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 2022 PDC World Matchplay.
Who will reach the final – and who will win it?
Dan Dawson: Dimitri to win the final….maybe against Dirk or Michael Smith. Actually, sod it… Gilding.
Chris Murphy: I see no reason for Luke Humphries not to transfer his Euro Tour form to Blackpool. I think he wins it, defeating Michael Smith in the final.
Jacques Nieuwlaat: Luke Humphries beats Michael Smith.
Christopher Kempf: The final will be contested by Michael Smith and Luke Humphries, with Smith winning 18-14.
Lendel Faria (FDI): The final will be Michael van Gerwen playing against Michael Smith. And I think Michael van Gerwen will be victorious.
Andrew Sinclair: This year’s Matchplay feels incredibly open, perhaps as much as it has in years. A number of the top players seem genuinely fatigued, raising questions about whether the tour is too taxing. As such, the formbook is all over the place. Another factor to consider is the extreme heat we’re set to face in the opening days of the tournament. The Winter Gardens is an oven at the best of times but it’ll be even hotter this year and that’ll mean that physical fitness will be more significant.
Bring all of those factors together and it’s easy to see the tournament playing out in a number of ways. The final I currently anticipate is one between Luke Humphries and Dirk van Duijvenbode, with Luke winning it 18-12 to pick up his first TV major.
Jetze Jan Idsardi: It’s one of the reasons why he is the #1 in the world: Peter Wright has mastered the skill of finding form at exactly the right time. ‘Snakebite’ has shown bits of his form during the last Players Championships, and I think he will be in full flow again in Blackpool. It could well be a repeat of the World Championship final: I expect Michael Smith to play Dave Chisnall in the semi-final, and I fancy ‘Bully Boy’ to reach his second World Matchplay final.
Ben Hudd: Luke Humphries beats Dirk van Duijvenbode in the final. It’s genuinely one of the most open majors I can remember – half of the field have a good chance of winning the whole thing. Humphries has arguably been the best player on the planet and he’s undoubtedly in major-winning form. Van Duijvenbode, meanwhile, has never won a match in Blackpool but he’s now a different animal.
Jack Garwood: It will be a battle of the beards for me. Michael Smith will take on Luke Humphries in the World Matchplay final. They’ve both been superb this season, and unlike others that have carried similar form over the last couple of years, these two don’t look like they’re having a purple patch. They look like they’re evolving into the world’s best.
There wasn’t much more Michael Smith could do in the World Championship final seven months ago, Peter Wright was unplayable through the backend of the match. The UK Open final was a bit different for Bully Boy, as that was the first time he was supposed to win the final. Since then, he’s continued to move forward and there looks to be no scar damage from those events, something we perhaps have seen on Smith in the past. Winning on the last night of the Premier League and at MSG, as well as his prolific nature on the ProTour this season all culminates in me thinking Michael Smith walks away with a big one. This is his time.
Philipp Wolff: Given their recent form, it is quite incredible that Luke Humphries and Michael Smith have never met at the latter stages of the latest events. Although they‘re sitting in different sections of the draw, I still think that this will change in Blackpool and I‘m going for a final between Humphries and Smith. When it comes down to that very last game of the tournament, it‘s very difficult not to back Humphries currently. I reckon that his impressive streak of victories in PDC finals will continue, lifting the Phil Taylor Trophy for the first time.
Rod Studd: Van den Bergh v Smith. Smith wins.
Pim Huberts: Dimitri Van den Bergh will reach his third World Matchplay final in a row and will win his second title by winning over Dirk van Duijvenbode. The Belgian won the last two TV tournaments, and I was truly amazed when he managed to win over all Dutch players with superb averages at the Dutch Darts Masters. Van Duijvenbode has shown his true form at the last PC-weekend.
Kevin Barth: It’s strange but for me it’s easier to pick a winner than predicting the second finalist. My clear favourite for the Matchplay title is Dimitri van den Bergh. He has shown some incredible stuff over the last weeks and knows how to win on big stages. In the final he will meet Dirk van Duijvenbode, if the Dutchman doesn’t put to much pressure on himself. I don’t see Gerwyn Price or Michael Smith putting multiple world class performances together.
Who will be the player to watch?
Dan Dawson: I think someone might come from the third quarter as a bit of a surprise… a Schindler or Clemens – maybe even a Huybrechts, despite his awful record there.
Chris Murphy: Having tipped him to win it, I have to say Humphries. Player of the year so far and ready to go to another level, in my view.
Jacques Nieuwlaat: I expect a lot from the Dutchies, although the draw is not kind to anyone these days.
Christopher Kempf: The player to watch is Dirk van Duijvenbode, whose performance over the past month on the ProTour has created great expectations for an upset of Michael Smith in the second round.
Lendel Faria (FDI): My player to watch will be Dave Chisnall. He is going massively under the radar but he has been top 10 in the FDI rankings for a long time now, which means he has been very steady in 2022. He has a reasonably okay draw if you take into account that Gezzy is out of form right now.
Andrew Sinclair: How can it not be Luke Humphries? 2022 has been the year in which all of his promise has coalesced to produce a lean, mean, winning machine. He’s won two Players Championships and four Euro Tours, a feat all the more impressive given that he’d never been to an Euro Tour final before April. I think he’s arguably the best player in the world right now and he’s also one of the fittest, which I suspect will be a big advantage in Blackpool.
Two other men worth a mention are Andrew Gilding and Martin Lukeman. Both picked up less than £10,000 on the PDC tour in 2021 but this year have already topped 50 grand. Of the two, I have more faith in Gilding winning his first round game than I do ‘Smash’, but it’ll still be cool to see them both up there enjoying the rewards of their remarkable changes in fortune.
Jetze Jan Idsardi: After winning four (!) European Tour-titles already this year, it will be intriguing to see what Luke Humphries can do in one of the biggest TV-events of the year. Could he win it? Absolutely. He’ll face a tough battle in every game though, which might result in him losing out early. He’ll do that in an entertaining way, so keep an eye on him.
Ben Hudd: Danny Noppert. It’s the Dutchman’s first televised ranking event since becoming a major champion and he’s been outstanding for the vast majority of this season. He finally scuppered his four-year wait for a floor title on Saturday and has the qualities needed to add a Matchplay to his UK Open success. Andrew Gilding also deserves a mention as he recorded eight ton-plus averages last weekend on the ProTour, reaching his second final of the season in the process, and he’s throwing astronomical numbers at the moment.
Philipp Wolff: To name dark horses for this year‘s World Matchplay is certainly not easy after the likes of Nathan Aspinall, Damon Heta and Andrew Gilding got drawn into very tight quarters. I would have certainly fancied that trio, but I will pick a player instead that probably has more pleasure looking at the draw bracket: Dave Chisnall. He has not been making headlines of late, but showed his consistency especially over the last ProTour events. Over long matches in this format, a certain lack of consistency hindered Chizzy from having a run at the Winter Gardens in the past but he will get it right this year in my opinion.
Pim Huberts: Luke Humphries. THE player to watch at this moment, stacking up titles like its nothing. He still has to prove he can reach such a level on TV again after his UK Open final last year.
Kevin Barth: It could sound boring but I really believe in a strong tournament for Luke Humphries. He has got a tough draw, but I think he will be up for it and make the next step on TV reaching the semi-finals.
How far will the defending champion Peter Wright go?
Dan Dawson: I think Wright might come unstuck against Dimitri, in a repeat of last year’s final, but with a very different outcome.
Chris Murphy: This question is about as easy to answer as guessing which darts he will use. There is nothing to suggest Wright will defend the title and nothing to suggest that he won’t. There has been some really good stuff this year and, by his standards, some really poor stuff too. If he isn’t at his best, I think he goes out in the quarter-finals.
Jacques Nieuwlaat: Quarter-finals.
Christopher Kempf: Peter Wright will lose to Dimitri Van den Bergh in the quarter-finals.
Lendel Faria (FDI): Peter Wright has been really poor the last three months. He showed some signs this week but I still think Dimi will do him in the quarters.
Andrew Sinclair: Snakebite hasn’t been all that impressive since winning his second world title but he looked sharp at the last block of ProTours. OK, he didn’t get the results to show for his good play, but the level of consistency he produced bodes well. In my projection, I have him beating Madars Razma in round one and probably Stephen Bunting in round two. I foresee a very close quarter-final with Dimitri Van den Bergh that could go either way. Regardless of whether he wins that, I don’t see him beating Luke Humphries in the last four. So, a deep run but not title retention for the Scot.
Jetze Jan Idsardi: He’ll defend his title.
Ben Hudd: Peter Wright’s form since becoming a two-time world champion has been questionable at times – he’s admitted that himself – and two weeks ago I would’ve said that there was little chance of him defending his title. Nevertheless, he posted eight ton-plus averages in 14 matches at last weekend’s block of Players Championship events despite results not going his way. He’ll battle his way through to the semi-finals before falling at the hands of Humphries.
Jack Garwood: Snakebite is an enigma. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player who’s recent form means so little to them. He just has this ability to turn it on when it truly matters unlike anyone else in the field. That being said, I was really impressed with Jonny Clayton’s last two days on the Pro our the weekend just gone, and I think the Ferret will get the better of Snakey in the quarter-finals.
Philipp Wolff: In the last three years, Peter Wright always arrived in Blackpool having won the last event before the World Matchplay. That’s one of the reasons why he dominated the field last year and was also hard to beat there previously. However, he hasn’t found top gear this year and I don‘t think he‘ll get past the quarter-finals. While a potential second-round clash with Stephen Bunting could already cause an upset for me personally, Clayton will probably have too much for him in the quarter-finals if he gets through to that stage of the tournament.
Rod Studd: Semi-finals.
Pim Huberts: Wright isn’t in the best form of his life, but has an easy first round by drawing Madars Razma, who hasn’t really shown his top level on TV yet. I expect Wright to lose in the QF against Dimitri Van den Bergh, although he will already have a tough second round game in possibly Stephen Bunting.
Kevin Barth: I said it before when talking about Gerwyn Price and Michael Smith. It’s the same with Peter Wright: I don’t see him putting together multiple big performances. He won’t get big problems in the first two rounds, but Dimitri in the quarter-finals will be too much for him.
Which first round match are you most looking forward to?
Dan Dawson: Humphries versus Aspinall is a belter, but Sunday afternoon with Dirk against Searle looks like a potentially incredible game to kick off the session.
Chris Murphy: Adrian Lewis v Michael van Gerwen is interesting. An old rivalry renewed and MVG’s injury plus Adrian’s recent win seems to be a leveller. There will likely be a lot of intrigue around that. But I think the best match will be Cullen v Heta.
Jacques Nieuwlaat: Humphries vs Aspinall.
Christopher Kempf: Looking forward to Smith vs Gilding, Smith has had the misfortune of drawing one of the two toughest possible opponents in the first round.
Lendel Faria (FDI): Michael van Gerwen versus Adrian Lewis. A fast paced game with Lewis showing some good form in recent months. If we ever were to see the ‘old’ Adrian Lewis this would be the perfect time to start kicking off for ‘Jackpot’ as MVG is still in doubt after his operation.
Andrew Sinclair: Michael Smith v Andrew Gilding and Joe Cullen v Damon Heta. I think these will both be very close, very high-quality games that could easily go either way.
Jetze Jan Idsardi: Michael van Gerwen vs Adrian Lewis has to be the pick of the first round. Lewis has regained his confidence, won a title last week, while van Gerwen is never short of confidence. With his Premier League-title he has now set his sights on the World Matchplay-title and he definitely wants to impress in the first round. This could be an absolute cracker.
Ben Hudd: Humphries v Aspinall, Cullen v Heta and van Gerwen v Lewis are the opening round matches that jump off the page – and they are brutally in the same quarter of the draw. So many potential blockbusters have been drawn and it’s impossible to only select one match. Humphries and Aspinall and Cullen and Heta have all impressed this year, while a clash of world champions needs no explanation. Noppert taking on Dolan also deserves a mention as both clinched titles at the weekend.
Jack Garwood: This is a nightmare to chose. I think I may even change my mind a few times between time of writing and the start of the tournament. But at this moment I’m going for Adrian Lewis vs Michael van Gerwen. Michaels injury and his lack of match practice since surgery, combined with the story of Lewis trying to get to the summit of world darts just makes for an intriguing subplot to a match that I hope will be full of quality and sprinkled with a dash of ego and testosterone.
Philipp Wolff: Having seen the draw, the first round clash between Luke Humphries and Nathan Aspinall immediately stood out for me. While Humphries is definitely the best player on the European Tour in 2022, I see Aspinall right up there with the best floor players this year. Both have already proven that they also feed off the crowd and I think there will be lots of emotions involved on a hot Winter Gardens stage. For sure, this is one of the first round ties that should go into overtime and I guess that’s also what the fans want to see with those two spectacular players.
Rod Studd: MVG v Lewis.
Pim Huberts: Michael van Gerwen vs Adrian Lewis. The Matchplay is the first real test for the Dutchman after his operation. Is he truly recovered? Or will he experience difficulties against the recent ProTour-winner Adrian Lewis. I expect he will.
Kevin Barth: It’s definitely Luke Humphries vs Nathan Aspinall. “The Asp” has come to life again and we all know what Humphries did so far this season. If both can show their A-game it will be brillant to watch and that could go all the way.
Which seeds are most in danger of going out in the first round?
Dan Dawson: Loads of them. Humphries has been amazing but has a very tough draw; Heta is an absolute nightmare for Cullen in the opening round; Jose and Price aren’t in the greatest form ahead of facing Clemens and Schindler. I could go on, but won’t.
Chris Murphy: All of them! The field is so tough. I reckon we could well lose a quarter of the seeds in round one. I’ll pick four… van Gerwen, Ratajski, Anderson and De Sousa.
Jacques Nieuwlaat: There are no easy draws anymore, but if I’d have to name a few I think De Sousa will be in trouble and also Anderson as Gurney is getting back to playing decent stuff. Then again look at the draws of Humphries, Cullen and Price, they can all easily lose I guess.
Christopher Kempf: The most endangered seeds are De Sousa, Price, Cullen and Ratajski – none of the four have put forward outstanding performances in ProTour events recently.
Andrew Sinclair: Given what I’ve said elsewhere about the mixed form of some of the top names and the difficulties they’ll face in the heat, I think we could see a fair few seeds go out early. Jose De Sousa is the obvious candidate for an early exit because he’s not played well for a while and his first-round opponent Gabriel Clemens seems to be peaking at the right time.
He’s been better than Jose but Krzysztof Ratajski has had an up and down year so far and I think he probably loses against Stephen Bunting. I could also see the likes of Joe Cullen, Gerwyn Price, Michael Smith and Dave Chisnall all losing early. Not because they’re playing poorly per se, but rather because of how competitive their first-round games look on paper.
Jetze Jan Idsardi: As much as I am a fan of José De Sousa, I fear he might crash out early this year. The Portuguese has not been in great form this year, while Gabriel Clemens has picked up form during the last Players Championships. Krzysztof Ratajski might struggle against Stephen Bunting as well, while Joe Cullen and Gary Anderson face tough battles against Damon Heta and Daryl Gurney.
Ben Hudd: Jose De Sousa was probably the man that the unseeded players wanted to draw and that’s not being disrespectful to a major champion, but his form has been indifferent to say the least over the last year or so. His opponent, Gabriel Clemens, has not drastically impressed himself this season but he’s shown enough signs in recent weeks. Joe Cullen and Luke Humphries are also probably in danger, although that’s only down to the calibre of opponent they have been handed.
Jack Garwood: Jose De Sousa vs Gabriel Clemens is a bit of a coin toss for me, so that immediately puts the Portuguese at risk. Van Duijvenbode vs Searle fits in the same category too. Joe Cullen is the biggest name at risk in round one for me though. Damon Heta is lethal.
Philipp Wolff: I reckon that a few Premier League players might exit the tournament in round one already. In particular, Joe Cullen hasn’t convinced me apart from the last couple of Premier League evenings and has drawn arguably the best unseeded player with Damon Heta who is always hard to beat in the opening rounds of a tournament. There are also question marks regarding Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price and it won‘t surprise me if at least one of them is knocked out by Lewis or Schindler. In general, I see a lot more seeds going out in the first round this year due to the strength in depth.
Rod Studd: De Sousa and Ratajski.
Pim Huberts: Krzysztof Ratajski, Michael van Gerwen, Joe Cullen, José De Sousa, Danny Noppert.
Kevin Barth: Ratajski could easily go out in the first round because he hasn’t got any consistency at the moment. Joe Cullen still seems to struggle with the lost Premier League final and Damon Heta will give him some game. Chizzy is up and down and Kim Huybrechts could capitalise. José De Sousa has a bad spell and Gabriel Clemens gets stronger again, the German Giant will take revenge for last year’s defeat. And it also wouldn’t surprise me if Gary Anderson would have a bad night and get beaten by Daryl Gurney.
This year will also see the first Women’s World Matchplay held at the Winter Gardens. How do you see the tournament playing out?
Dan Dawson: It’ll be interesting, and while the short format plays into the hands of the underdog, you would think Lisa and Fallon will be far better at handling the pressures of big stage darts. I expect them to meet in the final, and I think Lisa is playing the better darts right now. I do think Lorraine, Laura and Katie Sheldon have all made marked improvements in recent months though, and seeing any of them reach the final would be great.
Chris Murphy: I’m really looking forward to it and am commentating on it on Talksport 2. I can’t see past an Ashton v Sherrock final, which recent form suggests Ashton will win.
Jacques Nieuwlaat: I’m looking forward to it and hopefully the ladies can do the business. You’d be stupid to back against an Ashton vs Sherrock final, but there are plenty of dangerous ladies in the draw and some of them are unknown quantities on big stages so they might be spectacular. Because of the pressure on the top two ladies I’m gonna say that one of them will not make the final, I’ll let Burton decide who that is!
Christopher Kempf: I cannot imagine the Women’s World Matchplay being anything other than an Ashton-Sherrock final, with Sherrock being the favourite in that matchup.
Lendel Faria (FDI): I hope that the ladies give a good account of themselves and play like they can. The format is way too short in my humble opinion. As far as who’s going to win it; I’ll go with Fallon to beat Lisa in the final as Fallon seems to be a better player on stage than she usually seems to be on the floor, but I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the top four seeds would win the whole thing.
Andrew Sinclair: It’s probably worth mentioning that the first round games being best-of-seven is disappointing. I understand that it’s a by-product of the time constraints of trying to fit seven games in one session but it does seem rather unfair on those that have qualified.
In terms of making a prediction, it’s hard not to envision Lisa Ashton making the relatively short journey back to Bolton with the trophy in her possession. It’s hard not to see her making the final at a bare minimum, where she’s likely to face Fallon Sherrock. Fallon definitely has the game to win but she’s been a bit below par of late and Lisa has always seemingly had her number on TV.
Jetze Jan Idsardi: Fallon Sherrock and Lisa Ashton are the obvious picks in this first edition. I think lots of fans and players are really excited for this: it’s a great step by the PDC. The ‘Big Two’ should make the final, but the short format (best of seven in the quarter-finals) can always lead to upsets. Katie Sheldon beating Fallon Sherrock would be a huge shock, but don’t rule it out completely. In the end, I think Lisa Ashton wins it.
Ben Hudd: It’s another significant step for women’s darts. There’s an argument to suggest that this year’s inaugural Women’s World Matchplay is more prestigious than the WDF Women’s World Championship due to Lisa Ashton and Fallon Sherrock not being at the Lakeside. It’s played on the big stage and therefore you’d have to favour Fallon marginally for the title. A final between her and Lisa is what everyone wants to see. It will be interesting to see how the others fare nonetheless, especially youngsters Katie Sheldon and Chloe O’Brien.
Jack Garwood: I’m really excited to see how this one plays out. Lisa Ashton will start favourite, and I think it will take a lot to dethrone her. In terms of showing off the Women’s game, the order of merit produced a pretty good blend of the established names that those at home will know, and the young up and coming names such as Sheldon and O’Brien. Ultimately though, I think we’ll see the final we have seen so often this year on the Women’s Series. Fallon Sherrock vs Lisa Ashton, and the Lancashire Rose will win in front of a home crowd.
Philipp Wolff: From my point of view, the Women‘s World Matchplay will add a lot of excitement around the final weekend in Blackpool. While a longer leg distance would have been more appropriate for me, that short format definitely makes the event more open. I still believe that Lisa Ashton is the player to beat, as she appears like a title-winning machine on the Women‘s Series. On the other side of the draw, I‘ve been really impressed with Katie Sheldon lately and fancy her to go all the way to the final after a surprising win over Sherrock. In the end, Lisa Ashton will win the title for me but I think a lot of casual fans will be surprised that even her matches will be very close.
Rod Studd: It’s likely to be Ashton v Sherrock in the final, but the short format opens up the possibility of upsets.
Pim Huberts: Since the quarter-finals are only first to four legs, everything can happen. I do expect that the two most experienced women – Lisa Ashton and Fallon Sherrock – will reach the final where the former will win the title. Sherrock has a tough draw in the talented Katie Sheldon and I hope to see Aileen de Graaf playing well against Ashton in the semi-finals.
Kevin Barth: There is just one final written all over it: Lisa Ashton vs Fallon Sherrock. The best two female players in the tournament, both with the biggest stage experience and they will show that. How will win it in the end? No idea really.
Picture: David Bailey