Peter Wright regains the German Darts Masters for a 9/1 winner !
July 14, 2019
The World Matchplay gets under way at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool on Saturday with nine days of top darting action to look forward to, and all live on Sky Sports. The tournament is one of the biggest of the year, with £700,000 up for grabs, including £150,000 awarded to the eventual winner.
The tournament has been dominated by Phil Taylor in the past; of the previous 25 stagings Taylor won an unbelievable 16 titles. Last year Gary Anderson took home the trophy after defeating Mensur Suljovic in the final 21-19, in what was an absolute classic.
The World Matchplay features the top 16 players from the PDC Order of Merit and 16 PDC ProTour qualifiers. The field of 32 play their first-round matches over a best of 19 leg format, with second round matches being best of 21 legs. The quarter-finals are best of 31 leg matches, the semi-finals are best of 33 legs and the final is a best of 35 leg contest. In all rounds, matches need to be won by two clear legs, with a maximum of six extra legs played before a sudden-death leg is played.
The draw for the competition was made a couple of weeks ago, and threw up some intriguing first-round ties. Amongst the stand-out matches, two-time former World Champion Adrian Lewis will take on debutant Glen Durrant, World Championship runner-up Michael Smith will take on another player making his debut in Jamie Hughes and World Number Two Rob Cross has a tough looking match against an in-form Chris Dobey.
(1) Michael van Gerwen v Steve Beaton
(16) Adrian Lewis v Glen Durrant
(8) James Wade v Jeffrey de Zwaan
(9) Mensur Suljovic v Jermaine Wattimena
(5) Michael Smith v Jamie Hughes
(12) Dave Chisnall v Max Hopp
(4) Gary Anderson v Danny Noppert
(13) Nathan Aspinall v Mervyn King
(2) Rob Cross v Chris Dobey
(15) Darren Webster v Krzysztof Ratajski
(7) Gerwyn Price v Stephen Bunting
(10) Ian White v Joe Cullen
(6) Peter Wright v Vincent van der Voort
(11) Simon Whitlock v John Henderson
(3) Daryl Gurney v Ricky Evans
(14) Jonny Clayton v Keegan Brown
Michael van Gerwen comes here as the favourite and number one seed, and he should be fired up for this tournament following a few below par performances recently. At the German Darts Masters last weekend he threw away a 5-1 lead to Martin Schindler, eventually losing 6-5. The week before he put in a very abject display against Michael Smith at the US Darts Masters, resulting in an 8-4 defeat. Something doesn’t feel quite right for the Dutchman at the moment, but van Gerwen is a tough competitor and can’t be written off easily in his bid for a third World Matchplay title.
Rob Cross is the second seed, and despite playing some scintillating darts at times this year, is without a title since August last year. The feeling is that Cross will win another title soon, but he’s not made it past the last 16 in his two previous appearances on the Blackpool stage, so he’ll have to play better than on the Winter Gardens stage to reach the latter rounds this year.
An interesting fact about the Matchplay is that in 20 of the last 21 stagings of the tournament, the winner of the event has reached at least the quarter finals in the preceding year. The only player to buck that trend was Gary Anderson when he won the title last year. The quarter-finalists last year were Jeffrey De Zwaan, Dave Chisnall, Joe Cullen, Gary Anderson, Peter Wright, Simon Whitlock, Mensur Suljovic and Darren Webster. Wright is arguably in the best form of that octet, having claimed the German Darts Masters at the weekend. The others are worthy of consideration this year with the possible exception of Cullen and Webster, who seem to be really struggling for form at present.
Other players to keep an eye on include the Welshman Gerwyn Price, the Grand Slam of Darts Champion has reached the semi-finals in three of his last four tournaments on the stage and reached the quarter-finals here in 2015. Michael Smith hasn’t had the best of years since reaching the World Championship Final, but if ‘Bully Boy’ can find some form this week, he’ll be a dangerous proposition for anyone. Nathan Aspinall hasn’t done much wrong in the big events recently, the semi-finals of the World Championship, the winner of the UK Open and now the US Darts Masters champion has to be given serious consideration for this event. James Wade is another with big titles to his name in the last nine months, and ‘The Machine’ won this event way back in 2007 and has been runner-up on no less than five occasions.
The first selection for World Matchplay glory this year is Peter Wright. ‘Snakebite’ is currently a 12/1 shot to win the title, but with concerns over the form of the three players ahead of him in the betting, he should have a decent chance. Michael van Gerwen is favourite for the title, but defeats to Michael Smith and Martin Schindler in the last two World Series events have raised question marks over his game, and there’s no value in his skinny odds. Rob Cross certainly has a chance on his best form this year, but he hasn’t won a title since August last year, and that has to be a worry. Gary Anderson is the other player shorter in the betting than Wright, the defending champion hasn’t played much darts in the last six months, and a defeat to the virtually unknown Nico Kurz last weekend can’t have been good for his confidence.
Back to Wright, and he’s been in decent form recently, landing the German Darts Masters last weekend, and was a dart away from reaching the US Darts Masters final the week before. Wright’s record in the last four years at the World Matchplay is good, he’s reached the last eight on every occasion, including two semi-finals and one appearance in the final. Last year he put in two 100+ averages on his way to the semi-final, where he came up short against Mensur Suljovic.
The draw looks to have been relatively kind to Wright this year, he faces Vincent van der Voort in the first-round with either Simon Whitlock or John Henderson waiting in round two. There are no easy games in a competition like this, but the Scotsman should be feeling pretty confident about making it through the first couple of rounds. Daryl Gurney is seeded to be the quarter-final opponent for ‘Snakebite’, but his performances recently have been nothing special, so it could be a meeting with Keegan Brown or Jonny Clayton for a place in the semi-finals.
A criticism of Wright recently has been his tendency to switch his darts between, and sometimes during, matches. There are no guarantees that he’ll be using the same set that he won the German Masters with last week. But Wright’s form at the moment is better than most of the fancied players, and with a decent draw he should go well and build on his already impressive Matchplay record.
When it comes to putting in big performances on the big stage in recent months, few can better the record of Nathan Aspinall. ‘The Asp’ reached the semi-final of the World Championship in December, and did better still when claiming the UK Open crown, beating Rob Cross in the final. He’s also reached two finals on the ProTour this year, and two weeks ago won the US Darts Masters, with victories over Rob Cross, Peter Wright and Michael Smith.
This is Aspinall’s first appearance on the World Matchplay stage, but he’s the first player since 2010 to make his debut as a seeded player – another indication of how well he’s been playing recently. Aspinall is drawn in the top half of draw, and admittedly in a tricky section. He’ll face Mervyn King in the first-round, with Gary Anderson the likely opponent in round two, and Dave Chisnall or Michael Smith potentially awaiting in the quarter-finals. Aspinall will have to be at his best to battle his way through some tough matches, but his confidence must be sky high at the moment, and on the big stage he has thrived in recent months.
It’s been an incredible year for Aspinall, and there’s a chance he’s not done yet. His odds are around the 25/1 mark, but if he brings his A-game to Blackpool, it’s going to take a very good player to beat him.
The final pick for a big run at the Matchplay is the ‘Polish Eagle’, Krzysztof Ratajski. Ratajski is another player making his World Matchplay debut, and considered an outsider by the bookies at 66/1, but those odds seem too big given the quality of darts he’s been throwing recently.
Ratajski made a big impact on the Pro Tour last year, despite not even holding a tour card he picked up three Players Championship titles. Last month he won one another Players Championship event, beating in-form players like Nathan Aspinall, Glen Durrant and Jamie Hughes on his way to the title.
The Pole couldn’t have asked for a kinder first-round draw. As an unseeded player he could have come up against any of the big guns, but instead has drawn an out-of-form Darren Webster in his opening match. It gets much tougher after that, with Rob Cross and Gerwyn Price potential opponents on a path to the semi-finals.
It’s a difficult set of fixtures, and admittedly Ratajski hasn’t really transferred his form in the floor events to the big stage yet, but if he can bring his floor game to Blackpool he’s going to be a very dangerous opponent this week.
July 14, 2019
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