For darts fans, there are two truly great events in the PDC calendar. There’s the World Championship, and then there’s the World Matchplay.

The Matchplay started in 1994 and was won by an American, Larry Butler. Since then it has been won by five Englishman, one Dutchman and a Scot. From 20-28 July 2019, 32 players meet in Blackpool to decide the 26th edition of one of the most popular events in the sport.

Every player taking part is in with a shout. But who will be holding the famous trophy come the end of the tournament?

Gary Anderson is the defending champion at the World Matchplay this year

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

The big names

The World Matchplay draw splits the 32 competitors into two groups. The ‘seeded’ players are the top 16 in the PDC’s Order of Merit and are, according to the rankings, the best players in the world at the time. They’re joined by 16 ‘unseeded’ players, who qualified on account of strong performances on the PDC Pro Tour.

Among the seeds are the world number one and the world champion, Michael van Gerwen, and defending World Matchplay champion Gary Anderson. Another former Blackpool winner, James Wade, is in the field.

Even the supposedly weaker unseeded players count three-time world champion Glen Durrant among their ranks. Exciting talents such as ‘Rapid’ Ricky Evans and Jeffrey de Zwaan – who knocked van Gerwen out of the 2018 World Matchplay – are in the draw.

Arguably the biggest name of them all is the one which adorns the trophy. Phil Taylor won the World Matchplay an incredible 16 times, with his last victory coming in 2017. Whoever wins the tournament will take home what is now known as the Phil Taylor Trophy.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Perfect darts

With the best in the business all meeting in one place, world class darts is a certainty. It’s no surprise, then, that the World Matchplay has seen its share of perfection.

A nine-dart leg is the perfect game, and is the gold standard for any professional darts player. 30 of them have been struck by PDC players in the first half of 2019 alone.

Seven nine-darters have been accomplished in the World Matchplay, a tally bettered only by the PDC World Championship and the Premier League Darts.

Phil Taylor threw the first in 2002, against Chris Mason, and did it again 12 years later versus Michael Smith. Raymond van Barneveld, John Part, Michael van Gerwen and Wes Newton are also part of Blackpool’s nine-dart club.

Gary Anderson threw the perfect leg against Joe Cullen in 2018, en route to the title. Because they’re so difficult to achieve, the odds are high on any player managing a nine-dart leg. But the World Matchplay has proved itself a bountiful supplier of them.

The atmosphere

There aren’t many sporting venues more impressive than Blackpool’s opulent Winter Gardens. One of the top entertainment venues in the UK, the Winter Gardens will be filled to capacity in July as the stars of darts collide.

Darts has become renowned for the unique experience it provides; punters flock to arenas to share in the drink, the chants, and the top quality sport on show. Even the millions of TV viewers around the world will be able to feel the electric atmosphere from the Winter Gardens.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Winning big

Thanks to an increase in prize money for this year’s World Matchplay, even the first round losers will take home £10,000. The runner-up claims £70,000, and a whopping £150,000 goes to the champion. All in all, the prize fund is now £700,000, up from £500,000 in 2018.

It’s not just the players who will reap the rewards either. Betting on the darts has never been easier, and there will be plenty of Matchplay markets to choose from. Picking winners is one route; more adventurous souls may bet on total 180s, or an accumulator. There are plenty of sports betting sites ready to offer the latest odds, right up until a winner is crowned.

Those who fancy a shock may like the look of Jamie Hughes, who is 16/11 to beat Michael Smith in round one. Two debutants, Durrant and Krzysztof Ratajski, are at 4/6 and 1/2 to beat Adrian Lewis and Darren Webster respectively. Facing the longest odds is Steve Beaton. The Bronzed Adonis is being offered at 7/1 to send van Gerwen out at the first hurdle for a second successive year.

Could it happen? Anything’s possible at the World Matchplay.

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Author: Pieter