The PDC World Darts Championship continues with another two sessions of play on Wednesday and the first of those comes along in the afternoon with three more games from the opening round as well as one from the second.
The former European champion Ross Smith is the seed on show in this session but we also have a couple of competent first round challengers taking to the stage on what should be a good afternoon of darts.
Radek Szaganski vs Marko Kantele
The opening match of the day sees two European challengers on show looking to set up a second round clash with the legend Raymond van Barneveld in the second round as Radek Szaganski takes on Marko Kantele.
Szaganski is on debut in this tournament but he arrives here having already won a Players Championship event in his fledgling career and in his last 21 matches he has dipped below the 90 average on just three occasions so he comes here in good form but we’ve already seen this week that this stage can catch out the best of them let alone the least experienced. Kantele is nothing special but at least the surroundings won’t be alien to him. He has played here a few times, without much success it has to be said, so he’ll know what he is letting himself in for. Even with that I just don’t see the Finn having the scoring power to trouble the Pole in this one so nerves and the pressure of being the favourite in a game of this magnitude might be all that holds Szaganski back. There is a chance that happens though so at the prices I’m not really interested here.
Steve Lennon vs Owen Bates
The second match of the afternoon could be the closest one of the session as Steve Lennon looks to make it into the second round at the expense of the man who is here off the back of his exploits on the Challenge Tour this year in Owen Bates.
Much has been made of the nickname of the outsider here but he can actually throw a decent dart and certainly knows how to fill up the treble 20 bed. Lennon looked pretty ordinary at the Grand Slam last month and didn’t pull up many more trees at the Players Championship Finals so it is easy to see why people think there could be an upset here. The one thing Lennon does have going for him is he has played on this stage a number of times and knows what it is all about. This is the first time Bates will have played a professional match on TV let alone this stage but he has a two-year tour card secure from next season so anything he achieves here will be a bonus. Lennon could be playing for his professional status here so the pressure is on him. I wanted to take the 180s here but the scoring power of Bates hasn’t gone unnoticed and he is a bit short to back to win now so I’ll leave this one alone.
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William O’Connor vs Bhav Patel
The last of the first round matches on Wednesday afternoon sees the Irish star William O’Connor looking to set up a tie with Chris Dobey on Friday evening when he takes on the Indian replacement qualifier Bhav Patel.
Patel actually lost to Prakash Jiwa in the Indian qualifier back in October but the latter has since been suspended for alleged match-fixing on the Modus scene and so Patel has got the nod to make his debut in the tournament. The immediate concern is that his averages in the Indian qualifier were 60.64, 81.26, 69.76, 77.47 and 71.50. He isn’t winning anything with those sorts of numbers but again that has been reflected in the odds where O’Connor is the shortest priced favourite of the tournament so far. We have seen some Asian players really stand out this week but Patel is unlikely to be one of them. O’Connor should dominate this but every market dictates that.
Ross Smith vs Niels Zonneveld
The second round match in the afternoon will see one of the dark horses for a deep run in the tournament in Ross Smith going up against a Niels Zonneveld who knows he has to keep winning if he is going to avoid Q-School next year.
To his credit, Zonneveld had those pressures on him in the first round and although his performance was nothing to write home about, he did win and he has given himself the chance to improve. He will have to improve because Smith is one of the hottest players in the game right now but the Dutchman has the chance to do it. I still think this is all about Smith though. We know he is going to score well, he is one of the best scorers on the circuit at the minute, so if he finishes well it is hard to see him losing here unless Zonneveld puts maybe 12-15 points on his average from the first round and shows a much better clinical edge. His problem is that he has played Smith twice, lost both matches and has won three of the 15 legs they have played. I expect Smith to win and win well but the odds are reflective of that but you can get even money on Smith to hit more than 5.5 180s which is two per set if it ends 3-0 and if there’s a fourth or fifth set you would think this has to land. Smith has hit seven and 10 180s in this round in the last two years and recently in a four-set match at the World Grand Prix against Joe Cullen he slammed in nine 180s in a double start match which he lost 3-1. We’ve seen plenty of 180s so far in this tournament and Smith can add another half a dozen to the set.
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