Five world champions are among the Sunday evening line-up at the PDC World Matchplay.

First among them was the first of the five to become a world champion. Steve Beaton held aloft the BDO title 22 years ago. Since then, he has appeared at the World Matchplay 18 times. All he has to show for it so far is a semi-final and two quarter-finals. Perhaps it’s a positive that he opens his campaign against the player against whom he has the best PDC head-to-head record.

Mensur Suljovic can’t explain it. Perhaps, during one of his long walks down Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach, he’ll ponder how he has played Beaton eight times in PDC events, and lost eight. One thing is for sure. If the German Darts Masters champion wants to win the Matchplay – and he has a good chance – he needs to lay this curse to rest.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Gary Anderson has a Blackpool hoodoo of his own to consider. The Flying Scotsman has reached the final of every major PDC televised event, except for the Matchplay. In nine visits, he’s got past the second round just twice. A Shanghai Darts Masters defeat to Royden Lam isn’t exactly the best warm-up.

His opponent, Stephen Bunting, may also feel that results haven’t been kind to him at the Matchplay. The Bullet always plays well, yet doesn’t have the results to match. He revealed to dartsnews.com  that he’s feeling positive – needless to say, toppling Anderson will be an almighty task. But after Michael van Gerwen was struck down, anything seems possible.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Rob Cross was the last man who isn’t called Jeffrey de Zwaan to knock van Gerwen out of a major. That was a famous Ally Pally win, and led to the World Championship title. But being world champion is a millstone of expectation which threatens to weigh him down. Cross meets an old campaigner in round one, albeit one who has fallen at the first hurdle in six of his last eight Matchplay outings. Mervyn King can beat anyone, but form and recent stage experience point in Voltage’s favour.

In the final tie of the day, Raymond van Barneveld enters his 12th World Matchplay. He reached the quarter-finals in all of his first five appearances, but hasn’t got to that stage any of the last six times. He meets a familiar foe in Kyle Anderson. Twice they met in majors last year, at the World Grand Prix and the World Championship; twice, Barney prevailed. But the Original is a dangerous player, and van Barneveld has been starved for stage play recently. Maybe it will turn out that rather than Barney helping out de Zwaan when they made preparations together, it will be the other way around.

Evening session schedule

7:40PM Mensur Suljovic v Steve Beaton
8:40PM Gary Anderson v Stephen Bunting
9:40PM Rob Cross v Mervyn King
10:40PM Raymond van Barneveld v Kyle Anderson

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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Author: Edward McCosh