The 27th staging of the World Matchplay commences tomorrow but it will an all new experience for the players at it will be hosted at a new venue and also take place without the company of fans.
This year’s event was originally going to be staged at its usual home at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was moved to the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes as a precaution. The reason why this arena was chosen is due to the convenience of its on-site facilities. Also, the tournament will not be allowing fans to come and watch the games, meaning that the tournament will taking place behind closed doors. However, put in its place will be virtual crowd noises and also fans on video walls in order to encourage the players to show emotion and celebrate infront of the fans as usual, similar to that in the Premier League football. It will be a different experience for the players but with the success of the Championship League and Tour in the snooker, plus the recent Summer series in the darts, it should be another great tournament and a successful one!
2020 Betfred World Matchplay preview
The draw for the 2020 World Matchplay was confirmed on Sunday after the Summer Series had concluded. The tournament features 32 players who are battling it out for the trophy and £150,000. It features the top 16 players in the world who are taking on the top 16 of the Pro Tour Order of Merit. A few notable names will miss out in this tournament, such as the former world champion Stephen Bunting, up and coming player Chris Dobey and former World Masters champion Mervyn King, who will miss out in this event for the first time since he joined the PDC! However, here’s what the draw conjured up with.
First of all, we must start with the defending champion Rob Cross. Cross had a magical run on the Blackpool stage last year after he defeated Chris Dobey (10-3), Krzysztof Ratajski (11-5), Stephen Bunting (16-14), Daryl Gurney (17-15 from 9-15 behind) and Michael Smith (18-13) to claim his second PDC major and finally silence those who called him a ‘one hit wonder’! Cross’ results in the Summer Series was inconsistent! Despite two first round exits and a second round exit, he did reach the final in PC12, where he lost 6-2 to James Wade! It would be an incredible achievement if Cross could defend the title but he has a tricky test in Round 1, where he faces the inform German, Gabriel Clemens!
Poland’s Krzysztof Ratajski didn’t quite have a great run in the Summer Series. Despite reaching the semi finals on the very first day, he could only muster one quarter final appearance after that. However, the Pole is very deadly on the floor and these circumstances will certainly suit him very well! for a great run here Ratajski will face the fast throwing Dutchman Jermaine Wattimena in his first round tie.
The world number one Michael van Gerwen will be looking to reclaim the trophy that he last won back in 2016! The Dutchman has been deadly since the restart, winning two PC events in the Summer Series! Despite winning those two events he did lose before the last 16 stage in the other three events, so it shows that the world number one is not invincible! Van Gerwen is the favourite to win this title and he will face the 2011 World Grand Prix runner up Brendan Dolan in his first round match. A bit of a tough one but you’d expect the world number one to secure victory!
Australia’s Simon Whitlock comes into this event looking for form! His Summer Series wasn’t a great one, only reaching the last 32 on one occasion! However, despite that he did play some great darts in some matches but didn’t get the results. He comes into this event as the 16th seed and the way that it is going, he is in danger of dropping out of the top 16! Whitlock will face a tough opening in Ryan Joyce, who secured his first PDC title in the Summer Series after winning PC10, defeating Dave Chisnall in the final 8-7 from 7-3 behind!
2018 Matchplay Gary Anderson comes into this event on the back of a very poor Summer Series. The two time world champion, despite reaching one semi final, suffered two first round exits and two second round exits. A rusty start but this is an important week for Anderson as with his £115,000 coming off from his win two years ago, he needs a good run in order to prevent a slump down the rankings. It’s not a kind a opening match for him as he faces the lowest ranked player in the draw Justin Pipe in his tie! Pipe’s cautious play won’t suit Anderson, but the Scot will need to draw on his experience and just focus on his own game!
Multiple major winner James Wade was pretty consistent in the Summer Series. Despite going out in the third round in the first event, he reached the last 16 twice before securing victory in PC12 after defeating Rob Cross 8-2 in the final! He then reached the quarter finals on the final day! Wade has failed to reach the quarter final stage on three occasions in this event, which proves how good his record is! The Machine will face Keegan Brown in his first round match!
Michael Smith had an impressive tournament last year in reaching in the final. After defeating Jamie Hughes, Max Hopp, Mervyn King and Glen Durrant en route, he eventually fell 18-13 to Rob Cross, keeping his wait for a PDC major going! Smith didn’t have a particularly good Summer Series, just reaching one quarter final in the entire five days! However, things don’t get easy for Bully Boy as he faces former Players Championship finals runner up Jonny Clayton in his first round tie! Clayton put in some great performances and high averages in the Summer Series, so he will cause problems for Smith!
2018 runner up Mensur Suljovic also had an inconsistent Summer Series. The Austrian managed to the quarters and the semis in two events but in the other three suffered second, first and third round defeats! Just like Gary Anderson, he needs a good run here as his £55,000 from two years ago is taken off! Suljovic will face the reigning Czech Open champion, Jamie Hughes in his first round game. If Hughes’ doubles are in fine fettle then Suljovic could be in for a tricky encounter!
Reigning world champion Peter Wright is keeping up the form which won him the crown jewel on New Year’s Day. His Summer Series was a very good, reaching the final on the first day but lost to Michael van Gerwen 8-7. He followed it up by reaching two quarter finals and a last 16! But his moment came into the final day as he claimed victory in PC13 after defeating Gerwyn Price 8-2 in the final. Wright is one of the favourites in winning this title but he has a very tricky opening match against Portugal’s Jose De Sousa, who has won two PC events, reached a final in the Summer Series and is a very deadly player on the floor! Can Wright impress with his first PDC major with the specs?
Glen Durrant has a magical debut tournament year as he made it to the semi finals before succumbing to eventual runner up Michael Smith. Durrant didn’t have the best run in the Summer Series. Despite reaching back to back quarter finals in the first two events, Durrant could only muster one last 16 appearance in the last three. However, he did fire in some high averages during the five days play and the three time world champion will take on European Championship quarter finalist Jeffrey De Zwaan in the first round.
Former Grand Prix and Players Champion Daryl Gurney started his Summer Series slowly with a first and a third round defeat, but immediately found his game with a semi final in PC11, quarter final in PC12 and a last 16 in PC13! Gurney will be having nightmares after last year’s semi final capitulation against eventual winner Rob Cross where he lost 8 straight legs from 15-9 up to lose 17-15. So, Gurney will be looking to rewrite the wrongs here and he faces Ricky Evans in a repeat of their first round clash last year, in which Gurney won 10-7! Evans was the last name into the draw of this event after Gerwyn Price defeated the final contender Devon Petersen in the semi final of the last Summer Series event!
Dave Chisnall had a pretty painful Summer Series to forget. After reaching the quarter finals in PC9 he eventually made it to the final in PC10. However, heartbreak was to ensure as he let slip a 7-3 lead to lose 8-7 to Ryan Joyce, squandering darts at the title! Chisnall was never the same after that as he failed to get beyond the third round in the last three events. But that just sums up his career, he just can’t find the performance required at the important moment! Chisnall will face the experience Dutchman Vincent van der Voort in his first round match!
Gerwyn Price goes in as another title favourite by the bookies! Price’s Summer Series was mixed. After failing to get past the quarter final stages in the first four events, he managed to reach the final in the last event, but eventually ran out of steam to Peter Wright 8-2. Price did put in some fine averages in during the five days but his record at the World Matchplay is pretty grim! After reaching the quarter finals on his debut in 2015, he has only a single match in the tournament since and has lost in the first round on the last three occasions! But with the tournament behind closed doors, the circumstances might suit Price into producing his best form! He faces former world finalist Danny Noppert in Round 1. Can he finally break past the first round here?
Adrian Lewis has once again been struggling for form and consistency. His Summer Series was a disaster with his best being a last 32 in PC10 and was forced to withdraw from the final event due to personal issues. Lewis needs a huge run here this week and also faces a return outside the top 16. But his first round draw is no means and easy one as he faces the former world champion and 56 year old veteran Steve Beaton, who plays in his 20th consecutive World Matchplay! Some feat and also evidence to prove of his longevity in the sport.
Nathan Aspinall has been one of the players to watch in the past year and a half. He has had successes in winning the UK Open and the US Masters, reaching back to back world semi finals and also two PC event wins this year! His Summer Series was mixed, after going out in the first round on Day 1, he eventually reached a semi final, a quarter final and a last 16 appearance with the other being a defeat in Round 3. Aspinall will be looking to grab his hands on what would be the biggest title of his career and he faces off against Dimitri Van den Bergh in the first round. Van den Bergh is a great talent of course but his form has dipped in the past year.
Finally, we go to Stoke’s number 1 player Ian White. White is normally a very deadly player when it comes to floor tournaments, winning 10 PC events. His Summer Series was disappointing however, losing in the second round on three occasions but on the plus side he did reach a semi final and a quarter final. His record on the floor could make him a favourite to have a good run here, but will the TV cameras put a spoke in The Diamonds wheel? He faces Joe Cullen in a rematch of last year’s tournament, which White went on to whitewash him 10-0! Will it be Deja vu for Cullen this time round?
The format remains the same with the first round being the best of 19 legs, second round best of 21, quarter finals best of 31, semi finals best of 33 and the final being the best of 35! However, all games have to be won by two clear legs, with a game being extended if necessary, for a maximum of six extra legs before a tie-break leg is required. For example, in a first to 10 legs first round match, if the score reaches 12-12 then the 25th leg will be the decider.
There will be no afternoon sessions, just evening sessions with the first four days featuring five matches instead of four. Despite the circumstances this should be another cracking tournament and all the action is live on Sky Sports between the 18-26 July.