The World Matchplay, one of the PDC’s most revered majors, is back.

From July 21, the cream of the PDC crop meet at the majestic Winter Gardens in Blackpool. The Order of Merit’s top 16 and the 16 best of the rest in the Pro Tour Order of Merit clash with a £115,000 top prize at stake. The wealth of talent means that, on paper, close-looking matches are in abundance. Here, highlights three games that will capture the attention in the first round of the World Matchplay.

Michael van Gerwen vs Jeffrey de Zwaan

It’s always a big game when Michael van Gerwen is involved. The two-time World Matchplay champion bowed out in the quarter-finals last year. But Phil Taylor will be safely tucked away in the commentary box this time. Mighty Mike has been in fine fettle in 2018 – not that he’s yet reached his peak. Cracking the European Tour nine-dart curse was quickly balanced out by a hasty exit in the US Darts Masters.
Van Gerwen took the Masters title and also won the Premier League, a pseudo-major. The one player to knock him off his perch in a big event this year is Jeffrey de Zwaan. As luck would have it, the Dutch prodigy meets his compatriot again in Blackpool. The Black Cobra stunned van Gerwen at the UK Open, and has since claimed Players Championship 10 as his maiden PDC title. The youngster is a threat, and van Gerwen will know it.

Chris Dean/PDC

Photo: Chris Dean/PDC

Raymond van Barneveld vs Kyle Anderson

Raymond van Barneveld has found himself in a devilish part of the draw. Should he beat Kyle Anderson, he’d face Gary Anderson or Stephen Bunting. Win that, and he faces the prospect of taking on Gerwyn Price, Joe Cullen, Daryl Gurney or Steve West. And all that’s for a semi-final berth, probably against Michael van Gerwen. Given his current form and lack of recent stage action, it seems like a tall order for Barney.
Anderson is tough enough to deal with. The Aussie enjoyed a morale-boosting World Cup with Australia – a tournament which van Barneveld eventually won – and is starting to combine a more solid finishing game with his big scoring. Van Barneveld has won the last four meetings between the pair, knocking Anderson out of the World Championship and the World Grand Prix in the last 12 months. But the Original has more than enough quality to cause a shock.

Gerwyn Price vs Joe Cullen

On paper, Gerwyn Price might be the seed most likely to be toppled in round one. The Welshman was on a high going into the Premier League, but it proved to be a demoralising experience. Price has often struggled to put on a decent run. When he has, like at the Austrian Darts Open, it hasn’t quite been enough. Yet Price remains an excellent player, capable of pulling out a big finish when he needs one.
He definitely could’ve had an easier draw, that’s for sure. Joe Cullen is highest in the Order of Merit of the unseeded players, and for good reason. The Rockstar is slowly but surely building on his incredible potential. All that’s missing is a truly inspiring cup run. He’s Gareth Southgate’s England, essentially. If Cullen unlocks his vast reserves of talent, and crucially keeps some consistency, then it’s coming home. Price better watch out.

Tags: , , , , ,

Author: Ed McCosh