Ladies and gentlemen of the PDC World Matchplay – the King is in the building.

That’s right, folks. Mervyn King is doing a madness. Nathan Aspinall fell victim in the first match of the 2019 World Matchplay – and fellow seed Gerwyn Price followed suit. Defending champion Gary Anderson and PDC world number two Rob Cross didn’t have the same issues. Onto day two, then.

Tables turned

The unseeded players are meant to be underdogs – so why is Krzysztof Ratajski such a huge favourite against Darren Webster? For one, Ratajski is a class act. The Pole has won on the floor this year and is aiming to win the World Matchplay. There’s a question mark over his major record – besides his World Masters success, he hasn’t got past the last 16 of a PDC or BDO major. The Polish Eagle is much too good for that record to last.

Another element is that Webster is struggling. A big part of that is his injury issues; Webster believes he’s on his way back from them. The World Matchplay might come a little too early for the Demolition Man, but there seems to be some collective amnesia about the Norfolk thrower’s quality. This match is absolutely not a foregone conclusion.

What does Dave Chisnall need to do to win a major? It feels like the answer lies on the outer ring of the dartboard. Chizzy smashes in trebles for fun but missed doubles – especially at key moments – have cost him dearly in the past. He’s been a World Matchplay quarter-finalist in five of the past six years, but has never got further.

Chisnall’s knack for winning first round games isn’t great news for Max Hopp. The German star cruised into the Matchplay thanks to decent showings both on the floor and on (predominantly German) stages. Hopp’s goal is now to bring the same quality and coolness to British shores and make a major impact.

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Cullen’s comeback

The butterfly effect is famous theoretical theory that claims a butterfly beating its wings can lead to a tornado. So what can happen when a fly buzzes in front of the double nine?

There’s a chance that such a tiny intervention is the reason we’re not anticipating the return of defending World Matchplay champion Joe Cullen. Of course, there’s no way of knowing if Cullen would’ve gone on to win, had he landed a match dart against Gary Anderson in last year’s quarter-final. As it happens Cullen is unseeded in 2019, having slipped away from the PDC’s top 16.

Ian White watched Gerwyn Price get knocked out of the tournament last night. That bodes well, but it’s also a reminder that nobody is safe.

Michael Smith vs Jamie Hughes is undoubtedly one of the ties of the round. It has intrigue; a David vs Goliath story, but one where David has one hell of a big slingshot. Smith’s the fifth seed, and the favourite. But his form isn’t stellar. And for some reason, we’ve never seen him at his best in Blackpool.

Hughes will step out for his debut at the World Matchplay feeling positive about his game. The recent Czech Darts Open champion knows that if he can marry ruthless finishing with his normal spectacular scoring, he can beat absolutely anyone. This game could be the making of Hughes – but it won’t be easy.

Afternoon session schedule

First Round
13:10 Darren Webster v Krzysztof Ratajski
14:10 Dave Chisnall v Max Hopp
15:10 Ian White v Joe Cullen
16:10 Michael Smith v Jamie Hughes

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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Author: Ed McCosh