2016 PDC Unibet Masters – Day One Preview

Darts returns to our TV screens this weekend with the 2016 PDC Unibet Masters taking place at ArenaMK in Milton Keynes on Saturday and Sunday, all the action is broadcast live on ITV4.

This tournament is an invitational event for the players ranked in the Top 16 of the PDC rankings. The money won over the weekend doesn’t count towards the ranking system.

Here is the draw.

Michael van Gerwen (1) vs Stephen Bunting (16)
Michael Smith (8) vs Raymond van Barneveld (9)
Phil Taylor (4) vs Jelle Klaasen (13)
Peter Wright (5) vs Ian White (12)
Gary Anderson (2) vs Vincent van der Voort (15)
Robert Thornton (7) vs Dave Chisnall (10)
Adrian Lewis (3) vs Kim Huybrechts (14)
James Wade (6) vs Terry Jenkins (11)

I have compiled my match previews to help guide you through the action, there are two sessions on Saturday and I have included both sessions.

Saturday January 30
Afternoon Session (12.45pm)

Thornton vs Chisnall

Thornton

  • This is Thornton’s fourth appearance at the Masters having participated in each staging of the event since the tournament began in 2013. His best appearance was reaching the quarter-finals in 2013, in each of the last two years he has been beaten in the opening round (both times by his opponent in this match Dave Chisnall).
  • He has been beaten in the 1st Round in his last 2 TV tournaments, having lost to Jamie Lewis at the Players Championship Finals and Alan Norris at the World Championships.

Chisnall

  • Chisnall has also appeared in all of the previous editions of this tournament. He lost in the opening round back in 2013 to van Barneveld, but as mentioned above he did beat Thornton in each of the last two years at this stage of the tournament. Both times he went on to lose to van Gerwen in the quarter-finals.
  • In his 1st Round win over Thornton at the 2015 Masters he averaged 106.3, hitting 71.4% of his double attempts. When losing to MVG in the next round his average was 108.09, he hit 13x 180’s and his checkout % was 69.2%.

Head to Head

Both Thornton and Chisnall have won 10 matches each during their previous meetings, Thornton has won their last two encounters (both on the Pro Tour during 2015) but Chisnall has won their last two matches on the TV stage (at the 2014 and 2015 Masters).

Verdict

After winning the Grand Prix in October Thornton didn’t enjoy the best of times towards the end of 2015 culminating with a very early exit at the World Championships. Struggling with an injury his game, never reached the same heights that were shown in Dublin.

Chisnall may not have been past the quarter-final stage in a TV ranking tournament in 2015 but he did reach the semi-finals of the Premier League and was on the receiving end of some inspired performances by his opponents in some of the TV matches he lost last year, including a very high quality close contest when he lost to Peter Wright in the Last 16 at the World Championships.

I think Chisnall will make it 3 wins in a row against Thornton at this event and think 10-7 is a likely score.

 

Wade vs Jenkins

Wade

  • Wade was the winner of this event in 2014 when he defeated Mervyn King in the final, having accounted for Adrian Lewis and Phil Taylor in earlier rounds. He has been past the 1st Round in each year of the tournament, last year he defeated King again in their 1st Round encounter.
  • He has lost in his opening match of a TV knockout tournament only twice from his last fifteen events.

Jenkins

  • This is his 3rd appearance at the Masters, he faced Phil Taylor in the opening round in both of the previous two times, losing 6-3 in 2013 and winning 10-7 last year before losing 10-3 to van Barneveld in the quarter-finals.
  • Jenkins has lost 11 out of his last 16 matches in TV tournaments (all since winning his 1st Round match at the Masters last year).

Head to Head

As you would expect there has been plenty of previous meeting between the two players. Wade has a 26-14 lead, including winning each of the last 3 and 5 of the last 6. Their last encounter was on TV at the European Championships last October, Wade won 6-3 only averaging 88.66 with Jenkins averaging 90.

Verdict

Wade had a decent 2015, he had one of his best seasons for many a year on the Pro Tour away from the TV screens and produced some good performances on TV that weren’t always rewarded with a win. He will be disappointed in the way he was outclassed by Anderson at the World Championships but Anderson did that to most of his opponents in that tournament.

Jenkins still shows flashes of his ability but not as frequently as in past years. Overall his performances on TV last year were underwhelming, though he did still have wins against Taylor and Anderson to his name and he won a title on the Pro Tour.

If this was a match over a shorter format I may have given Jenkins more of a chance of upsetting the odds, Jenkins won’t be a pushover but if Wade shows the form he did over most of 2015 I would expect him to secure his passage through to the quarter-finals. My prediction is 10-5/10-6.

 

Wright vs White

Wright

  • Wright is an ever present at the Masters but has only ever gone past the 1st Round on one occasion which was last year when he defeated Dolan 10-1. His opening round losses were to MVG in 2013 and Pipe in 2014.
  • 21 of Wright’s last 22 defeats in TV matches have been against players currently in the PDC Top 10, his only defeat to a player outside the Top 10 in that run was against Simon Whitlock at the Players Championship Finals at the end of 2015.

White

  • White made his Masters debut last year and exited the tournament in the 1st Round at the hands of Adrian Lewis. White never really recovered from falling behind 4-0 at the start of the match and eventually lost 10-4.
  • His last 5 defeats on TV have all been against players ranked outside the Top 16 on the PDC Order of Merit.

Head to Head

They have met 10 times previously with Wright just having the edge 6 wins to 4. This is their first ever meeting on the TV stage. There have been no more than 2 legs between them in 9 of their 10 previous encounters.

Verdict

It seems only a matter of time before Peter Wright goes all the way and wins a TV tournament such has been the consistency and quality of his play over the last 3 years and there is no doubt he has the capability to be a main contender in this tournament.

White put in some excellent performances both on and away from the TV in 2015, but his season didn’t end the way he would have liked with an early exit from the World Championships to Dmitri van den Bergh, although White has beaten some of the top players on TV he has just come up short on a few too many occasions and hasn’t been further than the quarter-finals of a PDC TV tournament which has to change if he is to push back into the Top 10.

Wright hasn’t been slipping up many times in the early rounds of tournaments and is confident enough in his ability to go into 1st Round matches expecting to win, White is a tough opponent who can trouble Wright if he is on the top of his game but I just think Wright has too much consistency for White and this will tell in the final outcome. I’m going for Wright to win 10-7.

 

Smith vs van Barneveld

Smith

  • Smith is making his first appearance at the Masters having not only just broken into the Top 16 during 2015 but also into the Top 8 along with a place in the Premier League.
  • He had a career best run to the semi-finals of the Grand Slam back in November and followed it up with a career best run to the quarter-finals at the World Championships where he lost to his opponent in this match Raymond van Barneveld.

van Barneveld

  • Barney has featured in the Masters every year since it started in 2013, he reached the semi-final in 2013 and was runner-up to Michael van Gerwen a year ago.
  • In his 1st Round defeat to van Gerwen in 2014 he led 9-7 only for MVG to win the final 3 legs, the year before he defeated van Gerwen on his way to the semi-finals where he lost in a deciding leg to Adrian Lewis.
  • He ended last season with an excellent run to the semi-finals of the World Championships, although he did make some early exits in some of the other TV ranking events he also reached the semi-finals at the Grand Slam and in the Premier League during 2015.
  • Barney failed to qualify for the first two Euro Tour events of the season at the qualifiers last weekend he lost to Jan Dekker and Mike de Decker.

Head to Head

Barney leads Smith by 6 wins to 3 in their previous meetings and has won all 5 matches they have played on the TV stage. Most recently they faced each other at the World Championships at the start of this year when van Barneveld came from 3 sets to 0 down to win 5-4.

Verdict

This is a very intriguing match, especially after their meeting at the World Championships where it looked as though Smith was on his way to victory and a place in the semi-finals only for Barney to somehow turn things around. Will that have an impact on this game? That remains to be seen, but I do think that van Barneveld will be the more confident player heading into this match. The fact Smith was given a place in the Premier League will have given him a lift after the World Championship exit so I would expect him to be in a good frame of mind. I find this a very hard match to call so I’ll just sit on the fence.

 

Evening Session (7pm)

Lewis vs Huybrechts

Lewis

  • Lewis has competed at the Masters three times and hasn’t failed to get past the 1st Round on any of those occasions. He reached the final in 2013, the quarter-finals in 2014 and was beaten in the semi-finals last year. All of those defeats were against the eventual winner (Taylor ’13, Wade ’14 and van Gerwen ’15).
  • He has reached the final in each of the last 2 PDC TV tournaments and overall has reached the semi-finals in 6 of the last 8 TV tournaments

Huybrechts

  • Huybrechts is returning to the Masters after a year’s absence from the tournament. He played in the first two editions of the tournament and lost to Adrian Lewis in the 1st Round both times (6-5 in 2013 and 10-4 in 2014).
  • He has been beaten in the 1st Round of the last two TV tournaments, having lost to Gurney at the Players Championship Finals and Pallett at the World Championships.
  • Since he reached the Final at the Players Championship Finals in 2012 he has only reached 3 TV quarter-finals (excluding the World Cup of Darts which is a team event), all three of those quarter-finals were at the Grand Slam.

Head to Head

Lewis and Huybrechts have met 15 times previously with Lewis winning 9, Huybrechts winning 5 and a draw in a Premier League match in 2015. Lewis is unbeaten in their last 9 matches, having won 8 of those. As mentioned above they have met twice at the Masters with Lewis winning both times. The last time Huybrechts beat Lewis was back in 2013.

Verdict

Adrian Lewis looks hungry to win tournaments and his confidence is high, he ended last season in good form reaching the finals in the last two tournaments, only losing out to van Gerwen and Anderson in those finals. Huybrechts had a disappointing end to 2015. Overall despite some excellent performances during the year he was unfortunate to run into players in form, he has the game to compete against anyone but his results on TV aren’t always as good as they should be.

This should be a good match with both players scoring well and capable of hitting big finishes, I expect Lewis to make it through 10-7.

 

Taylor vs Klaasen

Taylor

  • Taylor was the winner of the inaugural Masters tournament in 2013 when he averaged 109, 106 and 108 in the QF, SF and F. In his defence of the title in 2014 he lost narrowly to James Wade in the semi-finals and last year he exited in the 1st Round to Terry Jenkins. Taylor wasn’t in a good frame of mind at last year’s tournament due to the recent passing away of his mother.
  • His last TV tournament win came at the Sydney Masters in August but he didn’t win a TV tournament in the UK in 2015, the last time he did win one was at the Grand Slam in November 2014.

Klaasen

  • Klaasen is competing in this event for the first time. His run to the semi-finals at the World Championships was his first ever PDC TV tournament semi-final.
  • He defeated Phil Taylor at the World Championships in their Last 16 encounter; Klaasen trailed 2-0 in the final set before winning 4 legs in a row to earn his place in the quarter-finals.

Head to Head

Taylor leads their head to head record with 11 wins to 3 but they have only played twice since 2010 and Klaasen won both of these matches including the win at the World Championships in December.

Verdict

Taylor might not be the dominant force of old but he still can’t be written off easily such has been the level of his performances despite not winning the big tournaments. He has averaged over 101 in his last 10 TV defeats which indicates the level he is still playing at. Klaasen had an excellent 2015 winning a couple of times on the tour, moving into the Top 16 and reaching the semi-finals at the World Championships, there has been plenty to like about the way his composure is improving all the time.

Taylor will have a point to prove against Klaasen and will be determined to get off to a good start to 2016, I think we will see an impressive performance from Taylor and a 10-6 win to move him in the quarter-finals.

 

Anderson vs van der Voort

Anderson

  • Anderson wasn’t ranked in the Top 16 when the first staging of the Masters took place in 2013; he has featured in the last two editions though, reaching the quarter-finals in 2014 and the semi-finals last year where he lost to van Barneveld.
  • He comes into the tournament having recently successfully defended his World Championship title, dropping only 2 sets on his way to the final. Prior to the World Championships starting he had lost 3 out of his last 4 matches on TV.

van der Voort

  • Vincent van der Voort is making his first appearance at the Masters. His best performance in a TV tournament in 2015 was when he reached the quarter-finals at the World Grand Prix, having defeated Phil Taylor in the 1st
  • His last 3 defeats in TV tournaments have been against Taylor, van Gerwen and Gary Anderson (the defeat to Anderson was of course at the recent World Championships).

Head to Head

Anderson holds a 9-2 winning record over van der Voort on their previous meetings. The last two times they have met have both been on the TV stage with Anderson winning in the semi-finals at the Players Championship Finals in 2014 and in December 2015 at the World Championships.

Verdict

Anderson will be on a high after retaining his World title earlier this month, he was in tremendous form in those World Championships and if he plays to that level this week he will take some stopping. Vincent van der Voort was well beaten by Anderson at the World Championships winning only 1 leg in the entire match and his chances in the match really depend on how Anderson plays. Last year after winning the World title Anderson defeated Hamilton 10-2 in the opening round of this tournament averaging just under 90, a similar performance may be punished by van der Voort. I think Anderson will turn up focused enough and predict a 10-5 win for the World Champion.

 

van Gerwen vs Bunting

van Gerwen

  • Michael van Gerwen will be defending the title he won last year when beating van Barneveld in the final and averaging 112.5 in the process. Earlier in the tournament he had averaged 110 in his quarter-final win against Chisnall. In 2013 he lost in the quarter-finals to van Barneveld and in 2015 he was edged out 11-9 by Mervyn King.
  • His defeat at the World Championships ended a 23 match winning run in TV tournaments stretching back to his defeat in the Grand Prix final to Thornton.
  • MVG hasn’t been beaten in the opening round of a PDC TV tournament since December 2011 when he lost to Anderson in the 1st Round at the Players Championship Finals.

Bunting

  • Bunting will be paying in this tournament for the first time; having only joined the PDC in 2014 he has now progressed all the way into the Top 16.
  • Most of his work in reaching the Top 16 was done in the 2014 season, although he reached the semi-finals of the UK Open in 2015 his results overall last year didn’t match the excellent 2014 season that he had.
  • Bunting has won just 5 out of his last 18 appearances in televised matches.

Head to Head

The pair have met 11 times previously with Michael van Gerwen winning 9 of these, including each of the last 7 (5 of these were in 2015). Their most high profile meeting was in the semi-finals of the 2014 Grand Prix when van Gerwen won 4-0 in sets.

Verdict

Failing to win the World title at the end of such a dominant year will have really hurt van Gerwen and I expect a positive reaction with him well motivated to prove he is the best. Bunting is capable of much better than his results showed last year and he needs to show this season that he can push on towards the Top 10 and make some serious impact in the TV tournaments. I’m anticipating a very strong performance from van Gerwen and predict a 10-5 win.

 

 

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