World Grand Prix Round 1 Standout Ties.
The Boylesports World Grand Prix rolls into Coventry over the course of the upcoming week (October 6-12), and the draw has provided some mouthwatering ties at the first round stage.
The coveted double-start event, being held at the Ricoh Arena this year rather than its traditional Dublin Citywest home due to the coronavirus pandemic, will feature six debutants amongst the field of 32 players, and there are several intriguing matchups that catch the eye.
From a selection of 16 magnificently poised ties, five stand out as potentially being within the category of ‘unmissable’ ahead of the tournament getting underway.
Michael Van Gerwen v Krzysztof Ratajski.
World number one and first seed Michael van Gerwen is looking to win the title for a third consecutive year, and he gets his campaign underway in a tricky looking encounter with ‘The Polish Eagle’, Krzysztof Ratajski.
The man from Vlijmen hasn’t been in vintage form on the big stage in recent events. A heavy Matchplay defeat to Simon Whitlock, coupled with a shock omission from the Premier League play-off picture and a Round of 16 World Series exit at the hands of Mervyn King, leave him in treacherous territory to translate some positive form in floor events into a PDC major; form which led to the capture of a title in both the Summer and Autumn series events.
Over five previous encounters- the last of which in the Quarter Final of Day One in the PDC Autumn Series- MvG has a perfect record against his first-round opponent, from which he will undoubtedly take confidence in his pursuit for the crown.
Ratajski, on the other hand, has improved remarkably over the course of the year, and sits in 14th on the rankings. A run to the quarterfinal at the recently passed German Darts Championship, and a run to the Day Four final of the Autumn Series, will have gone great lengths to instil a sense of optimism of potentially applying further pressure upon the Dutch arrowsmith in a major tournament.
Michael Smith v Dimitri van Den Bergh
Blink and you’ll definitely miss this one.
World Matchplay champion Dimitri van Den Bergh begins his quest for a second PDC major title against an opponent in fourth seed Michael Smith, who would ideally love to use the Grand Prix as a means of sorting out a patchy run of form at best.
Since losing out 18-16 to Gary Anderson in a mammoth Semi Final match at the Matchplay, Smith failed to qualify for the Premier League play-offs, narrowly lost out to Rob Cross in the Quarter Final of the World Series, and fell to Peter Wright in the second round of the German Darts Championship.
Regardless of form, up on the big stage it doesn’t take much for either of these two players to get into the groove, with a high-scoring contest and deadly finishing inevitable.
It’s Smith who has a 3-1 advantage over four fixtures between the pair, with the most recent encounter occurring in the last 16 of a European Tour 4 event in 2018; a 6-2 win for the St Helens man.
Dave Chisnall v Glen Durrant
A repeat of the 2019 Grand Prix semi final between these two players; a night where Chizzy prevailed 4-1, only to lose to eventual winner MvG in the final.
Chizzy will be out to make an emphatic start to his campaign, where he’ll be looking to go one better this time around, but Premier League table topper Glen Durrant is out for revenge.
Middlesbrough’s Durrant only averaged 87.2 on that occasion, but in light of recent big stage form we’ve seen from the Teessider, Duzza will feel he can continue to build on some gritty performances to see him over the line.
Both men had a distinctly average Autumn Series, World Series and German Darts Championship showing. Still, on paper, this tie has all the hallmarks of a titanic tungsten tussle and the potential to go all the way.
Jose de Sousa v Devon Petersen
A battle of the qualifiers in Coventry, as Portugal’s Jose de Sousa squares off against newly crowned PDC title holder, Devon Petersen.
Both de Sousa and Petersen have been in scintillating form that has seen meteoric rises up the ProTour Order of Merit standings, and deservedly participate in the prestigious World Grand Prix tournament.
De Sousa led the PT Oom up until the recent conclusion of the German event in Hildesheim, where Petersen’s sensational 8-3 victory over Jonny Clayton secured that elusive title; a fair reflection of the South African’s exceptional form over the course of 2020 that included two Players Championship semi-finals and a final, which he ultimately lost to another man in great form, Gerwyn Price.
As for De Sousa, a first World Matchplay appearance on the back of two Players Championship successes in 2019, and another run to a floor event final on Day 3 of the Autumn Series, have really thrust the 46-year-old into the PDC limelight.
Petersen has won both previous meetings, the last in the first round of a PC 3 event in Wigan in March.
A real high-quality matchup expected in this one between a duo of players with eyes firmly set on storming further up the rankings, beginning with a deep run in the 2020 World Grand Prix.
Rob Cross v Gary Anderson
An absolute humdinger of a first round fixture sees former World Champ and fifth seed Rob Cross face Gary Anderson.
It’s the first time we’ll see Ando back in action following his withdrawal from the Autumn Series, World Series and German Darts Championships events, and the Burnham based Scot will undoubtedly be fresh off the practice board for what is a crucial month of tournament action, in the form of the World Grand Prix and Premier League playoffs.
Rob Cross, meanwhile, seemed to have put the despondency of early Premier League and Matchplay elimination behind him by putting on a good showing to reach the World Series final, with glimpses of his return to form evident in Salzburg.
Across seven meetings, Anderson leads the head-to-head 6-1; and it was indeed Ando who came out the victor, 7-5, the last time they crossed paths at Dublin’s 3Arena in a Premier League fixture back in February.
Across the board, the World Grand Prix could potentially get off to an absolute flyer. Second seed and current World Champion Peter Wright plays debutant Tyneside Ryan Joyce, and the red-hot third seed Gerwyn Price will be looking to reproduce his recent Premier League thumping of Jermaine Wattimena.
Sixth seed Nathan Aspinall will have to be wary of Germany’s Gabriel Clemens, the man who defied the odds to knock out Cross in the first round of the World Matchplay, and seventh seed Daryl Gurney faces a stern test of his own in the shape of Joe Cullen.
James Wade (8) and Mervyn King will meet for the second time in just over a week, with ‘The Machine’ looking to avenge a 6-2 defeat by Merv in the quarter finals in Hildesheim over the weekend.
Adrian Lewis and Chris Dobey looks set to a high-scoring corker, as does the clash between recent Hildesheim runner-up Jonny Clayton and Ian ‘Diamond’ White.
Debutants Ryan Searle and Dirk van Duijvenbode face Danny Noppert and Mensur Suljovic respectively, with Jamie Hughes taking on ‘The Bullet’ Stephen Bunting, and former World Grand Prix 9-dart hero Brendan Dolan meeting Belgium’s Kim Huybrechts.
2020 Boylesports World Grand Prix First Round draw
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Krzysztof Ratajski
Jose De Sousa v Devon Petersen
James Wade (8) v Mervyn King
Adrian Lewis v Chris Dobey
Michael Smith (4) v Dimitri van Den Bergh
Mensur Suljovic v Dirk van Duijvenbode
Rob Cross (5) v Gary Anderson
Danny Noppert v Ryan Searle
Peter Wright (2) v Ryan Joyce
Dave Chisnall v Glen Durrant
Daryl Gurney (7) v Joe Cullen
Jonny Clayton v Ian White
Gerwyn Price (3) v Jermaine Wattimena
Brendan Dolan v Kim Huybrechts
Nathan Aspinall (6) v Gabriel Clemens
Jamie Hughes v Stephen Bunting