As a fan of our ‘Ones to Watch‘ series James Smith got in – touch with his suggestions of the best of 2020, while his ambitions may seem a bit bold, his viewing choice is solid:
As a darts enthusiast, being trapped indoors currently does present one with a great opportunity to work on one’s throw, with the hope of giving Michael van Gerwen a run for his money when we are allowed outside again.
However, there is only so long that you can kid yourself into thinking that you are good enough to become a World Champion. In the meantime, with no new (live) darts being televised, we are left only to look back over what has happened already.
So, to aid this pursuit of entertainment, here is a run down of the six most exciting PDC matches of 2020 so far:
6. Dobey vs Ratajski: UK Open 4th Round.
The early rounds of the UK open of 2020 were graced with some fantastic clashes, especially this contest between top-twenty players Chris Dobey and Krystof Ratajski. Both players are expected to start picking up serious titles this year, and this match showed why.
Both players averaged over 105 across a match that went all the way to the final leg. With Ratajski averaging 56.25% on his doubles, and Dobey 43.48% it is no surprise that this was a close-fought contest.
Ratajski broke throw early in the match to go into a 4 – 2 lead. Dobey responded brilliantly however, breaking throw twice to win four straight legs to go 6 – 4 up. This included a fantastic 121-check on the bullseye in leg nine to break for the second time.
After another break of throw, Ratajski then missed two darts at double sixteen to win 10-8, surprising given then quality of the match. With the pattern of the game continuing however, the Englishman hit the bullseye again, this time for a 92-out, in the final leg of the match, to break Ratajski and go to the next round. Darting drama right from the start.
5. Dave Chisnall vs Daryl Gurney: Masters First Round
Following disappointing World Championship campaigns, both Gurney and Chisnall arrived at the Marshall Arena at the end of January, with a point to prove. However, with the format of the tournament bringing the top sixteen of the PDC Order of Merit, neither player was likely to enjoy an ‘easy’ first round draw.
Both players showed in this first-round clash their undeniable class. Starting well, ‘Chizzy’ raced into a 5 – 2 lead, only for Gurney to bring it back to 5 – 5. The following six legs were then shared to make things 8 – 8, in this first to ten match.
With both players averaging in the low nineties, this wasn’t the highest scoring game ever. But missed doubles throughout the match, including Gurney’s four across the final two legs, meant that this game was full of darting drama from start to finish.
Chizzy emerged a 10 – 8 winner…only to be knocked out in the second round 10 – 0 by title-winner Peter Wright. A great contest as we get stuck into the list:
4. Peter Wright vs Gerwyn Price: PC 5 (Final).
The first of two Players’ Championship events to make this list – the final of PC 5 saw newly-crowned World and Masters Champion Peter Wright, take on Welsh Number One Gerwyn Price.
The final saw the two Major-holders both average over 109 across the fourteen-leg match. This was a fitting end to a day of darts where ninety-one matches saw averages over a hundred – beating the previous world record (set in February 2019) by a staggering twenty-one matches.
Showing the eminent quality of both players, the first thirteen legs of the match went with throw, leaving Wright with a 7-6 lead going into the fourteenth. Then with Price sat on double top, after twelve darts, ‘Snakebite’ hit ‘The Big Fish’ (a 170 Checkout) to seal his first Players Championship title of 2020.
You will struggle to find a final of such consistent quality anywhere else from this season. In fact, Wright’s performance in the final meant that of his seven matches en route to lifting the trophy, he averaged less than one hundred on only one occasion:
3. Nathan Aspinall vs Dirk van Duijvenbode: Belgian Darts Championship Quarter Final
2020 is the first year that the PDC European Tour hosted an event in Belgium. The inaugural venue was the Expo Hasselt, in Hasselt, where forty-eight competitors took to the stage.
The final was won by Gerwyn Price, in an 8-3 victory over Michael Smith. Arguably, however, the game of the tournament came in the Quarter Final between Nathan Aspinall and Dirk van Duijvenbode.
With both players reaching averages of over 102, this match was full of quality, with the Dutchman edging his English opponent 6-5, as the match went right to the final leg. Having hit the twenty-five for a 170-Check, Van Duijvenbode was let off the hook as Aspinall failed to get a dart at a double from ninety-five. The Dutchman cleaned up on double eight to proceed to the semi-fianls.
Despite losing 7-4 to price in the semi’s, he must have been over the moon for his performance that weekend. As well as this being the Dutchman’s first final’s day at a PDC European Tour event, the financial implications are also clear. Van Duijvenbode last season earned £14,500 – after reaching the semi-finals in Belgium, he has already supposed that in 2020.
This is the perfect chance to watch one of the new greats of the game in Aspinall, coming up against a young player of whom much is expected in the years to come:
2. Nathan Aspinall vs Gary Anderson: P.L. (6)
Having not played a Premier League match in almost two years due to injury, Gary Anderson returned to the Thursday-Night tournament continuing to reach his former best. His match against Nathan Aspinall in Liverpool showed that he still has a lot left in the tank.
Gary averaged 94.27 across the match, and flew into a 5-1 lead straight away after Aspinall missed six darts at a double in the first leg. The man from Stockport rallied however, hitting eight maximums to bring the match back level at 5-5.
Aspinall then responded to the Scot’s ninety-five finish to win the final leg to claim a 6-6 draw with an average pushing 108. With both players coming off stage pleased with coming away with a point it isn’t hard to imagine how much quality the two of them were producing:
1. Michael Van Gerwen vs Gerwyn Price: Players’ Championship Six Final
The second match in the list from the Players Championship events from Wigan this year – the final of PC Six saw the MvG lose to the ‘Iceman’ 8-7 in the most thrilling contest of the year.
With over 1,112 180’s thrown over the two days, as well as two nine-dart legs (from MvG and Steve Lennon) the Sunday final had a lot to live up to. It did not disappoint.
Price raced into a 4 – 1 lead, continuing to show the class that has brought him up to number three in the PDC Order of Merit. MvG managed to bring the tie back to 5 – 4, only for the Welshman to win to extend his lead to 7 – 4. As Price struggled to close the game, MvG won legs in eleven, fifteen, and eleven darts again to send the match to a deciding leg for what would have been his first title in 2020.
Price however, took the £10,000 cheque by hitting the bulls eye to complete a 94-checkout with the big Dutchman sat on double eighteen.
Price continues to ooze confidence and class – stating after his victory “I truly believe now that if I hit my double I will win matches against Michael, Peter [Wright] or whoever; my scoring game is up there, if not better than them.”
So there are James’s picks for the best viewing of 2020, so far!
Many thanks to James for his contribution. Perhaps you have a different pick of the 2020 crop? Maybe you have a ‘Six of the Best’ or ‘Ones to Watch’ of your own to offer to those currently stuck within four walls?
Get in touch with your suggestions: firstname.lastname@example.org or @Darts_World