Things are heating up at the World Matchplay – literally and figuratively.
While the mercury shoots up, the World Matchplay marches inexorably towards its thrilling finale. What’s left of the competition is a very British affair. Six Englishmen, a Scot and a Northern Irishman make up just the second all-Brit quarter-finals in Blackpool since the turn of the century. Which is truly remarkable, given the depth of global talent there is nowadays.
Our World Matchplay line-up on day one of the quarter-finals is entirely English. Representing St Helens is Michael Smith, the fifth seed. It’s no secret that Smith is good enough to win any tournament he enters – after surviving a rough ride to beat Max Hopp, the Bully Boy might feel like it’s written in the stars.
He’s also avoided any possible meeting with a seed so far. Then again, that doesn’t mean much this year. Mervyn King has dumped out both the reigning UK Open, and the defending World Matchplay champion. And he’s done it all while looking on the verge of spontaneous combustion. Playing during what’s forecast to be the hottest day of the year is more of a concern to the Norfolk ace as the prospect of taking on Smith.
The pair haven’t met for a while, but when they do clash, it tends to be tight. After a particularly gruelling World Championship win in 2017, Smith said of King: “He was like a cat with nine lives.” The King has plenty of them left, so it’ll take a lot from the former world youth champion to kill off the veteran.
Durrant eyes another scalp
Christopher Kempf (a.k.a Ochepedia) provided an excellent stat about James Wade. No active player has won more legs at the World Matchplay than him, and only two players in history (Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen) won a higher percentage of legs played. The moral of that story is that the Machine is incredibly hard to break down in Blackpool.
Jeffrey de Zwaan and Mensur Suljovic have learned that the hard way. Wade has survived all manner of threats to his World Matchplay hopes, and is now the only remaining former champion left in the field. He has, however, had to play 49 legs already. Compare that with Peter Wright, who’s played just 28. Fatigue could be a factor – mentally, if not physically.
Wade’s next challenge is a man who keeps proving that he has the bottle to make it big in the PDC. Glen Durrant dished out yet another smart backhand to his critics by dumping world champion Michael van Gerwen out of the World Matchplay. Mighty Mike’s scalp, added to that of Adrian Lewis, shows Duzza to be one hell of a big game player.
What’s most impressive is that Durrant has maintained a tournament average of 100.19. Gary Anderson’s winning tournament average last year was 101.12. Durrant is fast becoming a favourite, but Wade will feel that this is set up for him to win the World Matchplay 12 years after his first triumph, and in the most dramatic of circumstances.
19:15 Michael Smith v Mervyn King
20:45 Glen Durrant v James Wade
Author: Ed McCosh