Welcome back to OpenOdds’ Darts Round Up, as we count down the days to the World Matchplay that gets underway in Blackpool this weekend. A week-long tournament lies ahead of us, with 32 of the world’s best players facing off for the chance to win one of the biggest tournaments in the sport. The action on England’s North-West coast comes on the heels of a German Darts Masters which was won by Scotland’s Peter Wright, and which featured another disappointing outing for the favourite Michael van Gerwen.
This week’s round up is devoted entirely to the World Matchplay, which runs from the 20th to the 28th of the month and, unlike most tournaments, features long matches from the beginning – the first round is played over the best of nineteen legs, and matches only get longer as it goes on. That format will certainly favour the top echelon of players, but as we’ll see, it might not be in your interests to back the obvious favourite.
Draw throws up interesting possibilities
The draw for the World Matchplay was made earlier this week, and with the top seeds joined by players who have had to sweat through qualifying, even the first round is not full of foregone conclusions. Van Gerwen should have enough about him to defeat Steve Beaton – but he will need to find the form that has deserted him in recent weeks and saw him exit the German Masters at the first hurdle, losing to qualifier Martin Schindler and again failing to get anywhere near a 100 average. A win over Beaton could see MvG facing BDO champion Glenn Durrant in the second round – and the World Number One would need to raise his game from its current level to beat the impressive PDC newcomer.
Of the first-round matches that could end in a shock, Durrant’s meeting with 16th seed Adrian Lewis is one to look out for. While Lewis, with a longer PDC record, is favoured by the bookmakers, Durrant has shown with multiple BDO wins that he can handle tournament pressure, and his 13/10 price with Betway may well be overly generous in that light. You might also fancy a look at 2019 Q-School graduate Jamie Hughes, winner of the recent Czech Open, who faces an out-of-form Michael Smith and is priced at 6/5 with the same bookmaker.
Anderson looking to retain his title
Many people were disappointed when Gary Anderson succumbed to injury and had to pull out of the Premier League, not least the Scotsman himself who would have hoped to compete for the title. However, his absence from the weekly grind may have done him a few favours, as his recent darts have been impressive, showing no sign of the pain that kept him from the oche for a couple of months. A solid June included victory in the World Cup alongside Peter Wright, and Anderson will now be hoping to pick up a personal title to go with the national glory of last month.
The Musselburgh native has more reason than most to covet a shot at the silverware here, as he is the defending champion having beaten Mensur Suljovic in a 40-leg extended final in 2018. He starts out here against Holland’s Danny Noppert, with a second-round tie expected to be against Nathan Aspinall. That’s a huge challenge given the Wigan man’s recent form, but perhaps the biggest test would come if he makes it to the semi-finals. If, as many suspect, van Gerwen has been saving his best darts for the biggest competitions, that would be a titanic showdown over the best of 33 legs.
MvG has failed to win any of his last five tournaments, but he had a similar run at the end of 2018; he stopped a run of four winless outings with the World Championship, so we’re about to see just how “out of form” the champ – 13/8 with tournament sponsors Betfred – really is.
The Wright time for Peter?
While Anderson missed the Premier League, his countryman Peter Wright merely played like he wasn’t there, finishing bottom of the last-eight after Raymond van Barneveld was eliminated. However, from the moment the week-by-week tournament closed out, Wright has been like a player reborn, picking up the German Darts Masters last week to sit alongside the World Cup winner’s medal he won alongside Anderson. He’s a confidence player, as his on-stage dances and exhibition shots demonstrate, and his confidence could scarcely be higher right now.
Is now the time for Wright to see off his record of disappointment in major tournaments? He’s reached nine finals in the top echelon of competitions, with just a single win over Gerwyn Price in 2017’s UK Open final to show for it. Seeded sixth for the Matchplay, Wright is in the “weaker” half of the draw, although he could face Daryl Gurney at the quarter-final stage and Rob Cross in the semis. However, if he can pick up confidence by seeing off unseeded Dutchman Vincent van der Voort in the opening round and then take out Simon Whitlock or John Henderson in the last 16, Wright’s a tempting bet. In case you’re worried about his finals record coming back to haunt him, you can get 5/1 on him to reach the final in Blackpool with BetVictor. That is a very tempting offer indeed.
The 2019 World Matchplay feels like a very open tournament, due in no small part to van Gerwen’s recent record and the presence of a very talented field of players. We’ll report back next week after the conclusion of the first round, when we’ll know a lot more about who’s got their game face on and who’s a walking odds boost. For now, let’s get ready for a major which could provide plenty of thrills and spills.