The biggest PDC World Championship there has ever been gets going inside the Alexandra Palace on Thursday evening as one of the most eagerly anticipated tournaments of recent times starts out at the London venue.
We have four matches on the card on Thursday with a mixture of first and second round action which will include the start of Rob Cross’title defence. BDO Women’s World Championship winner Lisa Ashton also takes to the stage.
Jeffrey de Zwaan vs Nitin Kumar
The opening match of the tournament sees the World Matchplay semi-finalist Jeffrey de Zwaan taking on the Indian qualifier Nitin Kumar for the right to come back later in the evening to face the defending champion Rob Cross.
De Zwaan makes his first appearance in this tournament since 2016 but the landscape has changed for him now. He arrives at Ally Pally as a dark horse, and maybe even more than that, after a wonderful year on the circuit. We’ve seen Kumar on our screens before in the World Cup a few years ago but not recently.
Common logic and indeed the odds suggest that this will be a pretty routine exercise for de Zwaan and I don’t see any reason why that won’t be the case but it is the first round of the tournament so there is no need to go chasing bets at this stage.
Martin Schindler vs Cody Harris
The second match of the evening sees the German star Martin Schindler taking on New Zealand’s main man Cody Harris for the right to face Jamie Lewis in the second round of the event on Friday afternoon.
Both these men tasted the World Championship last year and lost in the first round so the incentive of a first ever win in this tournament is there for both men. With Lewis not having had the best of campaigns there is a chance of a mini run for whoever comes through here which might add to the tension and the pressure.
I fancy there will be some good darts in this one and plenty of action in it but at this stage nothing really leaps out at me in terms of wanting to back anything so I’ll sit the second match of the night out.
Jan Dekker vs Lisa Ashton
The two most interesting matches of the night come at the end of it and they begin with the clash between Jan Dekker and Lisa Ashton in which all the pressure is on the Dutch ace. Mervyn King awaits the winner later in the week.
Dekker made it to the last 32 here last year and had a good time of it at Lakeside in his BDO days where he made the semi-finals so he should be feeling fairly good about things heading into this competition. He still won’t have wanted to draw Ashton in the first round though as he can’t really win. He either wins when he is expected to or he doesn’t and that would be a worse loss than normal.
Ashton obviously makes her debut in this tournament but she couldn’t have asked for a better first round game in many ways. I say that because Dekker is not the heaviest scorer in the world so Ashton may not lose much ground in the scoring department so if she can hit some doubles she can put some right pressure on Dekker here. I think it is asking a lot for Ashton to beat Dekker over the best of five sets but there’s no reason why she can’twin a set or two in defeat.
Rob Cross vs J.de Zwaan/N.Kumar
The final match of the evening sees the defending champion Rob Cross begin his title defence when he takes on the winner of the Jeffrey de Zwaan or Nitin Kumar match from earlier in the night. I think all things being equal that will be the Dutchman.
This is an absolutely horrible draw for Cross. To be fair it would have been a nasty one had Cross been buzzing or not opening his title defence but he is starting his defence and he has been anything but firing on all cylinders this season. There is no doubt that in terms of performances in the major events de Zwaan more than has Cross covered since the World Championship.
I’m taking a bit of a risk that de Zwaan wins this because some firms have priced up Cross against de Zwaan/Kumar and at 5/2 I like de Zwaan here a lot. He comes alive on the big stages, scores heavily, powerfully and emphatically and doesn’t miss many doubles. He’s everything that Cross didn’t want and chuck into the mix he’ll already have been on the stage earlier in the night and there is a lot to like about the Dutchman. If it doesn’t happen to be him we’ve probably done our dough but I’m prepared to take that risk.
WON – Back J.Dekker to beat L.Ashton and both players to win a set for a 3/10 stake at 2.10 with Betfred
Back it here:
Back J.de Zwaan/N.Kumar to beat R.Cross for a 3/10 stake at 3.50 with SkyBet