World Grand Prix 2020 preview and schedule: Wednesday October 7
2020 has given us another first, this time at the World Grand Prix.
Seven matches were played on the opening night in Coventry, but nine players are going home. Stephen Bunting and Adrian Lewis became the first major COVID casualties. Three World Grand Prix seeds have been sent packing; then again, the quality of opponent who saw off James Wade, Rob Cross and Gary Anderson is a reminder that seeding means next to nothing here.
Anyway, there's a chance that we've got a full nine matches to savour on Wednesday, starting with Brendan Dolan's clash with Kim Huybrechts. Dolan's relationship with this competition is well-known, but he hasn't appeared at the World Grand Prix since 2016, winning just one game in his past four outings.
Jonny Clayton's in a decent spell of form, having recently knocked out some top players en route to the German Darts Championship final. Ian White isn't on such a hot streak and, given his ragged major record, the Welshman will have high hopes - though White's surely due a brilliant run at some point, and this seems like the right year to buck trends.
A year ago, Dave Chisnall and Glen Durrant met in the World Grand Prix semi-finals. Duzza was the slight favourite, but it was Chizzy who prevailed. Ultimately it didn't lead to a title, so both are still chasing a first PDC major. Durrant, the runaway Premier League champion, is now a much bigger favourite - Chisnall's form, like his throw, is a little erratic right now.
Snakey gets started
Daryl Gurney has had success in this tournament before; doing so again could kick-start what's been a pretty disappointing season overall. Joe Cullen keeps showing signs of promise on the big stage and will be keen to get one over on the man who beat him in round two back in 2017. Cullen has won at least a set in all five World Grand Prix games played prior to this, which suggests Gurney will have a real battle on his hands.
The world champion dances onto stage for a tilt at a first Grand Prix title. Peter Wright's got Ryan Joyce, who takes more tentative steps into the tournament as a debutant. Wright is all geared up for another TV trophy, but Joyce is a classy operator who hits doubles well, so he can't get ahead of himself just yet.
Jermaine Wattimena might want to cast his last TV meeting with Gerwyn Price out of his mind. A Premier League Darts thumping isn't great precedent - though maybe it'll spur on the Dutchman to show what he's made of, especially when compatriots Danny Noppert, Dirk van Duijvenbode and Michael van Gerwen all won yesterday. Wattimena faces a battle with Noppert for that Dutch number two spot at the World Cup, and it could hinge on this. Wales' number one has a more simple task; win, get to round two, and put on a run in a tournament where he hasn't done massively well before.
The last tie (or three)
Nathan Aspinall has been handed a tough draw in the form of Gabriel Clemens, who sent Rob Cross out of the World Matchplay this summer. The Asp is someone Clemens can consider a role model; from Pro Tour mediocrity, the Stockport star's now at a stage where his game doesn't really have any weaknesses. If the German Giant doesn't find top form from the outset, Aspinall could end this quickly.
We'll have to wait and see if we get games eight and nine. Chris Dobey's lined up to take on Simon Whitlock, while Jamie Hughes could face Jeffrey de Zwaan. Or they could get byes - which would be a shame, as COVID-19 has already claimed two competitors and the crowd. Even with a call-up coming at such late notice, Whitlock and de Zwaan are very ominous opposition.
World Grand Prix 2020 schedule
Wednesday October 7
18:15 Brendan Dolan vs Kim Huybrechts
18:50 Jonny Clayton vs Ian White
19:25 Dave Chisnall vs Glen Durrant
20:00 Daryl Gurney vs Joe Cullen
20:35 Peter Wright vs Ryan Joyce
21:10 Gerwyn Price vs Jermaine Wattimena
21:45 Nathan Aspinall vs Gabriel Clemens
TBC Chris Dobey vs Simon Whitlock*
TBC Jamie Hughes vs Jeffrey de Zwaan*
*Pending negative COVID-19 tests for Whitlock and De Zwaan. Dobey and Hughes will receive byes if positive tests are returned.