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Keegan Brown (32)
Justin Pipe (16) v Vincent van der Voort (17)
Dave Chisnall (8) v Joe Murnan (25)
Robert Thornton (9) v Jamie Lewis (24)
Kim Huybrechts (5) v Daryl Gurney (28)
Gary Anderson (12) v Phil Taylor (21)
James Wade (4) v Mark Webster (29)
Benito van de Pas (13) v Stephen Bunting (20)
Michael Smith (2) v Jamie Caven (31)
Mensur Suljovic (15) v Mervyn King (18)
Ian White (7) v Raymond van Barneveld (26)
Jelle Klaasen (10) v Gerwyn Price (23)
Adrian Lewis (6) v John Henderson (27)
Terry Jenkins (11) v Alan Norris (22)
Peter Wright (3) v Steve Beaton (30)
Brendan Dolan (14) v Simon Whitlock (19)

The first round is split across Friday with 8 matches in the afternoon and 8 matches in the evening. As a result I’ve decided to split my first round preview into two.

Here are the stats and info for the 8 afternoon matches and I will post the evening match previews on Friday morning.

Pipe vs van der Voort

Justin Pipe

  • The Players Championship finals have been Pipe’s most successful PDC TV tournament; he reached the semi-finals of the event two years in a row (2012 and 2013).
  • The 2013 tournament was the last time he progressed past the Last 16 of a PDC TV ranking tournament. Last year he exited in the first round to Wes Newton 6-1
  • He has won his first round match in his last two TV ranking tournaments, but hasn’t beaten a player ranked in the Top 16 in a TV ranking tournament since the Players Championships of 2013. He did beat Peter Wright at the 2014 Masters but that event isn’t a ranking tournament.

Vincent van der Voort

  • Prior to last year, van der Voort had only won 1 game in this tournament from 5 tournaments played (that win against Chris Mason in 2009). He ended that run by going all the way to the semi-finals in 2014. In his last 16 match against Peter Wright last year he won the last 7 legs of the match after being 5-3 down. He was beaten by the eventual champion Gary Anderson in the semis (in that defeat van der Voort hit 4 consecutive ton plus finishes, though he was 10-3 behind at the time).
  • He has a good record against Pipe having won 8 of their 11 previous meetings including the last two (one of which was this year). Those wins have been by scores of 6-1 and 6-2.
  • The only previous time they played on TV was in the group stage at the Grand Slam in 2010 when van der Voort won 5-1.

 

Jenkins vs Norris

Terry Jenkins

  • Of all the current PDC TV ranking tournaments this is the one in which Jenkins has the worst record. His best performance has been reaching the quarter-finals (2011 and 2014).
  • On his run to the quarter-finals in last year’s tournament Jenkins defeated van Gerwen 10-7 in their Last 16 match before losing tamely to Wes Newton (averaging 86 in doing so).
  • After reaching finals in 2 PDC TV ranking events in 2014 he has failed to get past the Last 16 stage in one since last year’s Players Championship finals. He has beaten Taylor and Anderson in non-ranking TV events this season.

Alan Norris

  • This is his debut in the event, since moving to the PDC in January he has played in two TV ranking tournaments (UK Open and European Championships) and lost his first game in both.
  • Norris has won a PDC tournament in his debut season; this was a Players Championship event in Ireland in October. Notable for the fact it was one of only two Players Championship events in which all the top 16 competed.
  • They have only played twice before, each winning once. Norris significantly won their only TV meeting which was in the group stage at last year’s Grand Slam.

 

Klaasen vs Price

Jelle Klaasen

  • Klaasen has played in this event four times previously and has only failed to get past the first round on one occasion. His three first round wins came against Gary Anderson, Dave Chisnall and James Wade. In last year’s opening round 6-4 win against Wade he averaged just under a 109.
  • He won 2 Players Championship pro tour events during 2015, one in May and one in September, he also reached the final of two more ranking tournaments during the season.
  • Klaasen leads Price 3-1 in their previous head to head match wins. Interestingly enough their last two meetings were in the two Players Championship events that Klaasen won this year and both came in the Last 32.

Gerwyn Price

  • Price is making his debut in the tournament. In each of the last 3 PDC TV ranking tournaments he had been drawn against Michael Smith in the opening round.
  • His best tournament performance on the pro tour in 2015 was a semi-final back in May. He did of course reach the quarter-finals of the World Matchplay in July though.

 

van de Pas vs Bunting

Benito van de Pas

  • He is making his second appearance at this tournament having made his debut last year, losing 6-2 to Peter Wright in the first round, which was a match he didn’t really do himself justice in averaging only 80.
  • Benito van de Pas has lost in the first round in each of his last 4 PDC TV tournaments. His last win at the Last 32 stage on TV was in the World Championships last year when he defeated Chisnall.
  • He ended a 7 match losing run against Bunting in October when he beat ‘The Bullet’ 6-2 at a pro tour event.

Stephen Bunting

  • This is his second consecutive appearance in the tournament. On his debut last year he defeated Beaton in the first round before losing 10-5 to Gary Anderson. In that match against Anderson he was 3-1 up but lost 7 legs in a row which put the game out of reach.
  • Bunting’s best tournament performance this season came at the UK Open in March when he reached the semi-final. Of the current PDC TV ranking tournaments he has only failed to reach the quarter-finals in this tournament and the World Matchplay which is a great feat considering he has only been in the PDC since the start of 2014.
  • Perhaps Bunting’s most significant win over van de Pas was in the Last 16 at the World Masters in 2012 when Bunting went on to win the tournament.

 

Suljovic vs King

Mensur Suljovic

  • Suljovic is making his first appearance in this tournament. In PDC TV ranking tournaments this season he has already reached a semi-final (World Grand Prix) and two quarter-finals (UK Open and World Matchplay).
  • On the PDC ranking circuit in 2015 he has reached the semi-final stage in 5 tournaments. Four of these semi-final appearances came after the start of October.
  • Suljovic and King have both won 3 times in their previous 6 meetings. Suljovic though has won 3 of the 4 matches they played during 2015, including their most recent encounter. They first met in the BDO at the World Championships back in 2002 when King won 3-1 in the Last 16.

Mervyn King

  • King has been an ever present at the Players Championship finals since it started in 2009. In 7 previous first round matches he has only been beaten once (that was in a deciding leg to van Barneveld in 2013). His best performance came in 2010 when he went all the way to the final before losing to Paul Nicholson.
  • He hasn’t been past the quarter-final stage in a ranking tournament this season, if he fails to do so at this event or at the World Championships it will be the first year since he joined the PDC in 2007 that he has failed to reach a PDC ranking semi-final.

 

Dolan vs Whitlock

Brendan Dolan

  • Dolan has competed in this event 4 times previously and has only lost in the first round once (6-5 to Adrian Lewis); he has won his first round match in each of the last 3 years.
  • On the ranking circuit Dolan’s best performance was runner-up at a pro tour event in April when he lost 6-5 to Adrian Lewis in the final. He had won 3 ranking events in 2014 and 2 in 2013, so not a successful season by his recent standards as he has also fallen outside the top 16 in the rankings.

Simon Whitlock

  • Whitlock has been beaten in the first round of this tournament in each of the last 2 years (losing to Pipe in 2013 and Winstanley in 2014). He did progress as far as the semi-finals in 2012 but was well beaten by Phil Taylor on that occasion.
  • After a run of 5 defeats in his opening match of PDC TV ranking events he has now won his first match in his last 3 TV ranking tournaments, though he did lose to Rowby-John Rodriguez at last week’s non ranking World Series of Darts finals in the opening round.
  • Whitlock has a 9-4 winning record over Dolan in their head to head meetings. Their only meeting on the big TV stage was in the group stage at last years’ Grand Slam when Whitlock won 5-3.

 

Smith vs Caven

Michael Smith

  • Smith has been beaten in the opening round of this tournament in 2 of the 3 years in which he has participated. Those first round defeats coming in each of the last 2 years. He disappointingly lost to namesake Andy Smith last year, losing 5 straight legs to go 5-1 behind, although he did rally to 5-4 he was left with too much to do.
  • He finally got over the hurdle of not having been past the Last 16 of a TV ranking event when he reached the semi-finals of the Grand Slam earlier this month. On the tour this season Smith has been victorious in 3 ranking events.
  • Smith has won his last 3 matches against Caven, all of those matches came in 2014, they haven’t played since June 2014.

Jamie Caven

  • Caven is one of only six players to have competed in every staging of the Players Championship finals. His best run in the tournament came last year when he reached the quarter-finals.
  • On his way to the last 8 last year he beat Ian White and Robert Thornton (in the match against Thornton he led 9-4 only for Thornton to level at 9-9 and miss a dart to win the match before Caven got over the line 10-9). His quarter-final match proved as dramatic; Caven led 9-8 had the throw and just missed taking out a 12 dart finish to win, Lewis checked out on 124 and then 123 in the next leg to win the match 10-9.
  • On the tour in 2015 his best performance has been reaching a semi-final at a Euro Tour event in June, since then though he has only reached the Last 16 stage in a tournament on one occasion.

 

Huybrechts vs Gurney

Kim Huybrechts

  • Huybrechts had his best run in a PDC TV ranking tournament when he reached the final in this event on his debut back in 2012. Since then he has been beaten in the first round in each of the last two years, both times by Terry Jenkins.
  • His defeats in PDC TV ranking tournaments since last year’s Players Championship finals have all been against players currently ranked in the top 4 (MVG x4, Wright x2 and Taylor)
  • Huybrechts has won his last 4 matches against Gurney since losing the first time they played in the BDO World Championship qualifiers in 2008. The last time they met was at a Euro Tour event in June of this year when Huybrechts won 6-4.

Daryl Gurney

  • Gurney is making his first appearance in the Players Championship finals. He is of course no stranger to the big stage having previously appeared in the World Championships, UK Open, World Grand Prix, also in the BDO World Championships and World Masters.
  • His best performances on tour this season have been two semi-finals. He also has wins to his name against the likes of Michael Smith, James Wade, Dave Chisnall, Peter Wright and Gary Anderson.

 

And a look at the draw along with each player’s best tournament performances this season.

PC Finals Draw

I hope you enjoy my previews. Don’t forget to check back for the evening session previews and to follow me on twitter @3dartanalyst

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