Michael van Gerwen headed the list of big-name exits on Monday night to leave Gerwyn Price the clear favourite to successfully defend his World Grand Prix title in Leicester.
Night of Shocks in Leicester
Price didn’t have to chuck a dart on Monday night and still saw his World Grand Prix title odds slashed to 9/4 after a trio of the biggest names in the sport went crashing out.
Sixth seed Gary Anderson was the first to go, pipped in a sudden-death leg by Ian White. Soon after, fellow Scot Peter Wright exited stage left, whitewashed by a resurgent Rob Cross.
But the biggest upset was yet to come when Danny Noppert defied a near nine-darter from Michael van Gerwen – the five-time champ missing the bull for what would have been just the fourth nine-dart leg in the tournament’s history – to see off the Green Machine, again by a 2-0 scoreline.
Bottoms Up For De Sousa
The biggest beneficiary of the carnage in the bottom half of the draw on Monday night was Jose de Sousa, the last seed standing in that section and into 11/2 to go on to add Grand Prix glory to the Grand Slam he won last November.
Standing in his way, however, in the tie of the second round on Wednesday night is Jonny Clayton. It’s a repeat of the Premier League final – which Clayton won – and brings together two players who have made astonishing strides over the last 18 months or so.
Understandably it’s a seriously tough one to call with De Sousa a 10/11 shot, Clayton available at 20/21.
Deadly Darius Can Take Care of White
With top-16 stars De Sousa and Clayton up against each other and Van Gerwen, Wright and Anderson eliminated, it means there are going to be one or two unusual names making up the quarter-finals of this event, where players have to double-in as well as double-out.
One of those names could well be Darius Labanauskas, a player who went into the tournament massively under the radar and, as a 40/1 shot in such a wide-open contest, is still largely out of sight.
But the Lithuanian held his nerve supremely well to beat Brendan Dolan 2-1 in his opener. It took him six darts simply to get started in the first leg against Dolan, which could have broken a lesser man. In set three, however, he didn’t miss a single double in.
That’s a man who has bottle and he can use that strength to take care of Ian White, who was pretty much handed a place in round two by Anderson’s frailty on the outer ring.
Bunting Hunting Down Last Eight Place
Price has the top half at his mercy given the form he’s in, and he should be too strong for Mervyn King (though is no one’s idea of a bet at 1/5) which would see him into the quarter-finals and, according to the seedings, a showdown with Dave Chisnall.
However, Chizzy, like Anderson, can show weakness on his doubles and is no good thing to take care of 7/5 poke Ross Smith. The other outsider who barely deserves underdog status is Stephen Bunting, who averaged 99 and a bit in a round-one demolition of Daryl Gurney, incredible numbers when you consider players are missing darts at both ends of the leg in this unique format.
His next assignment is against Double King, James Wade, twice a winner of this event, but Bunting’s game suggests the 27/20 shot can bring the left-hander down.
*All odds correct at time of writing.