The sun might be shining, but it's back to the Winter Gardens for the World Matchplay
It's James Wade's favourite tournament, and he could go close again at a great price...
You have to tip your hat to Barry Hearn. The supreme power over the sport of darts really knows his onions. The Open Championship comes to a close on Sunday night in Scotland, Andy Murray’s Wimbledon success is a distant memory, and we’re still the best part of a month away from the Premier League.
With a strangely quiet sporting week on the horizon, Barry Hearn has teed up his calendar to perfection, by bringing us eight days of darting brilliance from Blackpool. The World Matchplay has, unsurprisingly, been dominated by Phil Taylor since its conception in 1994 – with the Power picking up 15 of the 22 possible titles. However this year’s tournament of tungsten could throw up a surprise at .
To get you in the mood for extravagant walk-ons, dancing girls, and drunk middle-aged men dressed as traffic cones, here’s our preview of each potential quarter winner.
First Quarter: Michael van Gerwen
No real shock here. MVG has been in dominant form as per usual, making a final appearance in 18 of the 24 events he’s played since the World Championship in January. The Green Machine won the UK Open this year (hitting a nine-dart finish on the way) and picked up the Premier League title in May for the second time. Mighty Mike is the reigning Matchplay Champion and his dominant style of play where he can rack up numerous legs in a matter of minutes means that he can put games to bed before you have time to belt out the Seven Nation Army chorus.
There shouldn’t be any major surprises as MVG rolls towards a potential quarter-final showdown with either Robert Thornton or Dave Chisnall. Van Gerwen has won 15 of his 22 matches against Thornton (68 per cent), and 29 of his 39 matches against Chizzy (74 per cent). Nothing to worry about for the travelling Dutch fans.
- Michael van Gerwen to win the first quarter:
Second Quarter: Peter Wright
Snakebite has exited stage-left at the quarter-final stage in the last six tournaments he’s played on the tour, but the Scot can go one step further in the Matchplay. Wright pinged a 102.44 average in the semi-final 12 months ago before losing 17-12 to MVG, and he looks set to face the Dutchman again if he can upset Adrian Lewis in the second quarter. Jackpot is a former Matchplay finalist, but this tournament doesn’t appear to suit the two-time champion of the world, and Lewis has failed to get past the last eight in eight of his 11 attempts at Blackpool.
Kim Huybrechts is another dangerous opponent lurking in the quarter – and he could face a last 16 showdown with Adrian Lewis if both men get through the opening round. Huybrechts has lost in the opening round in the last four renewals of the Matchplay, but he comes into the event off the back of three semi-final appearances in the last four tournaments. Snakebite Peter Wright should have enough to get to the quarter-final and can upset the odds against either Jackpot or Huybrechts when he gets there.
- Peter Wright to win the second quarter:
Third Quarter: Gary Anderson
The two-time and current reigning world champion Gary Anderson should make short work of a quarter that includes the erratic pair of Michael Smith and Jelle Klassen, wise old heads Simon Whitlock, Steve Beaton and Terry Jenkins, as well as Justin Pipe and Alan Norris. In the last five tournaments, Anderson has won three – the Dubai Masters, Auckland Masters, and Japan Masters – and a semi-final appearance should be the bare minimum for The Flying Scotsman.
Neither Michael Smith or Klassen have been tearing up the oche, while although Justin Pipe’s style of play may not be to everybody’s tastes, Anderson has still got the job done in the last five head-to-head clashes. It would be no surprise to see Anderson in the final four – and at 9/2 to lift the trophy he could go all the way in Blackpool.
- Gary Anderson to win the third quarter:
Fourth Quarter: James Wade
The Machine may not have quite reached the top of the tungsten mountain, but if there’s one tournament where he excels it’s under the lights at Blackpool in the World Matchplay. In the last 10 years Wade has made six finals – winning against Terry Jenkins in 2007. It’s on this stage that Wade throws some of his best arrows, and punters should be fairly confident with Wade’s current form. He’s made the final four in the last three events on tour and after a relaxing weekend at the fishing Wade appears calm and confident.
Let’s not doubt how hard his run is – Mervyn King in the opening round could be followed by a clash against Raymond van Barneveld, before a quarter final showdown with Phil The Power Taylor. Critics will say that Wade has won just 12 of his 66 clashes with the greatest player in the history of the sport, but The Machine has toppled Taylor twice in the last month in Japan and Shanghai. Wade was also victorious against The Power in this event 12 months ago, winning 17-14 in the semi-final.
- James Wade to win the fourth quarter:
If Wade can win the quarter at then, by our estimations he faces a clash with Gary Anderson for a spot in the final. Since March, Anderson has won just one of five clashes with James Wade. The Machine is to lift the trophy and looks a great each-way bet, with a potential rematch of the 2015 final against Michael van Gerwen a very real possibility.
- James Wade to win the World Matchplay 2016: