So day one of the 2018 PDC World Matchplay was no big deal. Nothing much of note happened. Oh, except the world number one was dumped out.
Michael van Gerwen’s shock first round defeat to Jeffrey de Zwaan – his second major exit at the Black Cobra’s hands this year – sent shockwaves through the Winter Gardens. Now the race for the PDC World Matchplay title looks wide open. Eight more players take to the Blackpool stage on Sunday afternoon, and all of them are hoping to lift the famous trophy for the first time. The journey ends here for four of them.
It’s a new beginning for Steve Lennon. The young Irishman’s rise to the top of the game continues with a World Matchplay debut. He begins against a man who first appeared in Blackpool 14 years ago. Darren Webster kicks off his fourth Matchplay, having won a match at the Winter Gardens for the first time last year. He reached the quarter-finals in 2017, and will want to go a step further this time. But Dutch Darts Masters finalist Lennon could really spring a surprise.
Given his struggles in living up to mountains of promise, it’s a pleasant surprise to see Max Hopp among the debutants. The young German earned his spot through victory at the German Darts Open, but a general upswing in form means that he could really compete in Blackpool. He’s been handed a seriously tough draw, however. Ian White is among the cabal of players who are constantly impressive on the floor, and he’s starting to show it a bit more on the stage. Diamond has a mostly poor major record, but he showed what he could do when he made five major quarter finals from 2014 to 2015. Now, in 2018, it’s the eleventh seed’s chance to do something special.
The third tie of the four is a tough one to call. Gerwyn Price may be the seed, but there is so little daylight between the Welshman and Joe Cullen that the seeding is essentially obsolete. Price has struggled for form in 2018. That said, he still reached a European Tour final. That’s a step more than the Rockstar, who still shows his talent in fits and starts. Price first caught the eye in PDC majors with a stunning Matchplay win over Adrian Lewis in 2015. Three years on, this event could lead him on the road to redemption.
In the final match of the afternoon, Daryl Gurney faces a tough foe. Steve West only made his debut at the Winter Gardens last year, while the man 11 years his junior makes his third appearance in 2018. But West occasionally shows the sort of brilliant and brutal form that could turn over any opponent. Gurney was a semi-finalist last year, eventually succumbing to Peter Wright. The World Grand Prix champion is after major number two, but it’s a truly tricky start.
Afternoon session schedule
13:10 Darren Webster v Steve Lennon
14:10 Ian White v Max Hopp
15:10 Gerwyn Price v Joe Cullen
16:10 Daryl Gurney v Steve West
Author: Ed McCosh