Blackpool is often (wrongly) called the Las Vegas of England. Like gamblers to a slot machine, a number of players need a slice of luck heading into the 2013 World Matchplay darts Championship at Winter Gardens.
As the competition gathers pace, it's time to boldly predict the final day of Round 1 fixtures that could shape the tournament. Pour your pint and get ready to shout; here are four predictions to get you ready for the matches on July 22.
Robert Thornton vs. Ian White
One step forward, one step back. Despite his best efforts, Thornton has suffered with terribly inconsistent form throughout 2013. The man from Scotland—who ended Michael van Gerwen’s 29-game unbeaten streak in March—has shown the capacity to crumble in front of a live crowd.
His first win over Raymond van Barneveld was followed by a 10-9 quarterfinals loss to Ronny Huybrechts in the 2013 European Championship. This change in fortune should concern fans of The Thorn heading into the Round 1 encounter with a steadily improving Ian White.
Diamond sits at No. 30 on the PDC Order of Merit. His impressive 2012 run saw him defeat the likes of Andy Hamilton, Van Barneveld and Terry Jenkins. Most importantly, he beat Thornton in the quarterfinal of the German Darts Masters with a deciding-leg victory over the favourite.
White has eased into challenging the top competitors, and with little pressure on his back, he will rack up another victory over a player who continues to stumble. This time, the score won’t be so close.
Prediction: Thornton 6-10 White
Wes Newton vs. Jamie Caven
This will be an extremely tight match, no matter what. Newton should be considered an outside threat to Phil Taylor’s title and has maintained consistent form this year. His battling wins against Van Gerwen and Simon Whitlock underline a player who isn’t just supremely skilled, but can function under intense pressure and expectation.
Even so, Jamie Caven has the ability to halt Newton’s quest for glory. The 37-year-old—who has no sight in his right eye—continues to progress up the PDC Order of Merit. He sits in a healthy 24th place; the perfect upset position. Such a ranking ensures the pressure is off and Caven can focus on the form that saw him recently beat Jelle Klaasen with a stunning average of 110.68.
Caven can rediscover this form, make no mistake about it.
Prediction: Newton 7-10 Caven
Adrian Lewis vs. Ronny Huybrechts
Lewis can steamroller opponents in cruise control. The problem is, 2013 has seen Jackpot play within his abilities. He has become too comfortable. He lost the opening four matches of his Premier League season and barely escaped relegation in Round 9, picking up just four wins from 16 matches in total.
He will be nervous of embarrassingly losing to Huybrechts. The Belgian has beaten players including Peter Wright, Dave Chisnall and Stuart Kellett in his 2013 run to fame. With Lewis continuing to stagnate, now is the perfect time for The Rebel to take another step into the limelight.
Prediction: Lewis 8-10 Huybrechts
Andy Hamilton vs. Ronnie Baxter
Perhaps the most anticipated tie of Round 1's final day sees Hamilton face Baxter in a contest that promises extreme quality. Hamilton has continued to play well but hasn't picked up a major prize in quite some time. His 6-1 Players Championship final loss to Van Gerwen ensured The Hammer hasn't won a ranking competition since 2007.
He needs to end this run. Ronnie Baxter provides the perfect starting block for a run at Taylor's title. Although he consistently appears in UK Open Qualifiers with decent performances, Baxter continues to suffer in the latter stages of tournaments. His recent 9-8 UK Open quarterfinal loss to Van Barneveld highlights a player who still struggles to capitalise during important throws.
Hamilton's class will shine, making quick work of the outside challenger.
Prediction: Hamilton 10-3 Baxter
Will Hamilton capture a much-needed victory? Can White beat Thornton once again? Don't bet against it.