World Darts Championship Day Nine preview and predictions: Three of the top eight play their first match
The second round of the World Darts Championship comes to a conclusion on Wednesday as eight matches form the final day of action before the Christmas break.
In the evening, top eight seeds Dave Chisnall, Nathan Aspinall and Michael Smith are all in action against English opposition, while two-time champion Gary Anderson and former World Matchplay runner-up Mensur Suljović take to the stage in the afternoon.
Additionally, Ricky Evans, Stephen Bunting and Jermaine Wattimena get their campaigns underway, all looking to book third round ties against in-form opponents.
Here, Jamie Cameron examines Day Nine’s eight contests and provides his predictions.
RICKY EVANS VS MICKEY MANSELL
Kettering thrower Evans is appearing at Alexandra Palace as the 32nd seed for the second year running, so could face Michael van Gerwen in round three again should he get past the dangerous Mickey Mansell.
‘Rapid’ hasn’t had his best year, failing to make a single quarter-final on the tour, with his best being four runs to the last 16, where he was beaten by top 16 players on all of those occasions.
Northern Irishman Mansell won a World Championship match for the first time earlier in the tournament, seeing off Haupai Puha without dropping a leg.
His best run of 2020 came on the first ProTour weekend of the year, reaching the quarter-finals of Players Championship Two.
Prediction: Evans 3-2 Mansell
GARY ANDERSON VS MADARS RAZMA
This match was moved from Sunday, December 20 after Anderson had to self-isolate. It is believed that he is still struggling with a knee injury, so he’s had a few issues to deal with in the build-up to his 12th PDC World Championship.
Despite reaching the final of the World Matchplay in the summer, ‘The Flying Scotsman’ has found it hard to re-discover his best form this year, and will drop out of the top 16 unless he gets to the quarter-finals at the Palace.
Razma beat Japan’s Toru Suzuki in the opening round, becoming the first Latvian to win a match at the PDC World Championship.
It’s difficult to know which Anderson will turn up, but whoever does come through may fancy their chances of getting through another round with the winner playing Suljović or Matthew Edgar.
Prediction: Anderson 3-1 Razma
STEPHEN BUNTING VS ANDY BOULTON
Former BDO World Champion Bunting takes on the capable Andy Boulton as he looks to reach the last eight at Alexandra Palace for the first time since his debut campaign in 2015.
‘The Bullet’ beat Jose Justicia and Jonny Clayton last year before losing to Van Gerwen, and after a positive test for Covid-19 ruled him out of the World Grand Prix, he reached a quarter-final at the Winter Series.
Boulton saw off Deta Hedman in his first match, and would move into the world’s top 50 with a win over Bunting. The winner plays James Wade in round three.
Prediction: Bunting 3-2 Boulton
MENSUR SULJOVIĆ VS MATTHEW EDGAR
For a player who’s reached the semi-finals of five different ranking majors, some on multiple occasions, Suljović record at the World Championship is not what you might expect.
The Austrian was beaten by Fallon Sherrock in 2019/20, with his best run being three appearances in the last 16. Since the field expanded to 96, he has failed to get past his first match both times.
He is seeded outside the top 16 for the first time in five years, with his most recent TV ranking quarter-final coming at the 2018 Grand Slam of Darts.
Matthew Edgar won a match at the World Championship for the first time to get to this stage, so will be brimming with confidence after also securing his Tour Card.
Prediction: Suljović 3-1 Edgar
DAVE CHISNALL VS KEEGAN BROWN
Despite an inconsistent year for ‘Chizzy’ which never really got going, he enters the tournament seeded eighth and plays Keegan Brown in his opener.
The former Lakeside finalist reached a final at the Summer Series and made the semi-finals of the World Grand Prix, as he looks to embark on a run at the biggest event of them all, where he has appeared in the last eight twice before.
Keegan Brown has also had a stop-start year, partly down to his role in the NHS, but put that to one side with a clinical display against Ryan Meikle in the first round.
‘The Needle’ would move within touching distance of a return to the top 32 should he see off Chisnall.
Prediction: Chisnall 3-1 Brown
JERMAINE WATTIMENA VS NICK KENNY
At one stage, it looked like Wattimena’s 2020 was going to be his worst year for a while and end his steady improvement in the PDC, but a fantastic Winter Series changed all that.
He got to the final on the first day and made another quarter-final which sealed a Grand Slam debut, and although the Dutchman is still waiting for a first PDC title, he will be confident heading into his seventh World Championship.
Welshman Nick Kenny saved his rookie year in the PDC by coming through the PDPA qualifier and beating Derk Telnekes in the first round, so a similar year in 2021 may see him retain his Tour Card.
Prediction: Wattimena 3-1 Kenny
NATHAN ASPINALL VS SCOTT WAITES
Premier League runner-up Aspinall has reached the semi-finals on both of his previous World Championship appearances, but only made one TV ranking quarter-final this season.
He did enjoy a good year on the ProTour, winning two Players Championship events and making two European Tour quarter-finals, and could go up to world number four should he reach a third semi-final in North London.
Scott Waites came through a thrilling encounter with Matt Campbell, taking out three clutch finishes in the deciding set, the last one to complete an 11-darter.
The two-time BDO World Champion has had a satisfactory first year on the PDC circuit, and a win against Aspinall would do wonders for him, with that section of the draw fairly open.
Prediction: Aspinall 2-3 Waites
MICHAEL SMITH VS JASON LOWE
The final match before the Christmas break sees fourth seed Smith begin his campaign against Jason Lowe.
‘Bullyboy’ has arguably been one of the form players of the last couple of months, winning two titles at the Winter Series and reaching the latter stages of the last two TV events.
However, he is defending £200,000 on the rankings after being runner-up in 2018/19. Lowe beat the charismatic Dmitriy Gorbunov in the first round despite not playing his best.
Prediction: Smith 3-1 Lowe
2021 WORLD DARTS CHAMPIONSHIP
Alexandra Palace, London
Wednesday, December 23
Afternoon Session (12pm GMT)
Ricky Evans v Mickey Mansell
Gary Anderson v Madars Razma
Stephen Bunting v Andy Boulton
Mensur Suljović v Matthew Edgar
Evening Session (6pm GMT)
Dave Chisnall v Keegan Brown
Jermaine Wattimena v Nick Kenny
Nathan Aspinall v Scott Waites
Michael Smith v Jason Lowe
Best of five sets – no tiebreaks
(Featured Image: PDC)