World Matchplay Preview
The World Matchplay Darts returns to Blackpool this weekend, but it will feel unfamiliar for some. The fight for ‘The Phil Taylor Trophy’ starts this Saturday. ‘The Power’ is making his return, albeit with a microphone in his hand instead of his darts. Taylor is the current holder of the World Matchplay title. It’s fitting that the trophy has been named after him. This is especially so, when considering his eight wins in the last ten years, 16 in total. Without him, James Wade and Michael van Gerwen are the only players taking part this year who’ve won the competition before. MVG, victorious in 2015 and 2016, is the heavy favourite in the 32 player field.
Things aren’t necessarily going to be that easy for van Gerwen though. He’s joined in the draw by players 2-16 from the PDC Order of Merit and the top 16 from the ProTour Order of Merit. It’s from the latter route that his 1st round opponent Jeffrey De Zwaan qualified. The same De Zwaan who eliminated him from the UK Open in a similar format in March. It would be wrong to take the World Series events too seriously. It’s a fact though that MVG hasn’t won either in the lead up to the Matchplay or even made a final. He probably would have preferred Michael Smith, his Shanghai conqueror and Gary Anderson, the Las Vegas winner, to be on the other side of the draw too.
The outright betting market is topped and tailed by the aforementioned van Gerwen and De Zwaan. I’m not a fan of odds-on betting, especially in a tournament outright market. So I wouldn’t argue with anyone taking van Gerwen on here. Roger Federer at Wimbledon last week is a perfect example of why opposing such a strong favourite can be a good idea. De Zwaan at 750/1 outright or 14/1 for the match could be a lot more interesting instead but there are plenty of other names that catch the eye.
A Competitive Field
It’s a sign of the strength of the field that two former World Champions are 50/1 in the outright market. Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld fit this tag and a former winner in James Wade is 33/1. This is especially so, as different winners are so rare in this tournament. Ahead of those sit Daryl Gurney, Michael Smith and Mensur Suljovic and all three have their claims. Gurney is World Grand Prix Champion and Suljovic won last year’s Champions League of Darts. Smith went from strength to strength in the Premier League this year, albeit losing in the final. He did manage to reverese that form last week against MVG.
On their day any of those could win. Bar Suljovic however, they are all in the same nightmare side of the draw along with van Gerwen and Gary Anderson. Anderson should always be respected, but for whatever reason this tournament has never brought him any joy. He has just a couple of semi-final appearances to his name and does not appeal as a second favourite. Peter Wright and Rob Cross complete the betting line up and we all know they have the talent to win this. Unfortunately for Wright he rarely crosses the line from finalist to winner. For Rob Cross it’s getting to that time where he needs another win to prove himself.
Suljovic to Shine
While Wright and Cross are in the ‘better’ half of the draw I’m going to look past those two on this occasion. I do think Cross has a strong chance but I can’t justify taking the 8/1 about him right now so I’ll leave it alone. Instead, I like the look of James Wade and Mensur Suljovic, both at good prices and drawn to avoid a lot of the big guns. There is a slight preference for Suljovic overall. That being said this is an incredibly tough competition to call. So the standout bet is either to lay Michael van Gerwen or back the field against him at around even money.