The World Matchplay is, arguably, the second most important event on the darts calendar and only two active players have won the tournament in its illustrious 20-year history.
Phil Taylor is one of them. Taylor, also known as The Power, has won 14 World Matchplay titles, including in each of the last half a dozen years. Not since the 2007 World Matchplay semi-finals has Taylor lost at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens and, with BetVictor and Boylesports offering odds of 4.50 about The Power extending his winning run, he is sure to be popular with punters who dip in and out of darts betting.
The World Matchplay format suits Taylor – first-round games are the best of 19 legs, second-round games are the best of 25 legs, quarter-final games are the best of 31 legs, semi-final games are the best of 33 legs and the final game is the best of 35 legs so upsets are less likely to happen than in tournament featuring shorter games – but The Power has not been himself this year, a slide in form that some people have attributed to him changing darts. Taylor ended his long-standing relationship with Unicorn to put pen to paper on a lucrative five-year deal with Target Darts. Most players would still kill for Taylor’s statistics but he is not playing up to his usual standard and, therefore, he is not worth backing to win the World Matchplay, even at odds of 4.50. One is looking elsewhere for a big-priced bet.
Other than Taylor, the only World Matchplay champion in this year’s draw is James Wade, who is available at odds of 17.00 with 888sport, Unibet and Youwin. Wade won the 2007 World Matchplay title, beating Wayne Jones, Dennis Priestley, Mervyn King, Adrian Lewis and Terry Jenkins. It made up for Wade, also known as The Machine, losing to Taylor in the 2006 World Matchplay final. Wade has played in more World Matchplay deciders than anyone other than Taylor, losing four finals to The Power between 2006 and 2012.
Wade is on a mission to prove that Premier League organisers were wrong to omit him from this year’s line-up. To say that Wade took the news badly would be an understatement – he described his omission as devastating and he has made it clear that he wants his spot, committing himself to more practice hours than before. And Wade’s work is paying off.
Sixth on the PDC Order of Merit, Wade won his first title since 2011 when he took out the Gibraltar Darts Trophy in June. And Wade’s 2014 numbers would look a whole lot better had he been on the right side of the result in his close matches against Michael van Gerwen in the Dubai Masters (The Machine led Mighty Mike 5-3 only to lose 9-10) and Jenkins in the UK Open (The Machine lost 8-9 to The Bull).
One accepts that Wade is in the tougher half of the World Matchplay draw – the Machine is seeded to play Andy Smith, Brendan Dolan, Simon Whitlock and Van Gerwen en route to the final – but his odds compensate for that and he holds career leads over three of those players. Wade leads Smith 12-4, Dolan 7-5 and Van Gerwen 10-8, while The Machine trails Whitlock 14-17. Van Gerwen is the World Matchplay favourite so the fact that Wade has a winning record against Mighty Mike, including success in their most recent clash, is a positive for anyone considering betting at long odds.
Once or twice per month we will provide you with the latest sports tips and keep you updated about the biggest events.