With the pandemic beginning to subside the PDC are getting back to a full European Tour schedule in 2022 with the first tournament taking place this weekend when the leading lights of the game head to Riesa for the International Darts Open.
Joe Cullen won this tournament the last time it was able to be held two years ago and he is in the field looking to defend the title but there are a number of players who will be looking to open up their European season by landing the first title of the campaign.
2020 – Joe Cullen
2019 – Gerwyn Price
2018 – Gerwyn Price
2017 – Peter Wright
2016 – Mensur Suljovic
2015 – Michael Smith
We might not have had many European Tour events last year but the format for these tournaments remains the same as before, which means that the last 32 of the tournament is played over two sessions of action on Saturday, with the last 16 on Sunday afternoon and the quarter finals on Sunday night. They are all the best-of-11 legs with the semi-finals also on Sunday evening. They are the best-of-13 and then the final in the same session is the best-of-15 legs. The draw has been pre-determined and is played in a straight knockout format.
As the defending champion Joe Cullen is the number one seed and the head man in the top half of the draw this weekend. Cullen is the man of the moment and will fancy his chances of going deep here. There are seven seeds in this half of the draw who will be out to deny him that run. They are Michael van Gerwen, the world champion Gerwyn Price, James Wade, Devon Petersen, Damon Heta, Danny Noppert and the returning to action Nathan Aspinall.
Kim Huybrechts and Daryl Gurney are the standout names of those who had to qualify for this main draw. They should probably both be seeded so could be dangers this week. The other players have all won a match on the stage to get into the Saturday leg of the event. They include Madars Razma, Jeff Smith, Vincent van der Voort, Keane Barry, Ritchie Edhouse and a Mervyn King who also has a claim for being a seed here.
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Jose de Sousa was one of the main men on the last European Tour and as a result he is the second seed this weekend which means he is the top draw in the bottom half of the bracket. The world champion Peter Wright is the other main seed in this part of the draw while Jonny Clayton is another player who could easily be lifting the trophy on Sunday evening. World finalist Michael Smith is another who will fancy his chances of going all the way. Mensur Suljovic, Krzysztof Ratajski, Brendan Dolan and Dirk van Duijvenbode are the other seeded players.
Dimitri Van den Bergh is a huge name in this part of the draw and he isn’t seeded so he is going to be a nightmare draw for the seeds this week. The other players in the draw are the former BDO ace Brian Raman, Krzysztof Kcuik, Lewy Williams, Luke Woodhouse, Simon Whitlock and the German pairing of Niko Springer and Nico Kurz, the latter of whom could be a serious player on the European Tour circuit this season.
Usually I like to look for some real value in a draw I expect to open up in these European Tour events but we might be a little early in the campaign for that to happen so I’m only going to go with the one bet and it comes from fairly high up in the market. I don’t usually back defending champions in tournaments because titles rarely get defended but the fact that Joe Cullen won this two years ago might lessen the intensity around him defending the title and if it does he has a great draw to go deep.
He will meet Madars Razma in the opening round on Saturday and if he comes through that his seeded path to the semi-final will be a Nathan Aspinall who hasn’t played much this year due to injury and then either James Wade or Devon Petersen. Cullen is a favourite in both of those matches and while he might come up against Gerwyn Price or Michael van Gerwen in a semi-final, he has competed with both in the Premier League this term and wouldn’t be without a chance in a possible match against either. 10/1 is getting on the tighter side of a price I’ll take Cullen at but with this draw he looks a great bet at the price.
Back J.Cullen to win International Darts Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 11.00 with Coral (1/2 1-2)
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