The German Darts Masters is the rarest of beasts – it’s a tournament Michael van Gerwen hasn’t won.

Peter Wright was the inaugural champion, back in 2017. Last year, Mensur Suljovic claimed the title in front of a record crown in Gelsenkirchen. Now the German Darts Masters moves to Cologne – Köln, to the locals. The aim for seven of the eight PDC invitees is to get in some World Matchplay practice. This is the last stage event before we head for Blackpool. Meanwhile, the German collective (including Max Hopp, who is also Winter Gardens-bound) will be desperate to negotiate the first round. To date, no German has yet managed it.

Wright at the top

Perhaps a leftie coming out of left field can grab that elusive German win. Kevin Münch made his World Series debut, and lost to James Wade. Once again, he’s drawn the Machine. The man who famously dumped Adrian Lewis out of the 2018 PDC World Championship will need to improve on his 2017 showing if he’s to knock out his fellow southpaw.

Gary Anderson’s World Series return ended abruptly in Las Vegas; he fell at the quarter-final stage to Gerwyn Price. Up-and-coming German ace Nico Kurz isn’t likely to spring a surprise, but the Flying Scotsman will want to build momentum from the outset. That tie is followed by Daryl Gurney playing against Christian Bunse. If you’re reading this, John McDonald – please, please, don’t pronounce it ‘Buns’ again.

The four seeds for the German Darts Masters have been decided by World Series ranking points following the US Darts Masters. Unfortunately, the two finalists and one semi-finalist haven’t actually been invited. That odd twist of fate means that Peter Wright is the number one seed. He faces a tricky opponent in 2018 German Superleague winner Robert Marijanovic.

Barney at risk

Raymond van Barneveld has been granted a clutch of World Series spots as part of his farewell tour. It may be cruel to pick him out as the PDC invitee you’d most like to draw, but Gabriel Clemens must have been pleased to be paired with Barney. Clemens has been in sparkling form for much of the last six months. He could be Germany’s biggest hope here, and in future, rather than Hopp.

It was a big moment for Mensur Suljovic when he won his first World Series crown in Gelsenkirchen last year. He’ll be after more of the same. In order to do so, he must first see off Maik Langendorf. The Gentle could meet Michael van Gerwen in the quarter-finals, and Rob Cross in the semis, so any thoughts of a comfortable title defence can be dismissed right away.

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Here come the Germans

Of course, Suljovic might play neither if Germany’s World Cup of Darts duo have anything to do with it. Martin Schindler has won just two legs in previous German Darts Masters visits; both against van Gerwen in 2017. The world number one is far from his peak right now. It either makes him vulnerable, or liable to show a massive upsurge in form at any moment. With the Matchplay looming, now’s the time for the latter to come to the fore.

Max Hopp cruised his way into a Matchplay position, has appeared in the Premier League Darts, and has titles both on the European stage and on the floor. He’s starting to realise his potential. Hopp always performs better on a German stage and if he can get at Rob Cross, like Nathan Aspinall did in Vegas, there’s a chance he could ensure a German presence at the weekend.

Strangely, some Wikipedia editor has already gone ahead and entered all the results. They’ve ‘predicted’ that Suljovic will retain the title, beating Peter Wright in the final, and both Hopp and Clemens will win their opening tie. Now wouldn’t that be something.

The action kicks off at 19:00 BST, and will be live on ITV4.

Friday session schedule

19:15 James Wade v Kevin Munch
19:45 Gary Anderson v Nico Kurz
20:15 Daryl Gurney v Christian Bunse
20:45 Peter Wright v Robert Marijanovic
21:15 Raymond van Barneveld v Gabriel Clemens
21:45 Mensur Suljovic v Maik Langendorf
22:15 Michael van Gerwen v Martin Schindler
22:45 Rob Cross v Max Hopp

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Tags: , ,

Author: Ed McCosh