Wayne Mardle looks into his crystal ball to examine how the 2019 World Grand Prix will play out.
The cream always rises
Throughout the decade, it’s always been, apart from a Brendan Dolan that kind of came from nowhere, you can kind of say that the good players do eventually reach the final, or the latter stages. Even with the Gurney-Whitlock final. While they weren’t expected to reach the final and for Daryl Gurney to win it, you could see the quality normally gets through somewhere.
World Grand Prix roll of honour
|4||Michael van Gerwen|
|1||Daryl Gurney, Colin Lloyd, Robert Thornton, Alan Warriner|
Michael van Gerwen is by far the best player in the world, even when he’s off, which he has been for huge chunks of this year. His stats are still better than anyone else. He’s won this four times. He knows how to win it. He’s won it in ’14, ’16, ’18, so he can’t win it, he has to win it in ’20!
He’s brilliant at tops, and he’s very good at coming down into the 60. I’m still amazed that he hasn’t hit a nine-darter in this event. I really see him as the one, I really do.
But I think some of them have to start thinking a bit more. What I mean is Michael will go for tops, and if that misses, he may go 18s or 32, but that’s his normal route. We see some of them, where their starting double eludes them, and they’re looking around the board for something they fancy. You’ve got T19 in normal start… they know what they’re going to do before they step up to the board. But double start just seems alien to them, because it’s only once a year.
Going back to Rob Cross, he’s never won a match. He’s only played in it twice, before he was world champ and was third seed last year.
He clearly doesn’t feel comfortable with it. When you get the world number two uncomfortable with a format, because he doesn’t have the routine or rhythm, you’ve got to think ‘right, I’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen to me’.
But because there are only eight seeds in this, is it the worst possible draw? Mensur Suljovic, world number nine. That is the most horrendous draw that I think I’ve seen in a long time.
Live World Grand Prix Darts
October 6, 2019, 7:00pm
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World Grand Prix on <i>Sky Sports</i>
|Sunday October 6||First Round x 8||Sky Sports Arena, 7pm|
|Monday October 7||First Round x 8||Sky Sports Action, 7pm|
|Tuesday October 8||Second Round x 4||Sky Sports Action & Main Event, 7pm|
|Wednesday October 9||Second Round x 4||Sky Sports Action & Main Event, 7pm|
|Thursday October 10||Quarter-Final x 4||Sky Sports Action, 7pm|
|Friday October 11||Semi-Final x 2||Sky Sports Action & Main Event, 7pm|
|Saturday October 12||Final||Sky Sports Action & Main Event, 8pm|
|+ Irish Matchplay Final||Sky Sports Action, 7.15pm|
Game, SET, Match
It’s the only event since the Worlds that is set-play, and it happens to be double-start as well. The players are not used to set-play. They love set-play, but they’re not used to it. It’s all leg-play. Everything they do – the European Tour, the Pro Tour, the Premier League, the World Series events, the Matchplay. Everything apart from the Worlds is leg-play.
So again, more pressure is heaped on, because, ‘It’s the deciding leg of the set. This is huge, this is huge. Right, they’ve missed. I’ve got to get this’. You’re just not relaxed because it’s set-play, and because it’s double-in, double-out. It just adds to the drama. It is drama-ridden.
This is one of those events, and I’ve been on the receiving end and I’ve given it out. All of a sudden, your first dart starts to find that double and the whole game seems simple, because you get to a double, and your opponent is on 250. You get to a double again, your opponent is on 193. You’re not doing everything right, but they’re just not getting off. You find yourself under no pressure.
The reverse side of that is that your opponent just can’t cope.
You hit doubles or they hit doubles with a regularity of say 40-45 per cent. So you expect them to get away within the first two or three darts every time. It’s just a different animal. It makes you panic. Those who win this are those who do the right thing at the right time, like everyone does, but also those that are just not panicking. You cannot panic in this format. You can get away with it over 501, when it’s old school, because you can kick off with 85, your opponent kicks off with 60, you’re still a bit better, even if you’ve thrown a couple of iffy darts. You throw a couple of iffy darts to get off, it saps your confidence big time. Horrible format!
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We keep saying it – it’s getting away, and it’s finishing. But it’s the only event of the whole year that ruins the rhythm of the player. So the players that… they’re speedsters or they’ll suit each other if they might. I just think that all goes out the window.
I keep looking at the Lewis-Jermaine Wattimena game. That should be a bit pacey, but I can see it being a nervy affair. Adrian just doesn’t know what he’s doing right now. Jermaine just wants to get on with it. But with double-start, you can’t just get on with it. You’ve got to think about it.
Ricky Evans, he’s got to do that. Dimitri van den Bergh as well. Jermaine Wattimena. They’ve got to have routines, and know how they’re breaking these shots down. It’s vitally important for this. It’s not a normal game.
Mighty Mike to reign again?
He will look back on it fondly because he’s won it four times. If he had won it in 2012 and never won it again, then it would be a different story. But he’s won it four times, and been beaten in a final once by Robert Thornton as well.
Michael knows that this format suits him, and he knows that he is one of the best, if not the best double-hitter on the planet. He’s up there in every statistic you can pull out. Not only that, but he’s the most consistent. He’s proven that and is a three time world champ now. He’s got to think ‘well they’ve got to beat me’.
I was just looking at the stats from last year. He probably should have got beaten by Peter Wright. I remember it so vividly, it was 2-2 in sets. Michael won the fifth set after Peter had a dart to win, and I said that’s it now, he’ll relax and play like Michael van Gerwen. You can’t afford to not take your opportunities when Van Gerwen is under par. He was averaging under 80 for five sets, and he was still 3-2 up. That’s the difference between van Gerwen and a lot of the others – it’s how good he is at the right time when he’s playing poorly. I still think he’s the man to beat. I don’t know what it is, I just think he’s putting himself under too much pressure, too often. He knows how to relax and he’s got to relax.
Mystic Mardle’s verdict
I’m not a fence-sitter as you know. But no matter what result, I can totally see it because it’s the best of three, because it’s a double-start, you actually end up looking at names, [wondering] can he reach the final?
I look at a half and think, can he reach the semi-final? Looking at some of the games from last year, if you look at averages alone, it’s ridiculous. They mean absolutely nothing.
Look at Rob Cross’ draw. It’s horrible. He’s got Mensur in the first round. If he wins, he’s got Durrant or Ratajski, if he wins that he’s probably got Peter Wright. It’s awful. It’s absolutely awful. I’ve not ruled out Rob, but as draws go, that’s an absolute stinker.
I think……. I’m going to say MVG will play Michael Smith or Ian White in the semi-final. I’ve said it year after year about Michael Smith. But also it’s come to the point where Ian White is now one of the best players in the world on a daily basis, but he’s got to be one of the best in the world on a big stage.
I’m a real backer of Michael Smith. I think he’s got the game and if he starts hitting that tops, I could see him running riot in that top half. I could even see him beating Van Gerwen if he gets to the semi-finals. I can’t see Whitlock beating him.
The winner of Joe Cullen and Ian White, I think that will be Ian White by the way. But Ian White on the big stage? The Matchplay again he was in a winning position and let it go.
The way I’m looking at the normal protagonists to win it, but I’ve got a feeling that the winner of Price vs Chizzy, I think the winner of that game reaches the final in the bottom half.
You’ve got Gurney in there and he is a winner but the winner of Price and Chizzy, they must think the winner of Bunting and Clayton are there for the taking, that puts them into the quarter-finals. It’s not a given that Gurney beats Noppert or Aspinall, who’s throwing some good stuff I just think that Price and Chizzy are playing world-class darts, day to day. They’re playing really well.