The bottom half of the PDC World Grand Prix draw plays out its first round battles on Monday.
Sunday saw the start of the action at the Citywest Hotel. The seeds had the luck of the Irish in Dublin; three of the four negotiated tense deciding sets. That includes defending World Grand Prix champion Michael van Gerwen, who almost suffered an almighty upset. The other four seeds, plus 12 challengers, will now take to the stage.
First up are Stephen Bunting and Jonny Clayton. The Bullet has previous in Dublin, having reached the semi-finals on debut in 2014. Clayton’s maiden outing last year went a bit differently – the Welshman was mauled by Gary Anderson in the first round. Both are fairly evenly matched and handy on the doubles on their day.
It’s to Nathan Aspinall’s credit that he enters his debut World Grand Prix with tipsters backing him to go the distance. The UK Open and US Darts Masters champion has continuously proved his prodigious scoring power. The double-in format can be a great leveller, however. Vincent van der Voort is back for his first go at the Grand Prix since 2015 and, while the Asp is the form player of the two, the Dutch Destroyer has experience on his side.
The third tie could be over in a matter of moments, even if it’s not a one-sided affair. Adrian Lewis and Jermaine Wattimena will definitely play briskly. Quality is another matter – neither will look back on their last major outing, namely meek first round defeats at the World Matchplay, with any fondness. Since making the 2010 final, Lewis has failed to get past the second round. What a time it would be for the two-time world champion to arrest that disappointing streak.
Does Glen Durrant versus Krzysztof Ratajski count as a meeting of dark horses? They’re both so obviously talented and well-backed that eyebrows would hardly shoot up should one of these players go the distance. One of them will go home immediately for sure, which will hurt given their recent form. Both are debutants, both did well at the Players Championship events preceding the World Grand Prix. Feel free to call a winner, because there’s no way in hell that I’m doing it.
Can Wright go one better?
It’s fair to say that Daryl Gurney feels fondly about the World Grand Prix. It took time for him to adapt to its unique pressures, but his last three Dublin outings have brought a quarter-final, a semi-final and the 2017 title. He will be passionately backed by the Irish crowd (darts is one forum that doesn’t bother itself with a hard Irish border). It’s all stacked up against Danny Noppert, who keeps eking out spots at majors.
Gerwyn Price and Dave Chisnall are both good shouts for the title. It’s only due to the tournament’s format, which is light on seeds, that the pair could meet in the first round. It’s a horror draw for them both. Price is a power-scorer who’s excellent on tops, and boasts some encouraging form. Chisnall is a power-scorer who’s excellent on tops, and boasts some encouraging form. Something tells me it’s going to be close. Price will feel he has the edge though, and will most definitely be pumped up for this.
Another tie that doesn’t happen early in almost any other major is Rob Cross versus Mensur Suljovic. Mr Double 14 (a.k.a Suljovic) should be good at an event which demands prolific double-hitting. And he is, making three semi-finals from his four visits. It’s surely time he went a step further. Meanwhile, Cross has never won a World Grand Prix match. He hasn’t exactly been handed a kind route towards a maiden success. As a reminder, the winner of this game plays Durrant or Ratajski.
Peter Wright plays the last game of the session, just as he played the last game of the 2018 edition. It didn’t go right for Wright; pummelled by MVG, the Scot watched another chance at a title sail away. He will want to get his newest title tilt kicked off with aplomb. Max Hopp is an ideal opponent – the format isn’t best suited to the German’s talents. If Hopp can hang in, however, the nature of the World Grand Prix and Wright’s own unpredictability could open the door to the second round.
World Grand Prix schedule
19:10 Stephen Bunting v Jonny Clayton
19:45 Vincent van der Voort v Nathan Aspinall
20:25 Adrian Lewis v Jermaine Wattimena
21:00 Glen Durrant v Krzysztof Ratajski
21:35 Daryl Gurney v Danny Noppert
22:10 Gerwyn Price v Dave Chisnall
22:45 Rob Cross v Mensur Suljovic
23:20 Peter Wright v Max Hopp
Author: Ed McCosh