The PDC World Matchplay returns to bring its unique brand of thrills and spills.

There are few better darting locales than the stunning Winter Gardens in Blackpool. Against the backdrop of the Pleasure Beach and occasional sunshine, 32 of the best players in the game will be aiming to land one of the biggest titles the sport offers. The glory of being the World Matchplay champion also brings with it a very tasty prize pot.

We’re taking a look at the runners and riders at the 26th PDC World Matchplay.

The favourites

Another tournament, another set of odds which makes Michael van Gerwen the favourite. We’ve all been here before.

He’s been backed at close to evens by tournament sponsor Betfred. Rob Cross and defending champion Gary Anderson are in the mix as well. James Wade, one of three players to have won the title before, is also in the running. Gerwyn Price has a decent chance to go far – he’ll see his half of the draw as conquerable.

Peter Wright comes into the tournament as sixth seed, but Snakebite is in the best form of any player taking part. Winning the German Darts Masters, plus two Players Championship tournaments on the bounce, gives the 2017 runner-up some serious momentum.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

The dark horses

Last year, Jeffrey de Zwaan rocked up at the Winter Gardens and subsequently stunned van Gerwen. He was only one of two unseeded players to win a game, but de Zwaan powered on to make the semi-finals. There are plenty of candidates for dark horse status in 2019.

John Henderson has a bit of a record for causing a stir at majors. The big Scot faces a vulnerable Simon Whitlock. He’s in a quarter of the draw that also features Keegan Brown, who isn’t widely fancied for World Matchplay success but occupies a section featuring a number of players who aren’t in the sort of form he’s been in. Joe Cullen and Jermaine Wattimena are also players who can do some damage if they hit the ground running.

Daryl Gurney is a multiple major champion and the third seed, but comes in under the radar due to mediocre recent form. Then there’s also Mensur Suljovic, who came close to winning last year’s title, but isn’t roundly backed. Either could go all the way.

We’ve picked out five ties to keep an especially close eye on in the first round of the PDC World Matchplay.

The debutants

Seven players enter the World Matchplay for the first time ever. Every one of them has the quality to succeed, which puts their success down to whether they can settle quickly amid the unique atmosphere of the Winter Gardens.

Four of the seven have landed themselves a tricky tie against top eight seeds. Chris Dobey meets Cross, while Ricky Evans plays Gurney. Jamie Hughes goes up against Michael Smith, and it’s Gary Anderson who stands in Danny Noppert’s way.

The other three have got kinder draws – on paper, anyway. Krzysztof Ratajski and Glen Durrant will play the two lowest seeds, Darren Webster and Adrian Lewis, respectively. Nathan Aspinall is a seeded debutant, which is rare. He’ll clash with a veteran, Mervyn King.

Which of this magnificent seven will get furthest? Could one even ride off into the sunset with the World Matchplay title?

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

The most at risk

Adrian Lewis is skating on the thinnest of ice. The world number 16 is at serious risk of dropping out of the PDC Order of Merit’s top tier. Even if he sees off Durrant in round one, van Gerwen could await him. It’s going to be a rocky ride for Jackpot.

He has a significant chunk of PDC ranking money riding on it, too. Wright and Gurney similarly need to defend significant World Matchplay totals.

Ian White and Michael Smith are at risk, reputation-wise. The pair are obviously talented, but can’t afford another failure at a major on their record.

Following that thread, van Gerwen himself is in the firing line. A third successive foiled run at the World Matchplay will give the critics some extra ammunition.

Take part in our Fantasy World Matchplay to pick up some pretty tasty cash prizes.


Author: Ed McCosh