Krzysztof Ratajski v Stephen Bunting
The opening match of this years World Matchplay is probably the tightest match to call of all the first-round matches. Correctly the Polish Eagle, Krzysztof Ratajski starts slight favourite being the number sixteen seed but you wouldn’t be overly confident of calling the winner from a betting perspective.
The angle I much prefer in this match is the 180 market. Ratajski is a top player but loves to switch to Treble 19 and as a result his 180 per leg ratio this year is just 0.22 per leg, which of the sixteen seeds is the second lowest on the maximum front. He’s notched up more than two 180’s just twice in his last twenty matches, registering just one or drawing a blank in thirteen of these games.
Bunting is much better in this respect. Looking at his last twenty matches in comparison he’s hit
more than two 180’s in ten of them, he’s not hit a blank since early April and his 180 per leg ratio for this campaign is a much stronger 0.28 per leg. In the only event both players have played over the same format (first to ten) this year, the UK Open, Ratajski actually failed to register a single 180 in his 15 leg match against Gerwyn Price whereas Bunting amassed four and seven respectively in his fourteen and nineteen leg matches. Take ‘The Bullet’ him to come out on that betting market here
Dimitri Van Den Bergh v Callan Rydz
Second up on the opening night sees two relative youngsters in darting terms take each other on and this could be an absolute classic and 180 fest if both hit top gear as both are big scorers when on song. Rydz a Quarter-Finalist on debut in the event last year and at the World Championships too in December hit a real purple patch in mid-May when he registered eleven 100+ plus averages in twelve matches but since then he’s not been able to reach those heights. In fact of late, it’s all been a bit of a struggle.
He comes into this with three defeats in his last four games where he’s averaged less than 90 in all of them. He’s a better player than that though as his earlier season form indicates and a respectable seasonal average of 94.32 suggests. Van Den Bergh is averaging a couple points higher than his opponent over the current season at 96.22 and has recently won the Nordic Darts Masters and Dutch Darts Masters with remarkable ease in front of the ITV cameras. In fact he never looked troubled in either tournament against
some other superstars of the game. He loves this event too. He won the trophy back in 2020 when it was played behind closed doors and went close to defending that title, only finding Peter Wright too good in the final but nobody came close to defeating ‘Snakebite’ last year. The pair have only met twice previously with one win apiece but they were both back in 2016 so have no real bearing on this game. Rydz is an emerging star in comparison to Dimitri, who is one of the established elite and also the ninth seed this year. On current form you have to favour the Belgian to come out on top here and continue his impressive record in the Matchplay
Jonny Clayton v Rowby-John Rodriguez
This is the final match of the opening night and takes place after Peter Wright has taken to stage in defence of his crown – a match we’re leaving alone from a betting perspective with the current odds available.
Clayton v Rodriguez could be an excellent game to round things off however. The latter of the pair made a late charge to reach this event, taking the last spot as a Pro Tour Order of Merit qualifier from Ross Smith this last weekend.
He’s been in good form however and has been rewarded. He reached the European Darts Matchplay final at the beginning of the month, losing a last leg thriller to the in form Luke Humphries. He then backed this up with some good runs this last weekend on the floor, including a Quarter Final run in the second of the four events he played. He’s been ultra consistent this year, averaging 92.81 for 2022 and has a match win percentage of 62.7%.
Jonny ‘The Ferret’ Clayton is the more well known of the two to most darts fans and was one of the players of 2021, winning The Masters, the Premier League, the World Grand Prix and the World Series of Darts Finals all in front of the TV cameras. He’s not quite matched those achievements this year but he topped the League phase of the Premier League before losing in the Semi-Final in his quest to defend that title and it looked like a gruelling schedule may have been taking its toll on the Welshman who suffered six straight defeats the end of June and beginning of July. He bounced back to form last weekend however reaching a Quarter-Final on Sunday then followed this up by reaching the final the following day. He’s averaging 97.27 for the year and leads the head to head record 5-1. I expect him to just come out in top here. He’s a consistent 140 hitter – arguably the biggest in the game – but that can sometimes mean his 180 count suffers as a result. Over the course of the year the 180 per leg ratio slightly favours Rowby-John. In their sole meeting this year it was Clayton who came out in top 6-4 but Rodriguez who won the
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