We’ve posted our article a little earlier than usual this week because we think the most appealing sports event of the week gets underway on Saturday 21st July in Blackpool as 32 of the world’s best darts players gather together to compete for the 25th World Matchplay title, at the home of the event since it was first competed for in 1994, the Winter Gardens.
The event has been dominated pretty much since it first began by one player, Phil Taylor, who amassed a total of 16 victories over the 24 years. Indeed, only eight players ever beat Taylor in Blackpool across 24 years of darts, an incredible record and one that is likely to never be matched.
In his final year as a professional last year, Taylor’s final Major title was the World Matchplay when he beat Peter Wright in the final. However, with him not being back to defend his title, Taylor will have to satisfy himself with the fact that the PDC decided to rename the World Matchplay trophy in his honour following his retirement. So for the first time this year, players will be competing for the Phil Taylor trophy as well as a sizeable prize pool of £500,000.
The World Matchplay – Professional Dart’s Second Greatest Prize
The first PDC World Matchplay tournament was contested back in 1994 and provided a real shock as unheralded American Larry Butler came through the field to claim victory. It quickly established itself as second only to the World Championship in terms of importance in the darts calendar and it is a position that it holds to this day.
Phil Taylor’s dominance of the event is such with 16 wins that the next nearest players to him in terms of total wins are Rod Harrington and Michael van Gerwen who have each won the tournament twice. Every other player that has won the event, Larry Butler, Peter Evison, Colin Lloyd and James Wade has managed just the one victory.
Indeed, the list of names in the current world of darts that are yet to win the event reads like a who’s who of darting genius with the likes of Gary Anderson, Adrian Lewis and Rob Cross yet to win the event (all of whom have been World Champions), while Peter Wright was a beaten finalist last year.
World Matchplay Darts Winners
- 1994 – Larry Butler beat Dennis Priestley – 16-12
- 1995 – Phil Taylor beat Dennis Priestley – 16-11
- 1996 – Peter Evison beat Dennis Priestley – 16-14
- 1997 – Phil Taylor beat Alan Warriner – 16-11
- 1998 – Rod Harrington beat Ronnie Baxter – 19-17
- 1999 – Rod Harrington beat Peter Manley – 19-17
- 2000 – Phil Taylor beat Alan Warriner – 18-12
- 2001 – Phil Taylor beat Richie Burnett – 18-10
- 2002 – Phil Taylor beat John Part – 18-16
- 2003 – Phil Taylor beat Wayne Mardle – 18-12
- 2004 – Phil Taylor beat Mark Dudbridge – 18-8
- 2005 – Colin Lloyd beat John Part – 18-12
- 2006 – Phil Taylor beat James Wade – 18-11
- 2007 – James Wade beat Terry Jenkins – 18-7
- 2008 – Phil Taylor beat James Wade – 18-9
- 2009 – Phil Taylor beat Terry Jenkins – 18-4
- 2010 – Phil Taylor beat Raymond van Barneveld – 18-12
- 2011 – Phil Taylor beat James Wade – 18-8
- 2012 – Phil Taylor beat James Wade – 18-15
- 2013 – Phil Taylor beat Adrian Lewis – 18-13
- 2014 – Phil Taylor beat Michael van Gerwen – 18-9
- 2015 – Michael van Gerwen beat James Wade – 18-12
- 2016 – Michael van Gerwen beat Phil Taylor – 18-10
- 2017 – Phil Taylor beat Peter Wright – 18-8
The tournament is also famous for being the event where the first ever nine-dart-finish was televised. This came back in 2002 and unsurprisingly, it was the winner that year, Phil Taylor that achieved the feat. Taylor repeated the perfect leg of darts in the 2014 tournament and a further four players have also notched nine-darters in the event over the years, Raymond van Barneveld, John Part, Wes Newton and Michael van Gerwen.
Other than Taylor, James Wade has made the most appearances in a World Matchplay final, winning just the one and losing the other five (four to Taylor, one to Michael van Gerwen). Van Gerwen has appeared in three finals (losing one, winning two) while Dennis Priestley appeared in the first three finals but lost them all.
The highest three dart average in the final came in 2013 when in a cracking match, rated as one of the best darts games ever, Phil Taylor defeated Adrian Lewis 18-13 with an average of 111.23 in the final, Lewis himself posting an average of 105.92, which would have been better than the vast majority of averages posted by the winner of the event over the years.
So, with Taylor retired, who will be the player that steps up to win the World Matchplay and take home the newly renamed Phil Taylor Trophy and a cheque for £115,000.
World Matchplay Darts First Round
32 players qualified for the tournament and the first round will be played from 7.10pm on Saturday 21st July.
Saturday 21st July
- Adrian Lewis v James Wilson
- Dave Chisnall v Keegan Brown
- Michael van Gerwen v Jeffrey de Zwaan
- Michael Smith v Jonny Clayton
Sunday 22nd July
- Darren Webster v Steve Lennon
- Ian White v Max Hopp
- Gerwyn Price v Joe Cullen
- Daryl Gurney v Steve West
- Mensur Suljovic v Steve Beaton
- Gary Anderson v Stephen Bunting
- Rob Cross v Mervyn King
- Raymond van Barneveld v Kyle Anderson
Monday 23rd July
- Kim Huybrechts v John Henderson
- Simon Whitlock v Richard North
- James Wade v Jermaine Wattimena
- Peter Wright v Jelle Klaasen
You can bet on all of these games at bet365 sport, as well as the outright winner market, which is what we are going to focus on now.
Who will win the World Matchplay?
After 15 tournament wins this season and dominating the world game, it is unsurprising to see Michael Van Gerwen as the 8/11 favourite with bet365 Sport. The Dutchman has been in imperious form since his defeat to Rob Cross in the World Championship semi-finals and he is the massive favourite to claim his third World Matchplay title this week.
His main challengers will likely be Scot Gary Anderson and Englishman Rob Cross (both 7/1) as well as Peter Wright (9/1). These four players are rated well ahead of the next few players who are Mensur Suljovic (25/1), Michael Smith (28/1) and six-time finalist here James Wade (28/1).
However, if you fancy an outside bet then Adrian Lewis at 40/1 may be a good bet. The former Taylor protégé suffered a miserable time in 2017, dropping way down the rankings but the former two-time World Champion has got some form back of late and he is due a good showing at this event having appeared in the final just once.
For me though, it’s van Gerwen against the rest and to be honest, I can’t see anybody getting the better of the Dutchman this week.