Schedule for Friday evening at 2021 World Matchplay including Wright and Van Gerwen
We'll see Krzysztof Ratajski in his first PDC major semi-final on Saturday; he'll be joined by Dimitri van den Bergh, who's slightly more familiar with this stage of the World Matchplay. Now four more players do battle with spots in the final quartet at stake.
We were treated to one absolute epic as Michael Smith downed Jose de Sousa in extra time. What was so brilliant about it was that it was a genuine see-saw encounter. Sometimes you see it said, and it just means there was the odd break, but this was the real deal. After a bizarre break at 10-10, Michael Smith's form dissipated, and he looked lost. But then, with defeat staring him in the face, the Bully Boy turned the tables in style.
So, after all of that, is this the Michael Smith who goes the extra mile and wins a major? Talent has never been the issue with Smith; a lot of it has been down to the belief and the calm under pressure to make the small but significant leap from prospect to champion. He could ask Peter Wright, formerly labelled as "a bottler" but now known as the multiple major winner, for tips on that.
Wright notched up the best average of the whole tournament in his second round win over Joe Cullen; coupled with the performance against Danny Noppert, there's a strong argument for Snakebite being the most impressive player at the World Matchplay so far. He believes he's the favourite for this game, and the tournament. If Smith can tap into the same arrogance (meant here in the more positive sense), this could get interesting.
Michael van Gerwen could teach a course on arrogance. Of course, he's earned it over the years. But with titles proving a little harder to come by than before, the Dutchman can take nothing for granted. Even victory over Ian White, which Van Gerwen would've been supremely confident of, was a more drawn-out affair than expected. That will have infuriated the man who is determined to sit atop the darting pyramid once more, even in spite of a decent overall showing and a 100 average.
His next task is doing something he couldn't do in the Premier League this year; beat Nathan Aspinall. The Asp has taken some huge strides even since winning the UK Open, to a point where he can take on his idols - such as Gary Anderson - and dismantle them. The Flying Scotsman proved stubborn, but Aspinall was the better player and got what he deserved.
Aspinall looks to have shaken off the rustiness that was evident against Mervyn King, whereas Van Gerwen is still ironing out the kinks, especially when it comes to finishing. Yet MVG's ability has a higher ceiling than anyone. We haven't seen 'peak Van Gerwen' for a while now in the biggest events; he might need it here, or Aspinall will follow up a first World Matchplay quarter-final with a maiden Winter Gardens semi-final.
Schedule 2021 World Matchplay
Friday July 23 (1900 BST)
19:15 Peter Wright v Michael Smith
20:45 Michael van Gerwen v Nathan Aspinall