Mark Walsh v Robert Thornton
Robert Thornton was in top form at the weekend, reaching the final of Saturday’s Players Championship, then winning Sunday’s event. In winning the UK Open earlier this year the Scot joined a small and exclusive list of players to have beaten Phil Taylor in a Major final, and also became one of very few players to have claimed a major title whilst being ranked outside of the world’s top 16. His ranking improved dramatically as a result of that victory and he could move into the world’s top 16 with another good run this week, starting with a win over Mark Walsh.
While Thornton is on the verge of breaking into the top 16, Walsh has recently dropped out and there have been few signs of the slump halting any time soon. At odds of 1.75 for victory, backing Thornton is not only a bet on an in-form player, but also a bet that opposes a player who is struggling with his form. It’s a no-brainer.
Dean Winstanley v Dave Chisnall
Had either of these two players been playing almost any other player in the World Grand Prix draw, we’d be looking to oppose them. As it is, two of the most inconsistent double hitters in the PDC are up against one another in a tournament where players must start by hitting a double. Both of these players have been known to go on horror runs of missing doubles at the end of legs, so don’t be surprised to see a leg in this match where one player wins while the other is yet to get off the mark. If it’s going to happen anywhere this week then it will be in this match.
I doubt that this is a tournament that either player particularly looks forward to and if either has an off day then it could get slightly embarrassing. For my money, there shouldn’t be quite such a disparity in the odds, so at 2.50 for the win we simply have to back Winstanley.
Simon Whitlock v Justin Pipe
Simon Whitlock begins his first tournament as a Major winner with a tricky opening round match against Justin Pipe. Unlike Winstanley and Chisnall, here we have two players who are particularly consistent at hitting their doubles, meaning that the format shouldn’t faze either player too much.
That said, this will be only Pipe’s second experience of the event, and John Henderson comprehensively beat him here in the first round last year. Another tight one to call, and another where the odds of 2.50 suggest that we should back the outsider, Pipe.
Phil Taylor v Michael Smith
As was mentioned in our outright winner preview, Phil Taylor comes into this tournament in questionable form. He lost at the quarter-final stage of the European Championships to Brendan Dolan, then struggled in the Championship League. Even more disconcerting for fans of The Power will be the world number one’s decision not to play in the weekend’s Players Championship events in Ireland. They would have offered an ideal opportunity to play his way back into some semblance of form.
That said, he shouldn’t have too many problems overcoming youngster Michael Smith in the opening round. Smith is a prodigious young talent and has dominated recent youth events, but he still has a long way to go in order to make the step up and has plenty to learn about playing in front of the cameras. As a player who can get frustrated by his own game, I’m not sure that the double-in format will suit him. Taylor is a 1.07 chance to win his opening round match and although it’s certainly not a price many will be rushing to back, I can’t see any reason to oppose.
Thornton to beat Walsh @ 1.75
Pipe to beat Whitlock @ 2.5
Winstanley to beat Chisnall @ 2.5