Phil Taylor will be vying for a third consecutive World Series title as the Sydney Darts Masters gets underway this Thursday. Taylor will compete alongside Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Peter Wright, James Wade, Adrian Lewis, Raymond van Barneveld and Stephen Bunting in the Australian city.
They will also be up against 8 Oceanic representatives; two of whom include Simon Whitlock and Paul Nicholson. Josh’s Dartistry assesses the favourite for the title, potential outside bets, as well as men under huge pressure to perform.
Man to Beat: Phil Taylor
After his success in Perth last weekend, Phil Taylor has to be the favourite to continue his tremendous World Series form. He was at his vintage best in his semi-final win over Gary Anderson, delivering a 108 average to demolish the Scot and banish any lingering memories of a disappointing semi-final defeat at the Matchplay to James Wade. The Power later gained revenge for that defeat, by beating the Machine 11-7 in the final.
Michael van Gerwen is also a firm contender for the title. He was mightily impressive in defeating Raymond van Barneveld 8-4 in the quarter-finals, defying a 103 average from RvB to progress through, but he couldn’t replicate this against James Wade in the semis. However, van Gerwen will be absolutely desperate to halt Taylor’s World Series monopoly in Sydney.
Outside Bet: Raymond van Barneveld
Despite losing 8-4 in the Perth Darts Masters quarter-finals to MvG, it was a hugely encouraging tournament for all members of the Barney Army, and Raymond himself. He suffered a disappointing 1st round World Matchplay exit in July to Andy Hamilton, but showed signs of a return to form down under.
Van Barneveld was very unfortunate with the draw, as he faced Simon Whitlock in round one. This was compounded by RvB undergoing root canal treatment on the eve of his clash with the Wizard, although Barney’s display was anything but toothless. He eased through 6-3 with a 102.96 average, overcoming a tenacious Whitlock; averaging 100 himself.
Van Barneveld also performed extremely well against his compatriot in the quarter-finals. He was trailing 5-4 at one stage, but some tremendous finishing from the Green Machine and a few missed opportunities made the score -line rather flattering in favour of van Gerwen.
The 48-year old Dutchman will face Cody Harris in the first-round on Thursday and should he progress, he will face either van Gerwen or Paul Nicholson in the last eight. In all probability, it will be another all-Dutch clash, although Raymond is more than capable of beating Michael and with the invaluable confidence he gained in Perth, he could be a very dangerous proposition in this week’s event.
Man Under Pressure: Paul Nicholson
There are a few players that could fall into this category. Stephen Bunting will be eager to get a win under his belt, as he was the only seeded player to suffer a 1st round defeat in Perth. He played relatively well against Kyle Anderson, as he did in the Matchplay against Ian White, but he must transform these good performances into victories.
Adrian Lewis will be desperate to make amends for his quarter-final capitulation against Gary Anderson. Jackpot led 6-1 against an out-of-sorts Scot, before some crowd interference and profligate doubling enabled Anderson to win 7 out of 8 legs, to snatch a dramatic 8-7 win.
Simon Whitlock finally ended his run of 1st round TV defeats that had spanned almost 12 months at the Matchplay, but he was beaten 6-3 by van Barneveld in Perth and has another tough assignment against Adrian Lewis in Sydney. With Kyle Anderson absent, Whitlock is Australia’s main hope of success. Will he deliver?
Having said all this, the man under the most intense scrutiny is likely to be Paul Nicholson. The Asset’s form this year has been underwhelming to say the very least and he currently lies outside the World’s top 32 and in genuine danger of not qualifying for another TV major until the World Championship.
By his own admission, Nicholson was on the verge of quitting the sport earlier this year, but he claims he has been reinvigorated by a more settled personal life, as he’s recently moved into a new house in Sussex with his girlfriend.
Now he has to transfer this positive mind-set to the stage. He faces Michael van Gerwen in the first-round, which is hardly ideal when bereft of form and confidence. Nicholson suffered a 6-2 defeat to Peter Wright in Perth, where he posted a paltry 79 average. He may relish the underdog tag against MvG, as there’s absolutely no expectation for him to win, but Nicho needs results, and quickly!
One to Watch: David Platt
David Platt’s performance against Michael van Gerwen last week was very impressive and on that evidence, he could pose a real threat to Stephen Bunting in Sydney on Thursday. MvG produced some incredible darts in the opening stages and was on course for a world record average; he led 4-1 with a 118 average.
Nevertheless, Platt remained completely unfazed and reduced the arrears to 5-4, before MvG closed out victory with a 106 average. Platt averaged 93, but it was the manner of his performance that was most eye-catching.
He was consistent, calm and faultless on the doubles, hitting 4/4 on the outer segments. If he can replicate that consistency on the doubles in Sydney, the Bullet could be gunned down in the opening round once again.
Sydney Darts Masters- First Round Draw
Phil Taylor (1) v Clinton Bridge
Stephen Bunting (8) v David Platt
James Wade (5) v Craig Caldwell
Peter Wright (4) v Loz Ryder
Michael van Gerwen (2) v Paul Nicholson
Raymond van Barneveld (7) v Cody Harris
Adrian Lewis (6) v Simon Whitlock
Gary Anderson (3) v Warren Parry