Sunday at the PDC World Matchplay provided plenty of highlights.
There was a stunning sudden death win for James Wade, and Max Hopp pipping Dave Chisnall to the post in a marathon. Ian White scored a rare whitewash. Krzysztof Ratajski and Glen Durrant won on their World Matchplay debuts. Mensur Suljovic and Jermaine Wattimena had a serious case of handbags. Plus this previewer got a (deserved) telling-off from Joe Cullen for a statistical cock-up. Monday has a lot to live up to.
The first round winds to a close with four more hotly anticipated ties. Considering that every seed below tenth has been dumped out thus far, Jonny Clayton and Simon Whitlock might have reasons to be fearful.
Seeds at risk
Keegan Brown will set out to claim yet another big scalp. A year ago, he came to the World Matchplay and averaged just 76. This time around, the Isle of Wight ace is in better form. In his last major outings, he matched his best World Championship run and posted his best at the UK Open. He’s also beaten Michael van Gerwen on stage – twice.
The former world youth champion will be hoping to put some pressure on Clayton. The Welshman hasn’t recently shown the same form that made him one of the standout players in the second half of 2018. Even in spite of that, the Ferret has a Players Championship title under his belt this year. Winning even while he’s not at his peak is a good sign.
Whitlock is another player who hasn’t been in inspired form this year. Since being snubbed for Premier League Darts selection, the Australian has made a final, semi-final and quarter-final on the European Tour while only showing his best darts in fits and starts.
He’s been landed with a tough first round tie in Blackpool. John Henderson hasn’t won a World Matchplay tie since his debut eight years ago, but was agonisingly close to defeating Kim Huybrechts in the first round last year. There’s not much between Henderson and Whitlock – perhaps the Scot will be dragged into another sudden death decider.
Wright starts the party
The third tie of the evening involves the final of our seven World Matchplay debutants. Ratajski and Durrant marked their first Winter Gardens appearance in style; Messrs Hughes, Aspinall, Noppert and Dobey couldn’t quite match them. Now Ricky Evans is the last one with a chance to make a great first impression.
To avoid a ‘Rapid’ exit, Evans will have to shock the third seed. No number three has lost in the opening round since 2007, which bodes well for Daryl Gurney. The reigning Players Championship Finals champion will be confident of beating the man he saw off in the German Darts Championship final back in March.
If one hundred darts fans had been asked one month ago who they’d back to win the World Matchplay, perhaps a handful would’ve pointed to Peter Wright. Since then, Snakebite has won three titles – all within the space of a few days. What’s more, he has settled with one set of darts and feels more confident than ever. Given than Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson weren’t hugely inspiring in their first round wins, doubts over Wright’s ability to win the title are dissipating.
Those doubts will materialise again quickly if Vincent van der Voort has anything to do with it. The world number 36 has lost on each of his last four visits to Blackpool, but the same was true of Stephen Bunting until Saturday night, when he dumped out Gerwyn Price. The winner of this tie meets Henderson or Whitlock in round two.
Since the current format with 16 seeds was introduced, the record number of seeds to fall in round one is nine (in 2010). A repeat would require all four unseeded players to win on Monday night. It seems unlikely – then again, stranger things have happened…
Monday evening schedule
19:10 Jonny Clayton v Keegan Brown
20:10 Simon Whitlock v John Henderson
21:10 Daryl Gurney v Ricky Evans
22:20 Peter Wright v Vincent van der Voort
Tags: Daryl Gurney, John Henderson, Jonny Clayton, Keegan Brown, PDC, PDC World Matchplay 2019, Peter Wright, Ricky Evans, Simon Whitlock, Vincent van der Voort
Author: Ed McCosh