World Matchplay Preview: Televised darts returns but not as we know it
The second most prestigious tournament in the PDC is set to get underway this weekend, but not as we know it.
The 27th staging of the World Matchplay will take place at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, rather than its iconic home of the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.
Becoming a home of the sport during the coronavirus pandemic, the Buckinghamshire venue has an adjacent hotel, proving ideal to create a ‘bubble’ environment, something which worked so well during the recent Summer Series.
However, all that will be put to one side on Saturday evening when the tournament begins, with an earlier start in the evenings replacing the usual Sunday afternoon session.
This means there will be five games on the opening few days. Simon Whitlock and Ryan Joyce kick us off, with Krzysztof Ratajski and former champion James Wade also in action on the first night.
Elsewhere, world number one Michael van Gerwen starts his quest to win the title for the first time since 2016 against a resurgent Brendan Dolan.
Gary Anderson also plays on Saturday, trying to prevent a drop in the rankings with the prize money from his 2018 success in the event being removed.
Rob Cross claimed World Matchplay glory 12 months ago in Blackpool (Photography: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Defending champion Rob Cross takes to the stage on Sunday in one of the stand-out first round matches against Gabriel Clemens, while the man he beat in the final, Michael Smith, takes on Jonny Clayton.
2017 runner-up and reigning world champion Peter Wright meets an in-form José de Sousa, with Glen Durrant and Mensur Suljović also in action.
The pick of Monday’s ties is world number three Gerwyn Price against Danny Noppert, who has had an excellent start to the year.
There are two repeats of first round ties from last year, as Ian White takes on Joe Cullen and Daryl Gurney plays Ricky Evans.
Dave Chisnall and Vincent van der Voort meet in what should be a rapid-fire encounter, with former world champions Adrian Lewis and Steve Beaton rounding off Monday’s action.
The opening round will be completed on Tuesday as Nathan Aspinall looks for his first win at the Matchplay against Dimitri Van den Bergh.
The schedule then reverts to how we know it as the top half of the draw take to the oche on Tuesday, with the bottom half on Wednesday to complete the quarter-final line-up.
The best-of-31 last eight matches are played on Thursday and Friday, before the tournament concludes at the weekend with the semi-finals on Saturday and the showpiece final on Sunday, 26 July.
Saturday July 18 (6pm)
5x First Round Matches
Simon Whitlock v Ryan Joyce
Krzysztof Ratajski v Jermaine Wattimena
James Wade v Keegan Brown
Michael van Gerwen v Brendan Dolan
Gary Anderson v Justin Pipe
Sunday July 19 (6pm)
5x First Round Matches
Mensur Suljovic v Jamie Hughes
Glen Durrant v Jeffrey de Zwaan
Rob Cross v Gabriel Clemens
Peter Wright v Jose De Sousa
Michael Smith v Jonny Clayton
Monday July 20 (6pm)
5x First Round Matches
Dave Chisnall v Vincent van der Voort
Ian White v Joe Cullen
Daryl Gurney v Ricky Evans
Gerwyn Price v Danny Noppert
Adrian Lewis v Steve Beaton
Tuesday July 21 (6pm)
1x First Round, 4x Second Round Matches
Nathan Aspinall v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Smith/Clayton v Suljovic/Hughes
Anderson/Pipe v Wade/Brown
Van Gerwen/Dolan v Whitlock/Joyce
Cross/Clemens v Ratajski/Wattimena
Wednesday July 22 (7pm)
4x Second Round Matches
Gurney/Evans v Chisnall/Van der Voort
Aspinall/Van den Bergh v White/Cullen
Wright/De Sousa v Durrant/De Zwaan
Price/Noppert v Lewis/Beaton
Thursday July 23 (7pm)
Friday July 24 (7pm)
Saturday July 25 (8pm)
Sunday July 26 (8.30pm)
(1) Michael van Gerwen v Brendan Dolan
(16) Simon Whitlock v Ryan Joyce
(8) Gary Anderson v Justin Pipe
(9) James Wade v Keegan Brown
(4) Rob Cross v Gabriel Clemens
(13) Krzysztof Ratajski v Jermaine Wattimena
(5) Michael Smith v Jonny Clayton
(12) Mensur Suljovic v Jamie Hughes
(2) Peter Wright v Jose De Sousa
(15) Glen Durrant v Jeffrey de Zwaan
(7) Daryl Gurney v Ricky Evans
(10) Dave Chisnall v Vincent van der Voort
(3) Gerwyn Price v Danny Noppert
(14) Adrian Lewis v Steve Beaton
(6) Nathan Aspinall v Dimitri Van den Bergh
(11) Ian White v Joe Cullen
First Round – Best of 19
Second Round – Best of 21
Quarter-Finals – Best of 31
Semi-Finals – Best of 33
Final – Best of 35
Each match must be won by two clear legs, with up to a maximum of five additional legs being played, before the sixth additional leg is sudden-death.
Winner – £150,000
Runner-Up – £70,000
Semi-Finalists – £50,000
Quarter-Finalists – £25,000
Second Round Losers – £15,000
First Round Losers – £10,000
Total – £700,000
(Featured Image: Chris Sargeant/Tip Top Pics)