A double session in the offing and here are some thoughts on the matches to grace the Alexandra Palace stage with the main focus on the already confirmed first round games.
Benito van de Pas vs Steve West
Benito van de Pas has reached the Last 16 on all three occasions in the PDC World Championships and the Dutchman will be looking to go further this time around.
However, he’s lacked some form coming into the event. He was beaten in the first round of the Players Championship Finals 6-3 by Stephen Bunting and prior to that he exited in his first game of Grand Slam qualifying losing 5-4 to Joe Murnan.
Last year he beat a Preliminary Round winner in his first game but faces a sterner test this time around. After that, he went on to beat Terry Jenkins in a 4-3 thriller before giving Gary Anderson a tough time but ultimately losing.
Steve West lost in the first round to Mervyn King last year despite hitting eight maximums but his doubling eluded him in that one.
He’s a solid player but my concern for him is that he’ll probably average around the high 80s at best, which shouldn’t be good enough.
In the World Grand Prix he beat James Wade two sets to nil in the first round with an 85 average, which is fair with it being the doubles start, but in the Players Championship Finals he won his first game with just an 89.47 average and you won’t win many games at a World Championships doing that.
Van de Pas to Win & West Most 180s (7/4 – Sky Bet) looks the ideal angle here because the Dutchman should have enough to hold West at arm's length but in the 180 department, it takes time for Benito to get going.
In last year’s first round, West lost with eight maximums hit while Van de Pas only hit two. Throughout this year I’ve noted that West is a good grouper of the dart when landing the first in the T20, so he should have the edge on the 180 front, especially with ‘Big Ben’ having the tendency to have a couple of bounce-outs per game.
Looking back at last year saw Van de Pas take out high checkouts in his matches of 125, 110 and 143, so he’s capable of the big finishes, so Van de Pas Highest Checkout Over 108.5 (5/6 – Betfair) looks about right.
Mervyn King vs Zoran Lerchbacher
Mervyn King has had little fuss in beating today’s opponent twice already this year with just the concession of two legs.
The two-time BDO World Championship finalist saw off Brendan Dolan in the first round in Minehead last month with some good finishing and he was bullish about his game.
He lost to Darren Webster in the next phase when his doubles proved elusive, which is strange for somebody who is usually so strong on the outer ring.
Zoran Lerchbacher has lost in the first round on his two previous visits to Ally Pally and both of those came after he won a Preliminary Round match.
He’s lost both matches 3-0 to Michael van Gerwen and Robert Thornton respectively and averaged 89 and 81 in those games so that shouldn’t be good enough to beat a player of King’s experience and quality.
It’s a hard game to assess given I haven’t seen enough of Lerchbacher in action. All his stats suggest a mid-80s average and a couple of maximums along the way but he rarely takes out three-figure finishes and it’s that part of his game that will allow King into legs he may be should be out of.
King 3-0 (5/2 – William Hill) looks good enough with King playing alright, which should be good enough here. Do also consider King in the checkout markets but he can be ruthless with three-darts in hand, so King to Checkout 130+ (2/1 – Sky Bet) has some juice in it.
When you look back to last year, his two matches saw him take out 140 and 148, so he’s more than capable but it’d be one just for a small stakes play.
Robert Thornton plays the winner of Brendan Dolan vs Alan Ljubic.
Joe Cullen vs Jermaine Wattimena
One thing I’ll get right about this game is that even if we go all the way – it’ll be quick.
These two players don’t mess around on the oche, so it’ll be fast paced and high scoring.
Jermaine Wattimena won the only previous meeting back in February 6-5 in a UK Open Qualifier but the Dutchman has never got past the first round here in three attempts.
He reached the Last 16 in the Players Championship Finals last month beating Keegan Brown and Michael Mansell before being beaten by Steve Beaton.
His two wins saw averages of 96 and 95 with 66% and 42% checkout success rates, so has the capabilities after causing Cullen some problems.
Cullen is a much more mature player and this season has been a coming of age for the man from Bradford.
‘Rockstar’ was impressive in last year’s first round when dispatching Corey Cadby 3-1 with a 100 average, six 180s and a high checkout of 117.
He fell to Adrian Lewis in the next round but there were glimpses of him getting used to the biggest stage of them all after six-years of first-round exits.
Back in July, Cullen won a Players Championship event and he’s kicked on from that reaching a number of Quarter Finals and a couple of Semi-Finals to go along with them.
Joe Cullen Over 4.5 180s (EVS) looks a fair bet given how well he groups his darts when they start finding the T20 bed. Six in his first round last year and he also hit six in his first round of the World Grand Prix from a double start when beating Darren Webster.
I don’t mind the 19/20 on Cullen to Win & Both Players to Win a Set because Cullen can take his eye off the ball sometimes and allow his player opportunities. Nothing seems to phase Wattimena, who has the game to take a set.
Jelle Klaasen vs Jan Dekker
It’s been an up-and-down year for Jelle Klaasen, who required surgery on a wrist problem that thwarted his Premier League campaign.
Since then he’s shown glimpses of being back to somewhere near his best but at other times he can be a snatchy thrower lacking any sort of rhythm.
‘The Matador’ won the BDO World title in 2006 and made the Semi-Finals here in 2016, so we know he has the ability to go far into tournaments but he’s got to start proving that capability.
He reached the Last 16 last year beating Jeffrey De Graaf and Brendan Dolan before losing to Dave Chisnall.
Klaasen played well in last year’s first-round, winning with a 96 average, six 180s, a 121 high checkout and nearly 53% on the doubles. Many players arriving here this week wouldn’t mind a performance like that!
When you look at his form coming into this one there ware only two Quarter-Final runs, back in September, which came in consecutive tournaments where you can say he played alright.
Jan Dekker has form at Lakeside in the BDO World Championship reaching the Semi-Final stage twice – 2011 and 2014.
He is one finding some form in the last few events he’s played. A Quarter-Final appearance in the Players Championships proved he is started to find his range and comfort on the PDC tour.
‘Double Dekker’ is a competent player and if he finds some of the performance levels he pulled off on the European Tour then he could pull off a bit of shock here.
Back in the European Darts Trophy, he beat Christian Kist with a 99 average then went on to defeat Mervyn King with a 98 average. If he gets anywhere near those levels then he will trouble his compatriot.
If this went to five sets I wouldn’t be surprised but this to see four sets isn’t an attractive price.
Dekker isn’t a big 180 hitter, so that gives Klaasen the advantage in that department. Klaasen -1 180 Handicap (4/5) doesn’t look the worst of bets given he is likely to hit around the four mark, which should be enough to win this bet.
However, there is more meat on the bones of Klaasen Most 180s & Highest Checkout (6/4 – Betfair) with there being some positive vibes around his camp. He’s proven his stage presence before and the Premier League player can take out the three-figure combinations when they come along.
Gary Anderson will face either Jeff Smith or Luke Humphries. For me, it’ll be Smith and he will give the Scot a stern test.
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