Day One of the Players Championship Finals was a bit humdrum, wasn’t it?
All we had was a pair of 170 checkouts, nine last-leg deciders, some quality needle, a dart literally refusing to leave the board – oh, and one of the biggest Players Championship Finals shocks ever. Let’s hope Saturday is a bit more interesting, for goodness’ sake.
Giantkillers look for second surprise sprung
Gerwyn Price opens up the Main Stage entertainment after a tricky first-round assignment. Mickey Mansell played well, but it’s going to take something special to derail the inspired Welshman. Keegan Brown’s the only person to beat Michael van Gerwen in two stage matches this year, so perhaps the 32nd seed is an ideal candidate.
James Wade and Ricky Evans, who both scraped through their respective games, will hope (but likely not get) a more casual affair. Then come two similarly off-the-hook players in Mensur Suljovic and Danny Noppert.
Luke Woodhouse would’ve gone into his TV debut with low expectations. He comes into Saturday on an almighty high after bidding adieu to the defending champion. Gabriel Clemens wouldn’t have feared Daryl Gurney – he recently beat him at the Grand Slam, after all. It’ll be interesting to see how the big German faces up to being the favourite, a rare prospect for him at a major.
Michael van Gerwen and Adrian Lewis meet again, after the former dumped the latter out of the Grand Slam. Expect lots of roars and fist-pumping in this quick-fire shootout. James Wilson, fresh from dumping Peter Wright out of contention, has got the spring back in his step. Victory over Chris Dobey would really take the biscuit.
Raymond van Barneveld refused to lie down on his last World Series Finals outing. The same goes for the Players Championship Finals, so it seems. He refuses to treat the tournament as more than an Ally Pally training camp, however. Joe Cullen will likely feel differently, and Barney will need to replicate the superb showing that accounted for Nathan Aspinall. We have one more tasty tussle, and another Grand Slam reunion, to round off the big stage action. Rob Cross beat Jamie Hughes in Wolverhampton; there’s nothing to say that the Tipton star couldn’t return the favour in Minehead.
Will Smith get Dolanised?
Simon Whitlock and John Henderson are the first men out on Stage Two. This game could’ve been Jeffrey de Zwaan versus Ryan Joyce, but for some darting escapology. One will be unable to wriggle out of danger this time around.
Ryan Meikle was perhaps the ultimate surprise winner. To beat Jonny Clayton is a boon; a 6-0 thrashing is a freak result. Yet the Suffolk southpaw earned it. A barber by trade, Meikle will aim to be a cut above Darius Labanauskas, who survived a close shave against Harry Ward.
Jose de Sousa plays Stephen Bunting, before Ian White does battle with Vincent van der Voort. William O’Connor doesn’t get a meeting with Irish World Cup partner Steve Lennon. The Carlow thrower’s vanquisher, Krzysztof Ratajski, will have to do.
Glen Durrant and Max Hopp both know that they can play better than they did on Friday – definitely the latter, who pulled an alarming number of darts way south of the treble bed. If one falters, the other will likely punish. Dave Chisnall had a much calmer Friday than Mervyn King, but the two former Players Championship Finals runners-up both know how tricky this game will be.
Rounding off the second stage show is Michael Smith, a comfortable winner over Martin Schindler in round one. His 6-1 scoreline was matched by Brendan Dolan, who he faces off against here. Dolan has had a superb season (and won two floor titles to Smith’s zero). He will feel, especially in a race to six legs, that the Bully Boy could join Gurney and Wright at the exit door.
Players Championship Finals 2019 schedule
Day Two, afternoon session
Gerwyn Price v Keegan Brown
James Wade v Ricky Evans
Mensur Suljovic v Danny Noppert
Luke Woodhouse v Gabriel Clemens
Adrian Lewis v Michael van Gerwen
James Wilson v Chris Dobey
Raymond van Barneveld v Joe Cullen
Jamie Hughes v Rob Cross
Simon Whitlock v John Henderson
Ryan Meikle v Darius Labanauskas
Jose De Sousa v Stephen Bunting
Ian White v Vincent van der Voort
Krzysztof Ratajski v William O’Connor
Glen Durrant v Max Hopp
Dave Chisnall v Mervyn King
Michael Smith v Brendan Dolan
Author: Ed McCosh