Justin Pipe v Ronnie Baxter
Justin Pipe features in his first ever major quarter-final this afternoon when he takes on home-crowd favourite Ronnie Baxter. The Force showed a never-say-die attitude to beat Wes Newton in the second round, despite Newton hitting a nine-darter and a 96.98 three-dart average.
Baxter, meanwhile, was again in complete control of his game as he took an early lead against Dean Winstanley then managed to keep his opponent at arms length throughout. That match followed a similar blueprint to his first-round win over Dave Chisnall.
The question to answer here is whether the fast-throwing Rocket can handle the slow and deliberate pace of Pipe’s game over a long match. Winstanley and Chisnall are both quick throwers and that allowed Baxter to get into a rhythm; Pipe’s style won’t afford him the same luxury.
Had this match been over a shorter format then I’d fancy Baxter, but over a best-of-31-legs format it’s difficult to know just how much the slow pace will affect the Blackpool man. At odds of 2.10, Baxter appears to be the value, but it’s one to approach with caution.
Adrian Lewis v Terry Jenkins
Adrian Lewis and Terry Jenkins have walked contrasting paths to reach the quarter-finals of the 2012 World Matchplay, with Jackpot breezing through his opening two matches and The Bull forced to battle every inch of the way.
Lewis won 17 consecutive legs to kick off his campaign here before a missed dart at double 18 allowed Andy Smith to make the first blot on his copybook. From that point on Lewis lost a bit of focus in the match, without ever looking like being beaten, and eventually came home a comfortable but unspectacular 13-7 winner.
Jenkins will provide a much sterner examination, but Lewis will be expecting that and it will only serve to sharpen up his game. We’ve seen already this week that the two-time world champion is in tip-top form, and I can only foresee a Lewis win, albeit a win that will require plenty of graft and guile. At odds of 1.30, however, there is no value in backing Lewis.
Michael van Gerwen v James Wade
Michael van Gerwen has been the story of the World Matchplay so far; he followed up an impressive first-round win over number six seed Simon Whitlock with a nine-darter en route to victory over Steve Beaton. James Wade, meanwhile, has been typically meticulous and ruthless in straightforward triumphs over Richie Burnett and Mark Walsh.
No player still in contention in Blackpool can boast a better tournament three-dart average than this pairing, and so a high-quality match-up is rightly anticipated. The speed of each player’s game should suit the other too; neither hangs around at the oche for too long and both enjoy a fluid match.
The head-to-head record is stacked heavily in The Machine’s favour (he has won all five meetings since the Dutchman joined the PDC), but as I mentioned in a previous round preview, this is a new and much-improved Michael van Gerwen and we shouldn’t take too much heed from his past results. Wade is a deserving favourite here but Mighty Mike is riding the crest of a wave and I think there is plenty of value in backing him to win this one at odds of 2.90.
Phil Taylor v Andy Hamilton
Phil Taylor was someway below his best in his second round win over Ian White, as The Power registered the lowest three-dart average of all the last-16 winners. New darts are possibly to blame and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Taylor revert to his trusted tungsten for the remainder of this week.
Had Taylor played Andy Hamilton, rather than Ian White, in the second round then I doubt that the defending champion would still be in Blackpool. But he is and he has the chance to put his game right this evening. If he doesn’t then you can be sure The Hammer will punish him.
Keep the stakes small but on the form shown so far this week Hamilton is worth a dabble at odds of 5.00. Although don’t be surprised to see Taylor turn his game on its head and lift the World Matchplay title for a 13th time this Sunday - he’s doen it many times before.
Van Gerwen to beat Wade @ 2.90
Hamilton to beat Taylor @ 5.00