As many people break up for the Christmas festivities it should be a real party atmosphere at Alexandra Palace on Friday as the PDC World Darts Championships heads in to day three.
The afternoon session could feature eight players all from differing nations where as the evening sessions sees world number two and 2020 winner Peter Wright headline the action along with a legend of the game Paul Lim. Carl Fletcher takes you through the action.
Day Three of the Championships is on Friday 17 December
Ryan Joyce vs Roman Benecky
Match due to start at 12:40pm
The only Englishman on display in the afternoon session is ‘Relentless’ Ryan Joyce, one of the best on the outer ring in the game. Currently ranked 38 in the PDC Order of Merit he’s a steady thrower and a tough match for anyone.
He faces 21 year old Czech Republic ace Roman Benecky who came through the East European Qualifier defeating his 2018 World Cup of Darts partner Karel Sedlacek in the final 6-2 to gain his place here. In that match Benecky averaged 86.26, some 4.5 points lower than his opponent but he was ruthless on the finishing front, hitting 6 of his 11 attempts at the double including nailing the big fish. That kind of finishing might be needed just to match Joyce here.
Joyce has been very good on his doubles himself in 2021, hitting 43% of them on stage. He might not be the biggest of scorers but his seasonal average of 92.74 is respectable.
He likes a big finish and has won 12.8% of his legs this year courtesy of a 100+ outshot with an average high checkout per match 101.57 over the course of the year. He’ll be hoping to replicate last year’s opening round success here which was also against a Czech Republic opponent, the aforementioned Karel Sedlacek.
Prediction: Ryan Joyce to register 2 or More 100+ Checkouts
Keane Barry vs Royden Lam
Match due to start at 1:30pm
Royden Lam is probably better known for his exploits in soft tip darts than steel tip but he’s very good in the latter aspect of the game and he’ll be making his third appearance in this event.
His distinctive look makes him very noticeable and this three time winner on the Asian Tour came through the Hong Kong qualifier to feature here. He beat Mon Lok Leung in the final but is a tad fortunate to be here as his opponent missed two match darts to advance having led 4-3 in a race to five. He’s here however and that’s all that matters.
19 year old Keane Barry has been widely regarded as one of the best future prospects in darts for a while now. He was BDO World Youth Champion in 2020 but he’s fell at this first hurdle on his two previous ventures in this event. This represents his best opportunity to advance to date however.
This year has been a bit of learning curve for him during his first year on the main tour but there’s been a few glimpses of his natural ability. He came through all three of the Euro Tour qualifiers this year, reached the Last 16 of the Hungarian Darts Trophy and reached the Quarter Finals of the 22nd Players Championship event.
His seasonal average is 91.54 and its 46 matches since he registered his last 100+ average. I think he may just do enough to get through but I don’t think it’ll be easy.
Prediction: Match to have Over 4.5 Sets
Jermaine Wattimena vs Boris Koltsov
Match due to start at 2:30pm
Boris Koltsov is a regular qualifier for this event through the EADC Qualifier but he’s a tour card holder in his own right these days. It’s not been the best year for him though with just three Last 32 runs the highlight of his season on the floor along with two early exits in the UK Open and Gibraltar Darts Trophy.
Kolstov is averaging 87.65 during 2021 and his 180 per leg ratio is surprisingly just 0.18 per leg considering at times he can pepper the treble bed. He’s currently on a run of 21 matches where he’s hit a 180 and he’s looked a bit better in his last 5 matches where he’s averaged 95+ in 4 including his solitary 100+ average for the year.
Wattimena is probably the more recognisable of the two players and the higher ranked at 37 on the Order of Merit but he’s suffered early exits in the three televised events he’s played this year, the UK Open, World Matchplay and Players Championship Finals.
Whilst he’s not in the best of form himself ‘The Machine Gun’ is a bit more reliable than his opponent. He suffered just 10 first round exits in the 30 Players Champions floor events held this year and managed to reach the Last 16 stage in two of them – he’d be bitterly disappointed with the latter return though.
His seasonal average is much better of the two at 91.90 but for a player who’s such a rhythmic and speedy thrower his 180 per leg ratio is a miserly 0.17 per leg. Whilst I think he’ll probably do enough to win I think the Russian Koltsov could be the bet on the 180 front.
Prediction: Boris Kolstov to hit the most 180’s
Krzysztof Ratajski vs Steve Lennon/Madars Razma
Every event the ‘Polish Eagle’ Krzysztof Ratajski is involved in he seemingly gets tipped up as a live outsider and you’d have to say that this event is no different.
A quarter-finalist last year, losing to Stephen Bunting he’s had numerous good runs in the big events during 2021. He was a Quarter-Finalist in the UK Open losing to Michael Van Gerwen and a Semi-Finalist at both the Matchplay and World Series of Darts Finals losing to Dimitri Van Den Bergh on each occasion. There’s certainly no shame in any of those.
He will probably be a little disappointed with his group stage exit at the Grand Slam of Darts and a Last 32 defeat the Players Championship Finals but he did managed to achieve his customary title on the floor as he claimed the final event of the season in the Players Championship series.
Current sitting in twelfth on the Order of Merit he has an excellent seasonal average of 96.77. You know what you get with him and surely it’s just a matter of time before he lands a big event in the PDC.
His opponent will be the victor of the Steve Lennon and Madars Razma game, which is due to played the afternoon before. I’ve tipped Razma to edge a tight game in that one but both player to a similar level and like Ratajski both are steady arrow smiths. You kind of know what you’re going to get with both but whoever the Pole faces I expect him to advance to round three by perhaps a margin of three sets to one.
Joe Murnan vs Paul Lim
Match due to start at 7:10pm
The opening game of the Friday night session should get a raucous crowd on their feet as fans favourite and legend of the game Paul Lim takes on Joe Murnan.
Lim hit a 9 darter back in 1990 and almost followed this up some 28 years later at the PDC World Championships against Gary Anderson. There wouldn’t have been a dry eye in the house if that had been taken out.
Having come through the Singapore Qualifier he will be making his fourteenth appearance in the PDC World Championship and he’ll be hoping to get through the opening round like he did last year when he toppled Luke Humphries 3-2 who missed a match dart to eliminate him 3-1.
On this occasion he faces Joe Murnan, the twenty-seventh qualifier through the Pro Tour Order of Merit who after opening the season with five 100+ averages in his first nine matches has failed to register one since.
A seasonal average of 91.61 is decent but his match win percentage of 43% isn’t. He starts this match as a fairly short price favourite but if Lim can beat Luke Humphries he’ll be confident of running Murnan all the way. I’m taking the sixty-seven year old to cause a mini-shock with the crowd behind him.
Prediction: Paul Lim to Win
William Borland vs Bradley Brooks
Match due to start at 8:00pm
The second game of the night sees two youngsters who we’ve seen a bit more of recently on TV.
Brooks came through a group featuring Mervyn King, Jonny Clayton and Rusty-Jake Rodriguez at the Grand Slam of Darts to set up a Last 16 encounter against Gerwyn Price. Having emphatically beaten King 5-1 in the opening match he ran Price very close in what was a lively game towards the end. The 2020 World Youth Champion lost nothing in defeat and in fact enhanced an already growing reputation.
Similarly William Borland claimed the notable scalp of Simon Whitlock at the European Championships in October before losing to Joe Cullen.
Comparing the seasonal data and it’s Borland who has the higher seasonal average at 90.34 compared to Brooks at 88.48 but it is the latter who has the better 180 per leg ratio at 0.20 compared to 0.18. On the whole however there’s not much to choose between them.
Brooks stormed out the blocks last year averaging 109.98 in the opening set against Dirk Van Duijvenbode before winning the second set to lead 2-0. He had no answer to the fightback his Dutch opponent produced and ultimately succumbed 3-2. I have a similar feeling that this might be another tight tungsten tussle. The betting suggests Brooks is the slight favourite and I’d probably have to agree but it might be a safer bet to opt for this to go all the way.
Prediction: Over 4.5 Sets
Ross Smith vs Jeff Smith
Match due to start at 9:00pm
The Smith derby is the penultimate match of the Friday evening session and this could be a very good match indeed.
The Canadian Jeff Smith was a runner up in the BDO back in 2016 and is a very experienced player. He came through this first round last year defeating Keane Barry before finding Chris Dobey too good in the second round, losing 3-2.
In many respects Ross Smith falls under the same bracket as Chris Dobey as he’s a power scorer and has claimed his maiden PDC on the circuit this year. On top of this, these pair have met twice this season and on both occasions it is Ross who has come out on top. He won 6-2 back in April and more recently he won 6-5 in October. Everything seems to favour Ross.
During the second match Ross also claimed the match treble by winning the match, hitting the most 180’s and registering the highest checkout. That would be something you’d have to consider backing here as he has the better match win percentage, the much better 180 per leg ratio and has a higher average high checkout per match.
Prediction: Ross Smith to achieve the Match Treble
Peter Wright vs Ryan Meikle/Fabian Schmutzler
The closing game on the Friday night sees 2020 champion and current World Number Two, Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright open his World Championship campaign against the winner of the Thursday night clash between Ryan Meikle and Fabian Schmutzler.
Many will remember Wright’s garish attire last year when he played in a Grinch style outfit when defeating Steve West 3-1 on the opening night. I wonder what surprise he’ll have in store for us this year?
This year he is defending his winner’s Prize Money from 2020 so it’s arguably even more important that he goes deep in this event this year and you’d have to imagine he’ll do just that as no players has won more titles than him during 2021 which includes him winning the most recent event, the Players Championship Finals despite not being at his brilliant best. He was at his brilliant best however in the Matchplay, averaging 104.91 for the whole event, simply unplayable!
Meikle is the favourite to face ‘Snakebite’ but there’s no guarantee of that against a player who may be capable of much more. If he does face the Englishman they’ve faced each other four times over the past two seasons and it’s four wins from four for Wright but the last three matches have been fairly close encounters, the last two in particular being very high in quality with both players averaging 100+ in each.
I would strongly fancy Peter Wright to win whoever he faces. I’d suggest a victory by 3 sets to 1 if he faces Ryan Meikle and possibly 3-0 against Schmutzler.
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