The opening night of the World Grand Prix darts tournament sees the first round being played in the top half of the draw as 16 players take to the Morningside Arena in Leicester looking to book a spot in the last 16 of the event.
This is one of those tournaments where the stars are out right from the beginning and they are all on edge too because each match is a race to two sets and there is always carnage done to the draw in this first round.
First Four Matches
The opening four matches of the night see the games without the seeds in them taking place. That means we can begin with the former finalist Dirk van Duijvenbode who takes on another player who has been to the title game in this event in Brendan Dolan. When they are done two class acts meet as Jose de Sousa takes on Gary Anderson before Krzysztof Ratajski takes on the player most people think this tournament is perfect for in James Wade. We reach the halfway point of the evening with a continental clash between Martin Schindler and Raymond van Barneveld.
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Later Four Matches
The four seeds are saved for the latter four matches in the evening and it is the beaten finalist of a year ago, Nathan Aspinall, who is the first of them looking to make it through to the next round. He has a tricky test against Stephen Bunting to negotiate. Once they have settled that match the former winner Gerwyn Price takes to the big stage to meet a Danny Noppert who is more than capable of causing an upset. The penultimate game of the night sees the world champion Michael Smith looking to progress to the second round at the expense of Callan Rydz before Rob Cross faces off against the UK Open champion Andrew Gilding to round off a very good looking opening night.
I’ve never been one for going too mad on these best-of-three sprints and my powder will largely be kept dry here but there is one match where I can’t ignore a bet, particularly at the way the prices are. That match is the one between Martin Schindler and Raymond van Barneveld. If this was a routine event where the scoring starts on the treble then I could understand the German player being priced up as a favourite but not with the format we have.
Experience is often a massive thing here and this will be just the second match that Schindler has played in the tournament having lost in the first round to Gerwyn Price on debut last year. He won just one leg in that match and while the quality of his opponent here isn’t the same, the experience that Barney has in the format is vast. He has made the final twice and the semi-final on three more occasions and is much more comfortable hitting doubles. Schindler can have absolute mares on the double and I just think the odds are all wrong here. Barneveld beat Michael Smith at the World Series Finals a couple of weeks ago and he can pick up a win on his return to this event here.
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