26 Nov, 2020
Events

Seven Target players head to Coventry this weekend for the penultimate event before the World Championship, the Players Championship Finals.

The event is the culmination of the Players Championship series of events held throughout the year, which would have consisted of 30 tournaments but was reduced to 23 because of the Covid crisis.

The seeding for the event is based on the players' success over the course of 2020, with Nathan Aspinall heading to the Ricoh Arena as the fourth seed and Target's top performer.

NATHAN ASPINALL

Seed: 4

2020 Players Championship highlights: 2 x titles

Opening game: v Scott Waites

Victories in February and March on the Players Championship circuit helped cement Nathan as one of the very elite in the sport. While he may not have hit quite those heights in the latter end of the season, "The Asp" did reach the Premier League final and was desperately unlucky not to progress beyond the quarters of the Grand Slam last week. However, becoming the first player to beat Gerwyn Price for two years at the Slam (in the same venue as this weekend's event), should underline his title credentials.

An opening game against a multiple world champion Scott Waites looks potentially tricky, as do potential meetings with Krzysztof Ratajski, Damon Heta and Target teammate Stephen Bunting in the same quarter of the draw - but Aspinall is the one they will all be looking at with trepidation.

Glen Durrant

Seed: 14

2020 Players Championship highlights: 5 x quarter-finals

Opening game: v Wayne Jones

The Premier League champion is yet to win a televised match since his first major title in the PDC, and his recent displays are way off the usual level of a solidly consistent performer. The back end of this year has been completely derailed by catching Covid, and the question is whether "Duzza" is sufficiently recovered to get back to his normal self.

If Glen arrives in Coventry feeling fit and ready, it is almost guaranteed that it will take something world class to stop him - and even a potential third round meeting with Michael van Gerwen will hold no fear for him (he has a winning record against MvG). However, as shown by his group stage exit at last week's Grand Slam of Darts, if he is not at his brilliant best, then dreams of a second major title might have to be put on hold for a while.

Stephen Bunting

Seed: 20

2020 Players Championship highlights: two semi-finals

Opening game: v Ryan Murray

It has been something of a binary year for "The Bullet" in the Players Championship events - he either goes out in round one or two, or goes very deep. The fact that he is seeded number 20 shows that he has had enough good days to merit serious consideration for a run this weekend.

The last two years have seen Bunting reach the quarter-finals, and last year's run included brilliant victories over Van den Bergh and De Sousa (now the Matchplay and Grand Slam champions).

With the tournament not being at Minehead this year, it might not feel exactly like his previous runs - but after a Covid diagnosis ruled him out of the Grand Prix, and he failed to make the Grand Slam, he will be desperate to make up for lost opportunities.

Rob Cross

Seed: 23

2020 Players Championship highlights: 1 x final

Opening game: v Jason Lowe

The Grand Slam campaign may have ended in a deciding leg defeat to Michael Smith in the last 16 for "Voltage", but there were encouraging signs. There have been these signs throughout the year, as the former world champion looks to work his way back to top form, but they have been fleeting.

His run to the final of Players Championship 12 saw him hit a nine darter along the way, but then his form regressed. The watchword for Cross is consistency. His top level is enough to win any major title, and he has already won three in a very short career in the PDC, but now that he no longer holds any of those titles, he needs to respond.

Jason Lowe is a solid and underrated opponent, who will provide a stern test for Cross in his opening game. His route to the semi-finals could see him face Joe Cullen, Ian White and then Gerwyn Price. If he beats all of them in consecutive games, it would be the biggest sign yet that "Voltage" truly is back.

Gabriel Clemens

Seed: 26

2020 Players Championship highlights: 2 x semi-finals

Opening game: v Martijn Kleermaker

"The German Giant" produced some astonishing darts at the Winter Series, but then suffered an agonising group stage exit at the Grand Slam when he only needed three legs against Adam Hunt to progress.

Much like Stephen Bunting, when Gabriel gets things right he goes deep in tournaments. His two semi-finals have been supplemented by three more quarter-finals, and yet that first ranking title in the PDC remains elusive.

In a year which has seen a number of new major winners, it would not be beyond the realms of fantasy to see Gabriel become another. However, he has been placed in the same very difficult section of the draw as Rob Cross. The clash with Kleermaker is one of the most exciting first round ties on paper, and the former locksmith will have to be at his best from the very start if he is to go beyond the last 16 of the first time in this event.

Ricky Evans

Seed: 31

2020 Players Championship highlights: 5 x last 16

Opening game: v Jamie Hughes

Another member of Team Target who finds himself in the third quarter of the draw, along with Clemens and Cross, "Rapid" Ricky should come into this year's tournament with some confidence.

He did not make it out of his group at the Grand Slam, but only because Dimitri Van den Bergh and Nathan Aspinall both produced world class displays against him. Evans actually performed well enough, and looked somewhere close to his thrilling best in his defeat to "The Asp".

The fastest thrower in the world remains something of an enigma, capable of averaging 110 in one game but then below 90 the next. What he needs is a bit of luck to go his way and for the big performances to turn up when he needs them. Ricky may need one first up against Jamie Hughes, but he will almost certainly need one in round two - where potentially having to beat world number three Gerwyn Price over 19 legs could be a daunting task.

Adrian Lewis

Seed: 32

2020 Players Championship highlights: 2 x semi-finals

Opening game: v Simon Whitlock

Heading to Coventry as the 32nd seed is creditable in one way for "Jackpot", meaning that he would have qualified for the tournament even back in the days when the field was only half the size it is now. It is also noteworthy as Lewis has not competed in all of the Players Championship events this year. However, being in that number 32 spots brings its own dangers - namely, a possible meeting with the top seed in round two.

Adrian cannot afford to look towards a clash with world champion Peter Wright though, as his round one draw is tough enough. Simon Whitlock looks rejuvenated, wirth the Australian producing great runs at the Grand Prix and Grand Slam. Lewis was superb during the Winter Series though, and if he returns to the Ricoh Arena in that kind of form, even Whitlock, Wright and the other 61 players will struggle to stop him. "Jackpot" has made the final of this tournament twice before, but with a minefield of a quarter to negotiate, reaching the final a third time might rank as his best yet.

Event photos © Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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