The World Matchplay will be played from July 18-26 behind closed doors in Milton Keynes. That situation lends itself perfectly to a tournament of surprises.
There will be more expectations on players who normally perform at the floor tournaments. Such tournaments – with the exception of managers or players guests – are played without an audience. That situation is comparable to the upcoming edition of the World Matchplay, but with multiple television cameras around the stage.
Which players can make it difficult for the recognised top players? Below are outsiders who have the potential to be a dark horse in Milton Keynes.
The Polish Eagle has quickly emerged as one of the best floor players on the PDC Tour. Krzysztof Ratajski has won seven PDC ranking titles in just three years, including one Euro Tour tournament.
Thanks to these performances, the Pole has now worked his way up to 13th position on the PDC Order of Merit. However, Ratajski has not performed well on television yet, although he did win the BDO World Masters in 2017. Perhaps the subdued conditions work to his advantage.
In any case, the Warsaw citizen has nothing to complain about in regards to his draw. He meets Jermaine Wattimena in the first round and he’ll a big favourite, having won his last six meetings against the Dutchman.
Looking further into the tournament schedule, it does not look bad for Ratajski. Possible opponents in the second round are Rob Cross and Gabriel Clemens. Michael Smith, Jonny Clayton, Mensur Suljovic and Jamie Hughes are the other players in that quarter of the draw.
Given the possibilities in the above quarter, the second dark horse also comes from this part of the draw: Jonny Clayton. The Ferret often plays very well on the floor tournaments, but also has enjoyed his highlights in televised tournaments.
Clayton has beaten Michael van Gerwen four times already, including twice on television. Earlier this year at the Masters, the Welshman was too strong for world number one.
During that tournament, The Ferret managed to reach the last eight of a major for the fifth time in his career. Once Clayton reached the semi-finals and in 2017 he became runner up at the Players Championship Finals. The Welshman opens his tournament against Michael Smith and meets Mensur Suljovic or Jamie Hughes if he wins.
Jose de Sousa
One of the debutants in this year’s World Matchplay is Jose de Sousa. The Portuguese is the big unknown to the general public. The avid followers know him as one of the sensations of 2019. The Special One won two ranking tournaments and reached several finals.
He performed so well that he qualified as number three in the Pro Tour rankings for this major tournament. In the past twelve months, he has earned £40,000 on the Pro Tour tournaments, an unprecedented result for someone who has only owned a PDC Tour Card since 2019.
However, the draw was a bit disappointing for The Special One, who currently resides in Spain, as he was drawn against reigning world champion Peter Wright.
For Danny Noppert it will be his second appearance at the World Matchplay. Last year he lost to Gary Anderson in the first round. This time, another world-class player awaits in the shape of Gerwyn Price.
It will be their third meeting on television. In their previous meetings the victory went to The Iceman on both occasions. At the 2018 World Grand Prix they met for the first time at a major event. Noppie was outplayed by Price as the Dutchman felt intimidated by the presence of the Welshman.
The chance that something like this will occur again is small. Noppert has taken some steps in his development in recent years and has shown especially in non-televised tournaments that he is a force to be reckoned with.
He had to wait almost 22 years to reach another TV semi-final and he ended that hoodoo at the Players Championship Finals in 2019 after his breakthrough at the News of the World Championship in 1997, where Ian White lost in the final.
Now that he’s broken that duck, White may be able to focus on a first major final in the PDC. A World Matchplay without an audience is perhaps the chance for The Diamond to shine.
The Englishman has been one of the best players on the Pro Tour for years. He has already won twelve PDC ranking titles in his career, including three European Tour events.
White has proved he can win tournaments with a crowd involved, but with TV cameras it has yet to happen. Perhaps the combination of no audience and only TV cameras will be successful for White.Tags: Column, Danny Noppert, Ian White, Jonny Clayton, Jose de Sousa, Krzysztof Ratajski, World Matchplay
Author: Pieter Verbeek