Dirk Van Duijvenbode v Ryan Searle
The opening match on Sunday should be played at a pace to suit both players and really is a game that could have fireworks.
There’s not a great deal to choose between the pair on the match betting front but the one area there is a gulf in most opponents of the Dutchman Dirk Van Duijvenbode is on the maximum front. He currently averages 0.39 per leg and is the Premier 180 hitter on the PDC circuit.
He comes into this in red hot form having won Players Championship 18 last weekend defeating five others in the Matchplay field on his way to the title.His game really is built on his power scoring and he comes into this event on the back of four consecutive 100+ averages.
Looking at his 180 prowess he’s hit 83 of them in his last 200 legs of darts, a rate of 0.415 per leg. In comparison Ryan Searle – who on his day can be a big 180 hitter too – has notched up just 39, a rate of 0.195 per leg, much lower than his seasonal standard of 0.24 per leg.
As you’d expect he’s big favourite in this market but the 180 handicap market could reward backers at a nicer price.
Michael Smith v Andrew Gilding
Bully Boy Michael Smith enjoyed a real purple patch between 26th May and 14th June, winning 21 of the 22 matches he played capturing the final league night of the Premier League, the Dutch Darts Championships, the US Darts Masters and Players Championship event 16, only losing in the Semi-Final of the Nordic Darts Masters to Dimitri Van Den Bergh, who went on to win the event.
He’s widely fancied to go close here from a very likeable draw in the bottom half and feasibly the weaker half of the draw but this match represents a real banana-skin for him. Gilding is very much in form but often gets readily dismissed when discussing Smiths title credentials. He himself has won 14 of his last 18 matches and has produced some stunning darts with averages of 118.33, 111.52 and 109.48 and reached a final just last weekend, although was defeated by Danny Noppert despite an excellent and bold display in that one.
His slow style will likely cause the fast paced Smith a few problems here and I like a different betting angle here and that is Michael Smith to average under 97.5. Since that recent golden spell Smith had played 18 matches and averaged below this figure in 16 of them and his seasonal average is just below that mark at 96.61. In fact even during that mesmeric spell he only averaged above 97.5 in 50% of those 22 matches so I think the mark of 97.5 could be slightly too high.
The only caveat I would add to this is that in both matches they’ve played against each other this year, he’s managed to post an average above that line but if he gets embroiled in a tight tungsten tussle here, played at Goldfingers pace then he could suffer as a result.
Joe Cullen v Damon Heta
This promises to be an absolute belter and is one of the matches of the first round. Both men are enjoying a fruitful 2022 and the bookies can hardly split them.
Cullen is the seeded player in this matchup and got this campaign off to the perfect start by winning the Masters to claim a spot in the Premier League, something that he’d strived for, for years. He then came agonisingly close to winning that prestigious title, missing a match dart in a last-leg shootout versus Michael Van Gerwen. He’s also won a couple of titles on the floor, one of the finals was actually against today’s opponent, where he prevailed 8-4.
Since that aforementioned Premier League final he’s only won four of his last nine matches averaging just 91.78. Some three points behind his seasonal average of 94.78.
Heta on the other hand is in good form, he’s won 17 of his last 22 matches in all competitions including five 100+ averages in his last eight games. His seasonal average his a whopping 97.99.
He himself has been in the winners enclosure this year claiming a title on the floor back in March, defeating a very much in form Gary Anderson 8-6 in the final. More recently he won the World Cup of Darts for Australia alongside Simon Whitlock. He’ll be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Jonny Clayton who seemed to use that as a springboard to further success when he won it with Wales back in 2020.
One thing about both these players is they are very proficient in the maximum department, Cullen is hitting them at 0.30 per leg and Heta 0.32 per leg over the course of the year. This is the angle I’d like to focus on here and with the expectation for this to have plenty of legs I think both are capable of registering numerous 180’s.
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