World Series of Darts Finals 2020 preview and schedule: Friday September 18
Considering that its role is to take darts around the globe, the World Series of Darts has had a bad 2020.
For a start, it hasn't been anywhere. You may have read about COVID-19 in the news; it's deprived the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Denmark of planned events. Now the World Series of Darts Finals kicks off in Salzburg, but without fans. The World Matchplay and Premier League turned out to be fun, so this can as well.
The PDC Pro Tour will hopefully be back to normal in 2021. But Harry Ward won't be a part of it. The 23-year-old, after some soul-searching, decided his future lies away from the oche. Slightly before that, he managed to qualify for the World Series of Darts Finals. His debut, therefore, is likely to be his swansong as well.
Ward plays Darius Labanauskas, who might have to change his nickname to Unlucky D - the Lithuanian found during the Autumn Series that opponents were raising their game particularly high (credit to Jetze Jan Idsardi for the stats to back that up). He'll need to use the remaining ranking events to scrap his way back into the World Championship spots, but for now his aim is meeting Nathan Aspinall in round two.
Could things be going much better for Heta? Damon Heta, a World Series event winner last year, now has a first Pro Tour title secured. It also means that the Aussie will be heading for the Grand Slam. He'll be a tough test for Ian White , who'll want to banish the memory of somehow contriving to lose against eventual finalist Danny Noppert at the 2019 World Series of Darts Finals. His own Autumn Series form didn't inspire all too much confidence. World champion Peter Wright awaits the winner.
Fallon finally arrives
The World Series normally gives Cody Harris plenty of opportunities to perform on the big stage. Though that hasn't come to pass, the dangerous New Zealander still gets a run at Dave Chisnall in Salzburg, That tie is followed by Joe Cullen - who reached an event final during the Autumn Series - taking on fellow late qualifier Vincent van der Voort .
The 2020 World Series was all set to make Fallon Sherrock 's year one of jet-setting. After her Ally Pally headline-making, the former Lakeside finalist was set to appear in every single World Series event. Doing so would've likely made her a shoo-in for the Finals - as it happens, she's been invited anyway.
Sherrock meets Jeff Smith, who'll represent North America at the World Series of Darts Finals. The Silencer had a rotten Autumn Series, losing in the first round on all five days. If darts were played on paper then it'd be good news for Sherrock, but her fellow former World Championship runner-up still played some decent darts, even in defeat, and is capable of even more. This could be one of the more intriguing games of the night.
Well, SOMEONE has to play MVG...
The last three ties of the night are, to use a technical term, absolute belters. Krzysztof Ratajski would've been a good pick for an invitational spot, but ends up getting in anyway after Gary Anderson backed out. The Polish Eagle will do battle with Mensur Suljovic , with the winner playing against Michael Smith. This should be good, if you're a fan of lots of big scores and adrenaline-fuelled celebrations - which, of course, we all are. Both come into this event in good spirits, having each reached a final during the Autumn Series.
In what world does the Premier League group winner and the World Matchplay champion meet in the first round of a tournament? This one, as it turns out. Glen Durrant is only here as Kyle Anderson couldn't make it; he ventures into this Anderson-less tournament and immediately runs into a heck of a roadblock, in the form of Dimitri van den Bergh . Whoever battles through this repeat of the World Matchplay semi-final (which the Belgian edged) plays a newly rejuvenated Michael van Gerwen, in what can only be described as the bracket segment of death.
Our evening ends with a big, sexy slice of Steve Beaton. The Bronzed Adonis could've met opponent Simon Whitlock in this event two years ago, only to lose 6-0 to Daryl Gurney in the first round. Here's hoping that this meeting ends up being a bit more competitive.
Click here for more information about the World Series of Darts Finals, including the tournament bracket, prize money breakdown and TV Guide.
Schedule World Series of Darts Finals 2020
Friday September 18 (1900 BST)
Harry Ward v Darius Labanauskas
Ian White v Damon Heta
Cody Harris v Dave Chisnall
Vincent van der Voort v Joe Cullen
Jeff Smith v Fallon Sherrock
Krzysztof Ratajski v Mensur Suljovic
Glen Durrant v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Simon Whitlock v Steve Beaton