Who will win the final? Who will be the player to watch? Which seeds are most in danger of going out in the first round? A host of darts journalists, pundits and commentators tackle these and other questions on the eve of the 2019 PDC World Matchplay.
Who will reach the final – and who will win it?
Rob Mullarkey (PDC TV commentator): Gerwyn Price and Michael van Gerwen were both beaten in the first round 12 months ago but I think they’ll go a lot further this time around. Price has been irresistible at times this year and the way he’s playing suggests he can’t be too far away from another TV major. I think he’ll edge a lengthy (but not as long as last year’s) final against the 2015 and 2016 champion.
Dan Dawson (PDC TV commentator): I think MvG wins the title – he’s had a couple of shocking displays on the World Series, but rumours of his demise have been somewhat exaggerated. As soon as he loses a game, there’s a small army of Phil Taylor fans who jump online to start shouting “THATS Y HES NOT THE GR8EST”, but the fact that he’s even in the discussion says more than anything. I think the other half of the draw is wide open – you can make cases for Cross, Wright, or maybe an outsider, but I’m finding it hard to overlook Gerwyn Price… I think he’s one of the best four players in the world this year, and he still seems to be improving.
Chris Murphy (PDC TV commentator): It might sound like an obvious prediction, but I think that the top two seeds will reach the final, but I do think there could be a surprise in that decider with Rob Cross taking the title over MVG.
Phill Barrs (Live Darts): I think MVG v Gezzy Price. I say this because having spent time with Michael over the weekend he is very determined to put things right that have gone wrong recently. And the bottom half of the draw I was torn between Rob and Gezzy but I’ve gone with my heart and think Gezzy just. Michael to win it.
Tom Beresford (Darty Party Podcast): In terms of which two players will contest the final, I feel that the bottom half of the draw could really open up for Rob Cross. He’s really been producing some consistent performances throughout 2019. As for the top half of the draw, Michael van Gerwen is the obvious favourite despite his recent poor form, but I’m going to take a punt on Gary Anderson meeting Rob Cross in the final.
Listen to episode 112 of the Weekly Dartscast podcast as co-hosts Alex Moss and Burton DeWitt preview the World Matchplay with special guests Nathan Aspinall, Rod Harrington and Colin Osborne via the player below
Who will be the player to watch?
Rob Mullarkey: Price, because I think he’ll win it, and Nathan Aspinall. The Asp is the first player to make his World Matchplay debut as a seeded player since Simon Whitlock in 2010 and the UK Open champion will walk into the Winter Gardens on a post-Vegas high. He has to be in with a shout of at least making the last four.
Dan Dawson: Gerwyn Price is obviously a player to watch, but I think you can look at all sorts of players in the bottom half of the draw in particular. The one I really like is Krzyzstof Ratajski. He’s in the top 10 in the averages list on the tour; he’s won a title this year; he’s won the World Masters; and I genuinely think he can do some huge damage in a big PDC event.
Chris Murphy: Keep an eye on Keegan Brown. His form has been good, particularly on the European Tour where he has twice defeated Michael van Gerwen. He is threatening to live up to his early promise and I think he could go on a big run in Blackpool.
Tom Beresford: As for players to watch, I’m excited to see how the debutants get on. Especially the likes of Nathan Aspinall following his second televised title in Las Vegas. I’m also interested to see just how far Glen Durrant and Jamie Hughes get on. Both players have very tough draws, but it’s going to be exciting just to see how they perform on the Winter Gardens stage.
How far will the defending champion Gary Anderson go?
Rob Mullarkey: For those of you who follow the trends, it’s worth noting that Anderson’s campaigns in Blackpool have flip-flopped (pardon the pun) over the last six years. The 2018 champion suffered second-round exits in 2013, 2015 and 2017 and that trio of performances came either side of semi-final appearances in 2014 and 2016. If the pattern continues he’ll go no further than the last 16.
Dan Dawson: I genuinely don’t know, is my honest answer. Gary isn’t 100% happy with how he’s playing – which is understandable considering how little he’s played this year. We’re incredibly lucky that the treatment he’s been having on his back and elbow problems seems to have been effective – I was worried we were losing one of the greatest ever to play the game – but he’s not entirely match fit. I think he gets past Danny Noppert, but he may be tested – however it doesn’t get any easier after that. I could see Nathan Aspinall beating him in round two, but the furthest I see him reaching is the semi-finals, where I think MvG will take advantage of him not being able to fire on all cylinders.
Chris Murphy: It’s hard to tell with Gary as we all know he has not played a great deal of competitive darts this year but he’s that good that it might just take one match to get him going. He has a favourable first round draw against Danny Noppert, who is making his first appearance at the Matchplay, and I think Anderson will go on to reach the semi-finals where his title defence will end in defeat to van Gerwen.
Phill Barrs: Since his return to action we’ve seen moments of brilliance and yet moments of mediocrity from Gary. If he can get it right then I’m still hopeful of a QF/SF from Gary at the Winter Gardens. But a big ask in round 2 against Nathan Aspinall if they both get through.
Which first round match are you most looking forward to?
Rob Mullarkey: Following his recent European Tour success in Prague, I’m intrigued to see how Jamie Hughes gets on against Michael Smith. Smith beat Hughes 6-0 in a ProTour match in Dublin last September but I suspect it’ll be a very different encounter this time. Furthermore, Chris Dobey is well aware that the World Matchplay could be the tournament that takes him to the next level. This is a free-hit as far as his world ranking money is concerned so there won’t be too much pressure on him when he takes on Rob Cross. Having bided his time to get here, he won’t want to leave in a hurry.
Dan Dawson: The standout match for me is Michael Smith versus Jamie Hughes. Smith has been unlucky this year – he could’ve picked up 2 or 3 titles, were it not for James Wade continuing to beat him. I maintain that he’s not playing poorly, but he’s just missed some crucial doubles at crucial times. Ultimately, I think that may be what costs him again against Hughes – who achieved a fairytale win in Prague to earn his Blackpool debut, and has looked superb all year himself.
Chris Murphy: Max Hopp against Dave Chisnall excites me. Hopp has taken giant leaps forward in the last year or so and Chizzy is no certainty to defeat him. It’s an intriguing encounter, like many first round ties. I also think Cross could be pushed all the way by Chris Dobey and might have to win it in extra time!
Phill Barrs: The obvious one is Adrian Lewis again Glen Durrant. This game means a lot to both players which I am looking forward to but think Glen might just be a bit too consistent. But the one that intrigues me is Michael Smith against Jamie Hughes. Saw signs that Michael was nearing his best again in Vegas against Jamie who has had an outstanding season so far. This game means a lot to both.
Tom Beresford: The match that I’m most looking forward to in the first round has to be Adrian Lewis vs Glen Durrant on Sunday evening. Despite Lewis’ poor run of form, he always seems to produce the goods in Blackpool. As for ‘Duzza’, his main objective since joining the PDC was to qualify for the Matchplay, and he’s very much looking forward to making his debut on Sunday night.
Which seeds are most in danger of going out in the first round?
Rob Mullarkey: Last year, the number one seed was beaten in the first round so on that basis, they’re all candidates to be on the receiving end of an upset. I do particularly fear for Darren Webster (15) against Krzysztof Ratajski.
Dan Dawson: I think you could see a huge number of seeds fall in round one – there are so many dangerous debutants in the field this year. Smith is one I feel has a very tough draw, but the other three I would specifically pick out are Darren Webster (Ratajski), Jonny Clayton (Keegan Brown) and Adrian Lewis (Glen Durrant).
Chris Murphy: Adrian Lewis and Darren Webster spring to mind immediately. Lewis has a nightmare draw against a relentless Glen Durrant – and Webster, recovering from injury, is nowhere the near the level that has seen him reach the quarter-finals for the last two years. Ratajski takes him out in round one, for me. In terms of the top seeds I think Daryl Gurney and Michael Smith could be the most vulnerable.
Phill Barrs: The two that leap off is Darren Webster and Adie Lewis. We all know that Darren has been carrying an injury and has no form heading towards the Winter Gardens. And Adie has arguably the toughest non-seeded player in the draw.
Tom Beresford: In terms of seeded players being under threat, I feel that Darren Webster has a huge task as he takes on Krzysztof Ratajski, but again, Webster always does well in Blackpool. I also feel that Jeffrey de Zwaan could be a tricky customer for James Wade.
Where does the Winter Gardens rank for you in terms of your favourite venues in darts?
Rob Mullarkey: Aesthetically, it’s by far and away the best, and it looks brilliant on TV. I can’t think of any other darts venue in the UK that’s been graced by the holy trinity of The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and John Henderson.
Dan Dawson: I love it; a whole host of factors combine to make it a special experience. The heat, the proximity of the fans to the stage, the history of the venue… it’s right up there as one of the best places to watch darts in the world.
Chris Murphy: In terms of venue it is my favourite. As a tournament it is second to the World Championship.
Phill Barrs: The Winter Gardens has been and always will be my favourite darting venue. Just full of history character and a unique atmosphere that is unrivalled anywhere.
Tom Beresford: For me personally, the World Matchplay is my favourite event on the calendar.