What do you think of when you say town name of Blackpool? The Pleasure Beach? The Tower perhaps? The Matchplay darts?
For darts fans the seaside resort will always resonate and long be lovingly linked to the World Matchplay which gets underway this weekend.
The last nine-darter at the @BetVictor World Matchplay came in 2014 with this effort from Phil Taylor…
Surely we are due another one this year? pic.twitter.com/lkwHAQHQPN
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) July 18, 2018
The 2018 incarnation of this event will be the first without the great Phil Taylor who has dominated the Blackpool stage ever since its inception in 1994. He has won the title on 16 occasions and wowed the crowds last year at the Winder Gardens lifting the title in spectacular fashion. Although it won’t be the same without him, darts fans in the venue will still be able to glimpse Taylor as he will part of Sky’s broadcast team covering the tournament.
Michael van Gerwen
MVG of course starts as the hot favourite having won back to back titles in 2015 and 2016. He won’t be sad to see Taylor’s name not on the drawsheet this time round after a fiery exit at the hands of the Power in 2017.
Van Gewen has fifteen titles to his name already in 2018 but in recent weeks hasn’t been his imperious self, falling at the hands of James Wade and Michael Smith in the most recent World Series events. Such defeats should give the field a glimmer of hope that perhaps the World number one can be toppled. Indeed he faces his fellow countryman Jeffrey de Zwaan in the opening round, who already has a television victory over him this year at Rileys’ favourite tournament the UK Open.
The In Form contenders
Gary Anderson wins the US Darts Masters with a 8-4 win over Rob Cross!
102.56 three-dart average!
38% checkout rate!
6 maximums thrown!
164 to win it!
A first title in North America for @GaryAnderson180!
— The Maximum (@TheMaximum180) July 7, 2018
The World Series has proved to be more unpredictable of late than in recent years, with two different winners in the form of Gary Anderson and Michael Smith winning the Las Vegas and Shanghai events respectively. The UK Open champion Anderson looked imperious in Vegas for his 6th title of the year. He takes on former BDO foe Stephen Bunting, with the pair delicately poised on previous head to heads, with Anderson just leading 6-4.
MICHAEL SMITH IS THE SHANGHAI DARTS MASTER!
— ShanghaiDartsMasters (@DartsShanghai) July 14, 2018
For Michael Smith, his first television title as a senior has been a long time coming. The 2013 world youth champion came of age in Shanghai and beat Daryl Gurney and van Gerwen on the way to claiming the title. He will take on Matchplay debutant Johnny Clayton whom he has a 100% record against winning all four of their previous meetings
A notable mention of course to Rileys favourite Rob Cross who has come back into form since his monumental World Championship victory in January. The Voltage, has perhaps understandably struggled for results since January but is now beginning to look his imperious self once more, and has two World Series runners-up finishes to his name in the past few weeks. He does however have to be on guard against Mervyn King – who has been at every World Matchplay since 2007. King leads the previous head to heads 3-2 and beat Cross in June at the Danish Open in a thrilling last leg decider.
We’ve seen three nine-darters at the Grand Slam, including this beauty from Dave Chisnall! pic.twitter.com/fcNVzDwwzr
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) May 4, 2018
The form guide can often be a great indicator ahead of the 1st round clashes and previous records certainly standout for a number of opening encounters.
Two of the most dominant records over their opponents fall to Peter Wright and Dave Chisnall.
Snakebite has won the last 11 matches against Jelle Klaasen dating back to 2013. Dave Chisnall meanwhile has never lost to Keegan Brown. He has a 100% record, with 11 wins from 11 which dates back to 2012.
Adrian Lewis has a 100% record over James Wilson with three wins from three, while Raymond van Barneveld has won the last four against Kyle Anderson.
Two of the more unusual streaks can be found elsewhere. Steve Beaton has the 2nd most appearances at the Winter Gardens, this will be his 19th. He opens against Champions League winner Mensur Suljovic, over whom he has a 100% record. His eight wins from eight dates back to 2008 German Open winner Max Hopp (who unbelievably is still only 21) has won five of the previous six meetings against Ian White. But the debuting German did however lose their most recent encounter at the European Matchplay last month.
Wow cant belive it im in the world matchplay needed some luck and got it
— Richard North (@RichardNorth180) July 1, 2018
Six players will be new to the Winter Gardens stage. Notably Richard North just sneaked in at the final hour last month before the deadline at the European Matchplay. He faces Simon Whitlock, over whom he has two victories. Steve Lennon will be an unknown quantity for Darren Webster, with the pairing having never met one another previously.
The Prize Fund
Remember you can watch all of the World Matchplay in Rileys Sports Bars from Saturday 21st– Sunday 29th July.