Dan Fitch previews the semi-finals of the Grand Slam of Darts and fancies Simon Whitlock to carry on scoring 180s at a phenomenal rate.
"Whitlock showed nerves of steel to keep pace and then finally overcome Van Gerwen on Sunday, breaking the record for the amount of 180s in a Grand Slam match, as he hit an incredible 20 maximums."
PDC Grand Slam of Darts
Monday 23 November
Live on Sky Sports Arena
If the semi-finals are even half as good as Sunday's quarter-final matches, then we are in for another great night of darting entertainment.
The headline news on the quarter-finals was the elimination of the favourite Michael van Gerwen at the hands of Simon Whitlock, who was not ahead in the game until the final dart which turned the scoreline 16-15 in his favour. With the third favourite Michael Smith also going out, there has been a big shake up in the outright odds to win the competition.
Dimitri van den Bergh is now the favourite at 2.982/1, ahead of Jose De Sousa at 3.711/4, James Wade at 4.216/5 and Whitlock at 5.85/1. None were fancied before the tournament, with De Sousa and Wade being the shortest price at 55.054/1 before a dart was thrown. Van den Bergh was 75.074/1, with Whitlock matched at 100.099/1.
Big scorers can maintain standards
Simon Whitlock 2.35/4 v Jose De Sousa 1.728/11
Start time, 19:15
Both Whitlock and De Sousa won semi-finals in which they were underdogs, with the Portuguese player avenging his group stage defeat to Smith, with a 16-14 victory in the quarter-finals.
De Sousa is the man in the more impressive form. He's won the European Darts Grand Prix this year, hit his first televised nine-darter at the European Championship and reached two of the finals of the recent Winter Series. What's been most impressive is the consistency of his scoring, with De Sousa nearly always seeming to average around the 100 mark, even in defeat.
Whitlock's win against Van Gerwen was the third time this year that he's knocked the world number one out of a major. He showed nerves of steel to keep pace and then finally overcome Van Gerwen on Sunday, breaking the record for the amount of 180s in a Grand Slam match, as he hit an incredible 20 maximums.
This really could go either way, with De Sousa an inexperienced player on the up and Whitlock having rolled back the years with his recent form. It hard to know as to which player will hold it together best, so let's bank on their scoring trends continuing. De Sousa is 1.834/5 to average over 96.5, with Whitlock 2.186/5 to score the most 180s.
Has Wade timed peak just right?
James Wade 2.265/4 v Dimitri van den Bergh 1.768/11
Start time, 20:45
Van den Bergh has been the best player in the tournament so far, but Wade seems to be stepping things up at the right time.
Wade recorded the highest average in the quarter-finals, as he beat Damon Heta 16-13 with a total of 101.66. As close as that match was, with Heta doggedly staying in touch with Wade throughout, it was the biggest margin of victory in any of the quarter-finals and Wade should be relatively fresh for this one.
Van den Bergh let his extremely high standards slip a little in his 16-15 win over Nathan Aspinall. It was the first game in this tournament in which he failed to average over 100, though his effort of 97.80 was hardly poor. His finishing let him down and he will need to improve that aspect against Wade.
Where Van den Bergh has an advantage is when it comes to pressure. He's already won the World Matchplay this year and whatever happens in this tournament, the young Belgian has had a good 2020. Wade has not won a major since 2018 and this tournament represents a route back to relevance.
We've been backing Van den Bergh to hit a high average all week. On this occasion we'll go with Wade to average over 96.5 at 2.01/1, while backing Van den Bergh with -3 in the Most 180s Handicap market, at Evens on the Sportsbook.