The action gets underway from 7pm on Saturday, with defending champion Gary Anderson and Rob Cross in opening night action
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 17/07/19 6:02pm
The World Matchplay gets underway this Saturday, as Gary Anderson returns to the Winter Gardens in a bid to defend his title.
The Scot defeated Mensur Suljovic 21-19 in a compelling contest last year to complete the ‘triple crown’ and he’ll aim to become just the fourth player to retain the World Matchplay title.
Michael van Gerwen is the favourite to lift a third Matchplay crown but the world champion has not been at his blistering best over recent outings and he’s failed to go beyond the quarter-finals in Blackpool since 2016.
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We look ahead to nine days of top tungsten and run the rule over what to expect at the Winter Gardens…
There are three former World Matchplay champions in this year’s field – headlined by current holder Gary Anderson.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ has been sidelined for much of the year with a back injury, but he returned to secure World Cup glory alongside Peter Wright in Hamburg last month.
The two-time world champion has posted some impressive numbers in this week’s Players Championship double-header which indicates he’s ready for the challenge of defending his title.
World No 1 Michael van Gerwen is bidding to win his third Matchplay title this year, although ‘The Green Machine’ comes into the tournament in uncharacteristically poor form.
The Dutchman has failed to post a ton-plus average in any of his last eight competitive matches and having suffered a shock opening-round exit against Jeffrey de Zwaan 12 months ago, he’ll be desperate to avoid a similar fate against the veteran Steve Beaton.
James Wade lifted his first PDC major at the Winter Gardens in 2007 and having appeared in four finals since, this could be Wade’s best chance yet to add to his Matchplay tally.
‘The Machine’ is throwing some magnificent darts at present and having picked up two major titles last Autumn, he’s also scooped four ranking titles in 2019 – equalling his tally for the most in a calendar season.
This year’s Matchplay is widely regarded as one of the most open since the tournament’s inception and World No 2 Rob Cross will be hoping to come through the bottom half of the draw and clinch a first title of 2019.
The former world champion has consistently posted eye-catching averages throughout the year but has been unable to translate that into tournament victories and he could face a quarter-final showdown against Grand Slam champion Gerwyn Price.
Live World Matchplay Darts
July 20, 2019, 7:00pm
2017 semi-finalist Daryl Gurney will be vying for a third major PDC title at the Winter Gardens, while Peter Wright arrives full of confidence having won three titles in the space of the last five days.
‘Snakebite’ is also the only player in the bottom half of the draw to have reached a World Matchplay final, having succumbed to Phil Taylor in the 2017 showpiece – Taylor’s last ever Blackpool appearance.
Last year’s finalist Mensur Suljovic will be hoping to go one better in 2019, while World Championship finalist Michael Smith aims to go beyond the second round stage in this event for the first time in his career.
There are seven debutants set to enter the fray in Blackpool, but they’re certainly not lacking in experience.
Three-time Lakeside world champion Glen Durrant makes his bow having scooped two Players Championship titles in just six months on the circuit, which saw him qualify as the third highest-ranked player on the Pro Tour Order of Merit.
Nathan Aspinall will make his World Matchplay debut as a seed -becoming just the fourth player to do so since the Order of Merit system was implemented.
‘The Asp’ has enjoyed a stunning rise to prominence since his semi-final showing at the World Championship, sealing UK Open glory in March, before winning the US Masters in Las Vegas on his World Series debut a fortnight ago.
Krzysztof Ratajski is the highest ranked Pro Tour qualifier having claimed four PDC ranking titles over the last 18 months and ‘The Polish Eagle’ will be aiming to reach his first PDC televised quarter-final in Blackpool.
Ricky Evans is also making his Winter Gardens debut having reached two European Tour finals since last September and Rapid’s reward is a showdown with World No 3 Daryl Gurney.
Jamie Hughes secured last-gasp qualification courtesy of winning the Czech Darts Open in June and he’ll be joined by the remaining two debutants – Premier League contender Chris Dobey and former Lakeside finalist Danny Noppert.
The World Matchplay notoriously throws up some thrilling first-round ties and this year has proven to be no different.
The highlight of the first round sees Durrant lock horns with two-time world champion Adrian Lewis – a finalist here back in 2013.
‘Jackpot’ is seeded 16th which means the winner could face Michael van Gerwen in round-two, although MVG has a tough opener against Steve Beaton.
The pair met at the Matchplay in 2012 as Van Gerwen landed a magical nine-dart leg en route to victory over ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ and he’ll be hoping for a repeat performance this time around.
Another opening round highlight sees Wade take on last year’s semi-finalist Jeffrey de Zwaan. De Zwaan knocked out MVG, Lewis and Dave Chisnall to reach the last four in 2018 and he’ll be hoping to claim another big scalp on the Blackpool stage.
Smith faces an intriguing encounter against Hughes, who has produced huge numbers on the Pro Tour throughout the year, while Anderson kicks off his title defence against debutant Noppert – in a repeat of their Grand Slam of Darts classic in 2016.
You don’t have to wait long until darts is back on Sky Sports, with every dart from every session in Blackpool and the World Matchplay. It starts on Saturday, July 20 and the final is on Sunday, July 28.