Justin Pipe v Brendan Dolan
When Brendan Dolan hangs up his tungsten, whatever he has achieved in the sport will be largely due to the confidence gained from this tournament. Prior to last year’s World Grand Prix, Dolan was ready to give it all up. Struggling to make a living from the game, he thought it was time to get a real job. What followed was the stuff of fiction. 12 months on and with over £100,000 in earnings from the past two years - and at least another £12,500 to be added to his purse this week - it’s safe to say that Dolan will be playing darts for a few more years yet.
So far this week he has breezed past world number four Gary Anderson and Dutchman Vincent van der Voort, putting him on the brink of consecutive televised semi-finals.
Justin Pipe’s rise from humble beginnings has been equally impressive, but he doesn’t have the same experience at this stage of major tournaments as Dolan. Pipe has also been involved in a couple of mentally draining fixtures to reach this point and that could also have a big effect on the outcome here. At 2.25 Dolan is an outstanding bet to progress to the semis of the World Grand Prix for a second year running.
Wes Newton v Paul Nicholson
Paul Nicholson should be thanking his lucky stars for the run that he has had at this year’s World Grand Prix; just at a time when ranking points were becoming essential to his top-16 status. Having been given the easiest (in terms of ranking) of opening round draws, he then found Colin Osborne, rather than world number three James Wade, waiting in round two. Now the easy ride ends.
Wes Newton was emphatic in coming back from losing the first five legs of his first round match against Ronnie Baxter, then showed grit and determination to beat Ian White, despite not playing at his best in round two. At odds of 1.50 Newton is a very good bet to progress to the semi-finals this evening.
Michael van Gerwen v Andy Hamilton
The Hammer showed all the battling qualities that have taken him to number seven in the world rankings to see off Steve Beaton in round two, while Michael van Gerwen was at his fluent best in defeating world champion Adrian Lewis.
Both, however, are faced with entirely different prospects this evening. Van Gerwen thrived in the natural pace of his match against Lewis, but Hamilton is anything but fast. The Hammer won’t be afraid to slow things down and although that isn’t something that the Dutchman won’t have experienced before, he certainly won’t be able to get into the same rhythm as he did on Thursday night.
It’s a tough one to call, but at the odds we’ll side with Hamilton at 2.12. I just think he has the nous to halt MVG when necessary.
Robert Thornton v Mervyn King
You have to be playing well to beat Phil Taylor in any sort of form. But to beat Taylor when he's playing well, you’ll need to throw the best darts of your life. That is exactly what Robert Thornton did on Wednesday night to knock out the world number one. Just how much that will have taken out of Thornton remains to be seen. He has at least had a couple of days to recover, and if he can carry on in the same vein a semi-final berth beckons.
Mervyn King will be hoping that, as so often happens, Taylor has taken plenty out of his opponent in defeat. The King was rather handed the opening two sets to beat Dave Chisnall in round two, but was impressive in holding off the Chizzy onslaught as the Lancashire man found his range on the doubles and trebles in the second half of the match.
Both players are offered at odds-on prices – Thornton 1.85 and King 1.90 – which accurately reflects how tough this one is to call. My gun-to-head bet would be King at the slightly bigger 1.90, but in the absence of a .357 Magnum revolver I’ll sit this one out.
Dolan to beat Pipe @ 2.25
Newton to beat Nicholson @ 1.50
Hamilton to beat Van Gerwen @ 2.12