Eight have gone, and eight remain. Only one can become the 2018 Masters champion.
There are plenty of candidates. There’s the three-time champion, and the top seed, Michael van Gerwen. Or Rob Cross, who claimed he was “rusty” while averaging 102. Elsewhere there are five other Premier League stars, plus one former Masters champion. Each player will fancy their chances. That means, no matter who your tip is, you can bet that there will be fireworks in Milton Keynes.
Quarter-Finals (best of 19 legs)
Peter Wright v Raymond van Barneveld
Peter Wright and Raymond van Barneveld had fairly different experiences in the first round. Barney, despite holding a commanding lead, was forced into a decider by Dave Chisnall. Meanwhile, Snakebite could have been forgiven for forgetting Alan Norris was even there. Adversity forced a better performance out of the Dutchman than the second seed was able to muster, however. Wright is still making his way back to top form after his much-publicised illness issues. This one could be a real battle. The last time that happened, in the UK Open quarter-finals in March, the pair produced an absolute classic. Hopefully, we’re in for more of the same.
Mensur Suljovic v Rob Cross
Two Masters debutants meet in the second quarter-final. Rob Cross, the world champion, returned to action with an excellent win over Ian White. Despite the 10-3 victory, a 102 average and a 55 per cent doubles success rate, Cross was apparently far from his best. Such a line would instil fear into the hearts of most men. But Mensur Suljovic will not be fazed. The loveable Austrian saw off Michael Smith in round one, just about. The issue currently with Suljovic is consistency in scoring. Had Smith been more ruthless, he might have forced a decider. Cross certainly is ruthless. His 167 kill against White for the first break of throw proved that. Suljovic will have to dig deep. As for Cross – based on first round performances, could he be the tournament favourite?
Gerwyn Price v Gary Anderson
Another pair with something in common. Both players left the stage after victory on Saturday night, and promptly bemoaned their injury woes. Whether Gary Anderson’s backache trumps Gerwyn Price’s ear infection is up to them. Unsurprisingly, neither were at their best in the first round. That said, Price’s 98.9 average was none too shabby. Anderson’s A-game is undoubtedly better than Price’s. But we’re unlikely to see either perform at their best. What will matter is who can keep their cool under pressure, and take advantage of any errors. Whoever wins will require an urgent step-up. They take on Michael van Gerwen in the semi-finals – probably.
Michael van Gerwen v James Wade
It’s the winner of every single Masters tournament that is still in the Order of Merit, all in one place. James Wade won in 2014; since then, it has been the Michael van Gerwen show. The Dutchman is still the dominant force in darts, despite the recent Cross hype. Wade himself was all too keen to point that out in a mini-rant on ITV after his game. That win over Simon Whitlock was definitively ‘Wadey’. A performance so under the radar that Whitlock did not realise he was in trouble until it was too late. Van Gerwen’s slump against Kim Huybrechts while cruising may give Wade some encouragement. But the fact of the matter is, van Gerwen is likely to win this one. With every match guaranteed to be tough, Mighty Mike needs to cut out the complacency.
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Semi-Finals (best of 19 legs)
Wright/Van Barneveld v Suljovic/Cross
Van Gerwen/Wade v Price/Anderson