Three former winners top the bill on the opening night at the World Matchplay, as the famous tournament begins life away from the Winter Gardens in Blackpool for the very first time.
The 2020 edition of the competition will take place behind-closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, and while no fans are allowed in, all of the world’s top players will be present.
Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson and James Wade are among the star turns on Saturday evening, and we’ve previewed all of the action from the opening session below.
Simon Whitlock (5/6) v (Evens) Ryan Joyce, 18:15
Status alone would suggest Simon Whitlock should walk this contest. The Aussie is a former world championship finalist and has reached the semi-final stage twice at the Matchplay.
But status doesn’t win you darts matches, and Ryan Joyce is a player to be feared. Relentless beat the Wizard 3-0 at Alexandra Palace in 2018 and also claimed his first PDC title in the Summer Series last week.
He produced a magnificent comeback to see off Dave Chisnall in the final at this venue, and if he can put it all together over the longer format, then he could cause Whitlock some problems.
We have Joyce down at even-money to make it through to the second round, while two impressive finishers could also serve up a highest checkout of Over 127.5 at 5/6.
Krzysztof Ratajski (2/5) v (19/10) Jermaine Wattimena, 19:15
Some of Krzysztof Ratajski’s best work has come on the PDC’s floor tournaments, so the Matchplay being held behind closed-doors could work in the Polish Eagle’s favour.
The 43-year-old has established himself as one of the world’s best in the last few years and can count on some serious power scoring to go along with his deadly finishing.
Wattimena has the game to challenge Ratajski, but the Dutchman often blows too hot and cold and may find this just a little too tough.
Ratajski is the odds-on favourite to go through, and with neither of these players shy of finding the maximum, we’re going 8/13 about Over 5.5 180s.
James Wade (1/3) v (23/10) Keegan Brown, 20:15
The Machine was in good working order last weekend as he demolished Rob Cross 8-2 to land a Summer Series event in Milton Keynes.
That’ll stand Wade in good stead for this, where he should be able to make it five wins on the bounce against Keegan Brown in one of his favourite tournaments.
His opponent is another who blows hot and cold, and while scoring is unlikely to be a problem for The Needle, it’s the doubles that may prove his undoing.
Wade, by contrast, is clinical on the outer ring, especially when it comes to tops and 10s, and we have him down at 3/4 to win with a -2.5 Leg Handicap.
Michael van Gerwen (1/11) v Brendan Dolan (13/2), 21:15
Brendan Dolan has shocked Michael van Gerwen before, but never over a format of this length. It should come as no surprise then that the Irishman is 13/2 to upset the applecart and turnover the 1/11 favourite.
The History Maker may not be capable of sustaining a challenge deep into the contest, but he does have the ability to catch MVG cold at the start and nick a few legs.
After that, it should probably be a case of how many the Dutchman wins by. He’s 13/10 on the -5.5 Leg Handicap and 8/11 to triumph as King of the Oche.
Gary Anderson (2/9) v (10/3) Justin Pipe, 22:15
The PDC have saved the best until last on the opening day as Gary Anderson takes on Justin Pipe. These two may be unevenly matched in terms of quality, but it’s their contrasting styles of play which make this interesting.
Anderson is a naturally fast thrower and often gets perturbed by slower players. That should bode well for those looking for drama as Pipe is one of the slowest players on the circuit.
While the Flying Scotsman has all the talent in the world to suggest he should prevail, there’s every chance The Force’s slower gameplay could cause Anderson some problems.
The two-time world champion shouldn’t have much trouble hitting the most 180s at 8/15, but if he gets drawn into the long game by Pipe, we could see Over 16.5 Legs at 6/5.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication