Column #CM88 After the Summer Series and before (almost) World Matchplay…

Wednesday, July 18, 2020
Column CM88
After the Summer Series and before (almost) World Matchplay…

Thanks to the PDC Summer Series we were finally able to watch live darts again! But for the players and their managers and the few officials the situation during the five days was far from normal…

All had to arrive on the day before the series began and were tested for Covid-19. Until the test results were known all had to stay in their rooms. It was not until a negative result was announced that the players could take part in the events – but of course, even then they had to follow the sanitary and social distancing regulations. The match losers had to mark the following match as in bygone times, the tables for the players were placed according to the distancing rule, the players were allocated practice boards and there was no handshake before and after matches. And more.

Fortunately, most of the Tour Card holders were able to take part.

Of course, many were anxious to see in what form the players would be after the Corona break (which was only broken by the PDC Home Tour). A few had lost some weight over the months, some had new darts or a new set-up and others had done a lot for their physical fitness (including some garden work, as we heard during the Home Tour). All of this might affect form.

So, when the Summer Series was over it was interesting to see among places 1-14 only the following players could be found among the World Matchplay participants: Peter Wright, Michael van Gerwen, James Wade, Ryan Joyce, Gerwyn Price, Jose de Sousa, Dave Chisnall, Daryl Gurney, Nathan Aspinall, Krzysztof Ratajski, Ian White, Mensur Suljovic and Glen Durrant.

van Gerwen, Wright, Price and Aspinall are the bookmaker’s favourites to win the World Matchplay. The bookmakers also fancy the chances of the reigning champion Rob Cross and even those of Michael Smith who ended on place 20 and of Gary Anderson who couldn’t convince in the Summer Series and only once reached a semi-final.

The Summer Series was kind of a forerunner for the World Matchplay as due to the Corona crisis the tournament also take place behind closed doors – in the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.

How the World Matchplay will look this year we will only know when it gets started. Until now it’s only known it will be televised as always by Sky Sports. I suppose it will be similar for the players to the Summer Series, but I think one will play on a stage with callers and markers and MC. Perhaps there will be a walk-on. Probably there will be commentators…

The presenter will not be Dave Clark any longer as he just announced his withdrawal from his job. It might be Rod Studd will not yet be back commentating – he had a heart attack during the lockdown and it’s not known whether he has completely recovered. But the PDC will surely try to stage this as the major event which it is and not like just another Players Championship.

The TV transmission of football matches without a crowd showed how difficult it is – there was no one there who was electrified. But it might be Sky Sport has found a solution.

Of course, it will be a new experience for the players who are so used to the crowds in big TV tournaments, who interact with the crowds and profit from the support. Often you hear “the crowd was behind me” or “I only won because the crowd supported me.” No one will be able to say this during this year’s World Matchplay.

The Summer Series not only gave the players money for the rankings and qualification for the World Matchplay – it showed players’ current form. It didn’t change much for the field of participants in the World Matchplay – only two players managed to play themselves into the field of participants by the Pro Tour Order of Merit: Ryan Joyce and Ricky Evans who replaced Ryan Searle and Kim Huybrechts. But though those two proved their good form neither Joyce (who was a surprise winner of one of the events) not Evans (who once reached the top 16 and three times lost in the third round) are among the favourites to win the World Matchplay.

Michael van Gerwen, who once again heads the favourites and was ranked second in the Summer Series, was not really in top form in the Summer Series. He won two of the events but was eliminated in early rounds in the other three – once even first round by Joe Murnan. It looked as though he lost his form over the five events.

Much more convincing and consistent was Peter Wright (despite his playing for the first time with glasses) with one win, a final, two quarterfinals and a top 16 place – his win came on the last day of the series.

Gerwyn Price was like van Gerwen: inconsistent – one final, one top 16 place and three times early elimination – but it looked he got stronger throughout the series.

Even more inconsistent was reigning champion Rob Cross who had only one good day with a nine-darter and a place in the final. Nathan Aspinall had some problems on the first day but after that played consistently, though far from outstanding. Glen Durrant and Michael Smith are among the bookmaker’s favourites as well – though Smith’s best placing was a quarter final on day four while Durrant reached the quarterfinals on day one and two and the top 16 on day four – and was eliminated early the other two days.

Gary Anderson was far from his best and perhaps unlucky as well. Only once did he reach the semi-finals. An all four other days he was eliminated in the first or second round even though most of the time he played quite well.

Should consistency during the Summer Series be a determining factor in the outcome of the World Matchplay the final might be Peter Wright vs. James Wade. Wade was one of the most consistent players over the five events with one third round elimination on day one, twice reaching the top 16, a quarter final and one win.

But consistency will not be the only factor. We have the draw and to be sure the Corona situation as well. Besides, I would think for most players it is more important to have success in the World Matchplay than to have success in the Summer Series.

To reach the final, Wade would have to beat Gary Anderson in second round and Michael van Gerwen in the third – only then to run into reigning champion Rob Cross, Gabriel Clemens, Krzysztof Ratajski, Michael Smith or Mensur Suljovic in the semi-finals. Of course, not an impossible task for Wade in top form but definitely a very hard one. So, it is more likely that Michael van Gerwen (who of course could stumble on one of his not so focused days) over a well playing Dolan, Whitlock/Joyce or Wade/Anderson will reach the semi-finals to face one of the above mentioned strong players. So, it will not be easy for van Gerwen as well and he can’t allow himself many errors. Otherwise, he will not win the World Matchplay.

In the lower half of the draw we have first of all got Peter Wright who after his Summer Series achievements is the favourite to reach the final – but his first round match against Jose de Sousa could turn out to be a tough nut to crack as could a second round match against Glen Durrant. Daryl Gurney and Dave Chisnall could be next and who both played a solid Summer Series. And in the semi-finals Gerwyn Price might be waiting – though he would have to get past Nathan Aspinall first…

It could well be we’ll see another Peter Wright vs. Michael van Gerwen final – with an open end. But there are enough strong players among the participants who could and want to hinder such a final and who might cope better with the closed doors situation.

So, might be we’ll celebrate a surprise winner!

 

 

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Charis Mutschler
The founder of Global Darts, darts journalist Charis Mutschler hails from Marbach, near Stuttgart, Germany. A regular at most major PDC tournaments, a lover of literature, dance and music and cats, Charis' popular writings about darts and its players often transcend the usual. She brings something unique to the chroniclers of the sport we all love.