The World Matchplay will soon be back, bringing the best of the PDC together in Blackpool.

With 32 players from the top of the PDC Order of Merit and Pro Tour Order of Merit competing, high quality darts is a guarantee. The 2018 edition brought Jeffrey de Zwaan’s stunning win over Michael van Gerwen, and a subsequent run to the semi-finals. There was a Gary Anderson nine-darter, Kim Huybrechts’ last-gasp winner against John Henderson, Darren Webster trumping Rob Cross, and the longest World Matchplay final ever.

Some have suggested that the 2019 Matchplay features the most talented field in quite some time. Who knows what drama we could be treated to, right from the outset?

dartsnews.com has selected a few first round fixtures that would definitely excite, if they’re drawn out.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Michael van Gerwen vs Jeffrey de Zwaan

Jeffrey de Zwaan turned out to be Michael van Gerwen’s Kryptonite in 2018. First, the youngster dumped the world number one out of the UK Open. Then he went and did it again, at the World Matchplay. Mighty Mike went on to claim the world title, but he has unfinished business with the Black Cobra.

As well as overcoming his bogey opponent, van Gerwen needs to reignite his Blackpool love affair. It has been three years since he claimed the title, and he hasn’t really got close since winning in 2016. The road towards the title would feel a little smoother if he started by slaying last year’s demons.

Gary Anderson vs Joe Cullen

Why not two rematches? Don’t say we’re not original.

Gary Anderson was at his mesmerising best at the 2018 World Matchplay. He dumped out Stephen Bunting and Raymond van Barneveld to start, and sealed the title by seeing off Jeffrey de Zwaan and Mensur Suljovic. Sandwiched by those wins was the most riveting thrill-ride of the entire tournament.

The obvious highlight of Anderson’s 19-17 win over Joe Cullen in the quarter-finals was a nine-dart finish in the fourth leg. Cullen also piled in a 170 finish, to tick off another box on Premium Tungsten Bingo. But the real star/villain of the piece was the fly which appeared on the scene during Cullen’s ultimately unsuccessful match darts, with the score at 15-14 in the Bradford thrower’s favour.

Anderson may be rusty, having taken plenty of time off to recover from injury. But he looked on form at the World Cup of Darts, and would feel more than equipped to defeat Cullen – who hasn’t been in the best of form lately. Another go at creating a classic, without an insect interjection, would be pure box office.

Chris Dean/PDC

Photo: Chris Dean/PDC

Michael Smith vs Ricky Evans

What a whirlwind year it has been for Ricky Evans. A meteoric rise now leads the fast-flinging Northamptonshire ace to his World Matchplay debut. Having enjoyed seeded status on the European Tour recently, he’ll go back to being the underdog.

An intriguing first round opponent would be the fifth seed, Michael Smith. The Bully Boy wouldn’t be affected by Evans’ speed at the oche – it could even prove beneficial. After an unconvincing start to 2019, the World Championship runner-up could do with a strong showing in Blackpool.

The pair have met a number of times before; the most high-profile of which was a thrilling World Championship clash where Evans threw this preposterously fast 180. With the speed and fluidity with which the pair play, a World Matchplay tussle would surely be a joy to watch. A recent victory at the German Darts Grand Prix ended a long run of defeats to Smith. Perhaps the tide is turning in Evans’ favour.

Jonas Hunold/PDC Europe

Photo: Jonas Hunold/PDC Europe

Ian White vs Jamie Hughes

It’s widely acknowledged that Ian White is one of the best players in the game, capable of winning anything in the calendar. Doubts have lingered, however, because the Diamond hasn’t shone on stage. Some questions have been answered on the European Tour, where Stoke’s number one has been majestic. Now he needs a good run at a major to cement his place in the upper echelons.

White’s scheduled to play Gerwyn Price in round two, so he could do with a real challenge to build momentum. Enter Jamie Hughes. Yozza wasn’t close to being in the World Matchplay discussion until a magical weekend in Prague. The newly crowned Czech Darts Open champion has taken to life as a PDC Tour Card holder with consummate ease, and his talent has no ceiling. The target for the Tipton ace has long been to marry better finishing to already superlative scoring.

In the form he’s in, Hughes would definitely give White a tough test. A decider could even be in the offing, which would be a treat. Unless you’re White or Hughes, of course.

Dave Chisnall vs Krzysztof Ratajski

There are sure to be a few games, due to the breadth of talent in the PDC now, where it’s not totally clear which player is the seed. Seeding doesn’t mean as much as it once did; now it serves as a means of avoiding the likes of Michael van Gerwen or Rob Cross for a short while. Playing Krzysztof Ratajski isn’t much of a relief, though.

The Pole is ‘the 17th seed’, loosely speaking; he comes into the World Matchplay as the top player from the Pro Tour Order of Merit. He has yet to make a dent in any PDC major, but it’s only a matter of time.

Dave Chisnall, like Ian White, is one of those players who could burst through the field and win a major. It came to pass for Chizzy recently at the Danish Darts Open. He would certainly love to take that form to an even bigger stage, having been a four-time TV tournament runner-up. Ratajski would be a massive banana skin, which would of course make for top entertainment.

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Adrian Lewis vs Glen Durrant

Last year, only two unseeded players made it to round two. The chances of a repeat are infinitesimal. That’s mostly due to the number of unseeded players in hot form right now, such as Glen Durrant. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that the three-time BDO world champion took to the PDC like a duck to water – some shouted him down when he switched, and have been dished up multiple servings of humble pie.

The pace at which Duzza has stormed into majors such as the World Matchplay has to be admired. It would be good to see the Middlesbrough native sink his teeth into a vulnerable seed, and possibly go far in the tournament. An ideal match-up would be against Adrian Lewis; effortlessly brilliant at his best, slack and erratic at his worst. He was the latter at the weekend in Prague. Durrant could even be named the favourite if this meeting is drawn out of the hat.

The PDC World Matchplay draw will take place on the week commencing July 9.

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Dartsnews’ dream draw

Michael van Gerwen [1] vs Jeffrey de Zwaan
Adrian Lewis [16] vs Glen Durrant
James Wade [8] vs Mervyn King
Mensur Suljovic [9] vs John Henderson
Michael Smith [5] vs Ricky Evans
Dave Chisnall [12] vs Krzysztof Ratajski
Gary Anderson [4] vs Joe Cullen
Nathan Aspinall [13] vs Jermaine Wattimena
Rob Cross [2] vs Danny Noppert
Darren Webster [15] vs Vincent van der Voort
Gerwyn Price [7] vs Keegan Brown
Ian White [10] vs Jamie Hughes
Peter Wright [6] vs Steve Beaton
Simon Whitlock [11] vs Stephen Bunting
Daryl Gurney [3] vs Max Hopp
Jonny Clayton [14] vs Chris Dobey

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Author: Ed McCosh