There are some big hitters on the slate as the Players Championship Finals enters its first evening.

Krzysztof Ratajski is now, most assuredly, in the pantheon of top class PDC players. That being said, he didn’t make it to the Grand Slam, while Steve Lennon did. No matter what you make of how fair that is, the Irishman has that bit of added experience under his belt. Many fancy Ratajski to go a long way at the Players Championship Finals, but Lennon has the talent to punish the Pole and book a possible second round meeting with compatriot William O’Connor.

Then comes the ‘DRA derby’. Gerwyn Price is on a high right now; he’s the back-to-back Grand Slam champion, a likely world number two in the near future, the top seed for the Players Championship Finals, and his shirts are really cool. All Mickey Mansell can do is try his best. Actually, he has to try his best, or he might get fined. This is pivotal in the Clonoe Cyclone’s bid to stay on the tour and given the stature of his opponent, it doesn’t look good.

They’re the two matches kicking things off on the Main Stage. After Price exits, in comes James Wade – the Machine faces Ted Evetts. Then an intriguing battle takes place between Mensur Suljovic and Kim Huybrechts. The Belgian hasn’t enjoyed 2019 but knows he can beat the Gentle on his day.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Gurney’s return

12 months ago, Daryl Gurney enjoyed one of the biggest moments of his career. You could argue that Luke Woodhouse’s comes today. Woodhouse makes his TV debut against the 2018 Players Championship Finals winner. Not many can defend a bit title, but Gerwyn Price has shown Superchin the way.

Luke Humphries faces a date with destiny on Sunday, no matter how his Players Championship Finals campaign goes. He takes on Adam Gawlas in the PDC World Youth Championship final. Playing Michael van Gerwen on the Minehead isn’t bad for a warm-up, is it? Peter Wright, licking his wounds after a Grand Slam final beating, kicks off his next tilt at a major against James Wilson.

Raymond van Barneveld potentially has just two matches left in professional darts. He’ll hope that there’s more, of course. It doesn’t seem likely that he’ll see the weekend at the Players Championship Finals. For one, he’s won a mere seven matches in eight Minehead visits, never seeing the semi-finals. Plus, he takes on Nathan Aspinall, who is playing good darts and fuming after an unproductive trip to Wolverhampton. Still, if the Barney magic remains, he could spring a surprise.

Here’s your regular reminder that our live score feature is the place to be for all the Main Stage action and stats. And that’s not all…

Another giant step for Clemens

Are those eight top-tier ties not enough for you? Good, because Stage Two will be bouncing at the same time. Jonny Clayton hasn’t been exceptional this year, but has shown some signs of class. The 2017 runner-up and Players Championship 10 winner will play Darius Labanauskas if he can overcome Ryan Meikle in round one – which seems on paper to be a very enticing route to Sunday’s play..

Joe Cullen and Kyle Anderson can both be incredible, treble-peppering machines. They can also be…quite the opposite. And it’s never certain which way it’ll go – let’s give the pair the benefit of the doubt and say that this will be an absolute thriller. Following on is Vincent van der Voort’s meeting with Arron Monk.

Gabriel Clemens will be fine as long as he can avoid Welshmen. His run to the Players Championship 5 final ended in defeat to Gerwyn Price; after that, he was the one Jonny Clayton overcame for his sole 2019 title. He really should’ve gone further in the Grand Slam, but overall the German Giant is throwing fantastic darts. Mark McGeeney will also want to cause a stir on debut – the winner could have a crack at defending champion Daryl Gurney, if Luke Woodhouse doesn’t account for him first.

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Vital for Voltage

Adrian Lewis plays Josh Payne as he looks to build on his run to the Grand Slam quarter-finals, then William O’Connor and Steve West look for a catalyst to the end of their season. Jermaine Wattimena and Jamie Hughes are two players who will surely win Pro Tour titles at some stage. The former fell at the last hurdle in two Players Championship events this year, in fact. And Hughes went a step further at the Czech Darts Open. Their meeting is the penultimate one of the Stage Two session, and the winner takes on the victorious man from the last game.

The world number two is one of those potential foes for Wattimena or Hughes. This year, Rob Cross managed one Players Championship semi-final, one quarter-final, a lot of missed events, and not much else. It means he’s a lower seed than first round opponent Ron Meulenkamp, and is crammed in a quarter of the draw featuring Michael van Gerwen, James Wade, Dave Chisnall and Adrian Lewis. Grand Slam disappointment means that Voltage could really do with a decent Minehead showing, especially with the World Championship looming large.

Click here for more information on the last TV tournament before the World Championship.

Players Championship Finals 2019 schedule

Evening session

Main Stage

19:15 Krzysztof Ratajski v Steve Lennon
19:45 Gerwyn Price v Mickey Mansell
20:15 James Wade v Ted Evetts
20:45 Mensur Suljovic v Kim Huybrechts
21:15 Daryl Gurney v Luke Woodhouse
21:45 Michael van Gerwen v Luke Humphries
22:15 Peter Wright v James Wilson
22:45 Nathan Aspinall v Raymond van Barneveld

Stage Two

19:15 Jonny Clayton v Ryan Meikle
19:45 Joe Cullen v Kyle Anderson
20:15 Vincent van der Voort v Arron Monk
20:45 Gabriel Clemens v Mark McGeeney
21:15 Adrian Lewis v Josh Payne
21:45 William O’Connor v Steve West
22:15 Jermaine Wattimena v Jamie Hughes
22:45 Ron Meulenkamp v Rob Cross

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Author: Ed McCosh