The World Grand Prix continues on Monday night so check out Carl Fletcher's match-by-match predictions, best bets and a suggested acca.
The first-round of the unique double-start major concludes in Leicester with eight best-of-three set matches featuring the likes of Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright and Gary Anderson.
Here's our match-by-match guide of all the action...
1pt Darius Labanauskas to check out over 95.5 at 10/11 (Sky Bet)
1pt Over 2.5 Sets Aspinall v Ratajski at Evens (Sky Bet)
The opening game of Monday night sees a clash between two players capable of causing a few shockwaves this week. The higher ranked player is ‘The History Maker’ Brendan Dolan and he’s enjoying a fruitful season having won Players Championship Five earlier in the season and he’s backed this up with numerous other good runs since.
He sped up his game in the latter part of 2020 and it seems to be paying dividends for him. He ran into eventual World Champion, Gerwyn Price but pushed him all the way at the Worlds in December and he recently beat Michael Van Gerwen on the Euro Tour. The fact he’s a former finalist in this event and his doubles percentage in 2021 of 41% suggests this tournament could play into his strengths.
Talking of doubling that is also his opponent’s strength. ‘Lucky D’ on stage in 2021 has a 51% checkout percentage. He’s making his debut in this event but he’s dangerous. He’s won 13.4% of his legs this year courtesy of a 100+ checkout and although I don’t envisage seeing a great deal of 180’s in this game I do expect to witness a game with a plethora of combination finishes to decide the outcome.
I’m edging towards Dolan to win the match based on what we’ve seen of him this year. Darius is tenacious and will push him all the way and in recent events it’s taken one of the top players to beat him, his latest four defeats have come at the hands of Jose De Sousa (twice), Gerwyn Price and Michael Van Gerwen. I expect this match to have legs and go to a deciding set.
The second match of the night is the only game on Monday that features two players who have both won a title in 2021.
Jonny Clayton is having the season of his life having won the Masters in January to secure a Premier League place, then he went on to lift the Premier League crown. He’s also cemented this with two further titles on the floor.
‘The Ferret’ has superb seasonal statistics with a seasonal average of 98.68. He lost in the second round last year in a terrific tussle with Joe Cullen but he’s an improved player since then.
Rydz is also a player on the up. He won the second Players Championship event of the year where he beat Clayton 8-7 in an excellent final. He reached the Last 32 of the UK Open and backed that up with a run to the Quarter-Finals of the Matchplay on debut.
He’s shown he’s in fine fettle of late as he made the Last 16 of the Gibraltar Darts Trophy just last weekend which included two victories with 100+ averages, the pick of them being his 6-3 defeat of Peter Wright in the Last 32 with an average of 110.72 (‘Snakebite’ himself averaged 108.19).
Rydz doubling on stage this year is 51% and he’ll hope to maintain that here. In three of those seven matches his doubles percentage has been 78.57%, 75% and 100%, just phenomenal whoever you are.
If he does maintain that he could cause an upset here but regardless of that I expect this to go to a deciding set too. I’m taking Clayton to prevail however as he’s one of the players of 2021. We’ve still got the business end of the season to come, where he could build on his reputation even further.
Vincent Van Der Voort was a previous Quarter-Finalist in this event way back in 2015 but it’s Clemens who starts the slight favourite tonight.
‘The German Giant’ boasts the slightly superior seasonal stats with an average of 93.00, doubles percentage of 35.6% and 180 per leg ratio of 0.29 compared to Van Der Voort who’s stats read: 92.68 average, 27.8% on his doubles and 0.19 per leg 180 ratio.
This is the first meeting of this pair so there’s no historic record to base any suggestion on but looking at recent form you’d slightly favour Clemens too. Big Vinnie comes into this match on the back of three straight defeats and he’s lost his first match in the UK Open, Matchplay and Hungarian Darts Trophy. His best effort this season is two Quarter Final runs at Players Championships 7 and 22.
Clemens on the other hand has won five of his last eight matches and bizarrely his three defeats have all come at the hand of James Wade. Looking at his stage form this year, he lost in the Last 16 of the UK Open, Last 16 of the Gibraltar Darts Trophy and the Quarter Final of the World Cup of Darts defeated by James Wade on each occasion and got thumped 10-2 in the opening round of the Matchplay to Jose De Sousa. His best efforts on the floor have been three Semi-Finals.
I’m going for the more consistent thrower in this game to come out on top and reach the second round like he did last year with his 180 hitting being the difference.
Nathan Aspinall versus Krzysztof Ratajski promises to be one of the clashes of the opening round. These two have met four times previously and all have been in big games. The first meeting between these pair was the final of Players Championship 17 in 2019 when Ratajski won 8-3. The Pole backed this up further in November that year when winning again, this time 6-5 in the World Series of Darts Finals.
Aspinall got his revenge in a spellbinding game at the World Championships later that year but it was a return to winning ways for ‘The Polish Eagle’ when the pair clashed earlier this year in the UK Open. That bodes well for Ratajski and he’s arguably a better player now than he was back in the first of those three meetings in 2019.
He’s had two very good runs in both the UK Open and Matchplay when looking a potential winner in the earlier rounds only to succumb to top drawer performances by Michael Van Gerwen and Dimitri Van Den Bergh respectively.
Surprisingly his best performance this year was a Semi-Final at Players Championship 21. He then suffered a mini slump with 5 straight defeats but stopped that slump with a couple of victories last weekend in the Gibraltar Darts Trophy albeit not great performances.
‘The Asp’ has also made two Semi-Finals on the floor this year but both those were in events 1 and 2 with a solitary Quarter Final his best performance in those events since. He has however faired a bit better on stage of late. He lost to eventual champion Gerwyn Price in the Semi-Finals of the Gibraltar Darts Trophy and the Quarter Finals of the World Matchplay to Michael Van Gerwen.
What is most pleasing of late is his performance levels. He’s notched up five ton plus averages in his last ten matches.
This is difficult to call as games between these two are often a very tight affair. Do you go with the better performer of late in Nathan Aspinall or go for the steady and consistent Ratajski with the better Head to Head record?
I’m going for the latter on this occasion as I believe he’s better than recent form suggests and sooner or later he’s going to reach a big televised final.
Gary Anderson and Ian White met in this event previously back in 2015 and it was White who came out on top in that occasion 3-1.
That was then and this is now however and it’s fair to say that both players have been in better form, White in particular who’s not having a great 2021. Usually a prolific winner on the floor, he’s yet to make a final in the 23 events played so far with two Semi-Finals his best efforts to date.
He failed to come through any of the three Euro Tour Qualifying events back in July, lost his first matches at the Masters and the UK Open and got to the second round of the Matchplay, losing to Michael Van Gerwen who appeared to be there for the taking if ‘Diamond White’ could’ve found an extra gear. He did however win their only encounter this year, 6-3 at Players Championship Two.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ won’t be too concerned about that however and it’s the big tournaments where he likes to shine. A runner-up in this back in 2016, he’d love to add this to a glittering trophy cabinet over the years.
Whilst there have been signs he’s winding down in recent years as he’s picked and chose his commitments he still possesses bags of ability and remains one of the big names on the circuit.
In recent events he lost to Aspinall in the second round of the Matchplay in what was a terrific match and he lost 10-8 to Dimitri Van Den Bergh after a slow start in the Quarter-Finals of the Nordic Darts Masters, in Copenhagen a week after he opted not to travel and compete in the World Cup for eventual champions Scotland.
I don’t envisage this being a classic as neither are in sparkling form but I believe Anderson just holds sway with the more natural ‘A-game’. I’m going for the Scot to win another tight match on Monday evening.
This game has been a regular encounter in recent years and is one of the top matches in this opening round albeit Cross has dropped down the rankings of late.
Peter Wright was absolutely majestic when winning the Matchplay in July and along with Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton has been one of the most impressive players in 2021. His seasonal average of 98.53 is terrific considering he suffered a bit of a blip during the Premier League and the runner up of this in 2018 would love to add this to his trophy haul. He’ll take some stopping for sure as he’s won 33 of his last 40 matches and has six titles to his name already in 2021.
Rob Cross on the other hand is having a bit of a stop start season. He’s had some good runs on the floor but no better than a Semi-Final and in other events he seems to win an opening match then lose his next game. Something mirrored in his last 10 matches where his form figures read WLWLWLWLWL.
His average for this year is 95.95 which in fact is an improvement on last years which was 94.02 and there has been signs of a smoother throw at times. He’ll also be buoyed by their head to head record which is astonishingly eleven wins apiece with two drawers to boot.
Having said all that you can’t bet against ‘Snakebite’ here. He may have exited at the first hurdle in his most recent event but he averaged 108+ himself has he lost to Callan Rydz averaging 110+. The form favours him and the stats favour him too.
Michael Van Gerwen and Danny Noppert meet just a week after their latest clash where ‘The Green Machine’ came on top despite trailing 4-1. Interestingly – perhaps not so much for Noppert – is that Noppert has led 4-1 seventeen times this year and the only two occasions he’s not gone on to win the match are both against MVG. Perhaps there’s something a psychological hurdle for him to get over of late. His head to head record would certainly back that up also as that reads 6-1 in the favour of the current World Number Three.
Looking at the seasonal stats of Danny Noppert his average of 96.22 is very respectable and only a couple of points behind Van Gerwen’s at 98.80. It’s the finishing stats that are the difference. MVG boasts a 43.8% checkout percentage on stage this year compared to Noppert at just 28.9% and Van Gerwen has won 15% of his legs this year with a 100+ outshot compared to 12.2% of Noppert.
Just a few weeks back it seemed Peter Wright’s prophecy that Van Gerwen wouldn’t win a title this year could possibly come true but an emotional MVG ended this suspicion by claiming the title in the Nordic Darts Masters defeating Fallon Sherrock in a very good final.
During that particular tournament one of MVG’s key traits in his dominant era returned and that was his success on cover shots at Treble 19, which he hit with around the 50% accuracy for the event.
I like what I’ve seen from MVG of late and would not put it past him to have a resurgent end of year spell. I think he’ll come out on top here but wouldn’t be surprised to see him to battle back from behind to win this match.
Sadly, Duzza is having a season to forget. He has the lowest season average of the 32 players inthe field at just 86.20. He’s only won 4 of his last 30 matches and finished bottom and pointless in the Premier League.
A three time BDO World Champion, he’s a Semi-Finalist in this in 2019 and won the Premier League Champion in 2020; we’d all love to see Glen return to those levels but he couldn’t have asked for much harder assignment in the opening round.
José De Sousa was runner up in the Premier League this year and this power scorer and is a winner of three events in 2021 and boasts the second best seasonal average at 98.83.
‘The Special One’ really is a maverick and is hard to predict when it comes to finishing, he often has you on the edge of your seat where you expect the unexpected.
I can only see one outcome here and that’s a win for José. He’s already won seven games to nil in2021 & Duzza has been whitewashed himself on five occasions. Glen is usually very good ‘doubling in’ and that should enable him to pick up a couple of legs.
Getting any value out of this game however is very difficult unless you fancy a shock.