Michael van Gerwen strengthened his grip on the world of darts with yet another victory last week in the inaugural US Darts Masters. The dominant Dutchman is hard to oppose in any tournament right now, and he goes in search of a 3rd consecutive victory at the upcoming World Matchplay at Blackpool’s famous Winter Gardens.
The World Matchplay is a 32 player tournament consisting of the top 16 in the PDC order of merit and 16 qualifiers from the ProTour order of merit. The first round commences on the evening of Saturday 22nd July and the competition will continue throughout the week, with the final set to take place on Sunday 30th July. The prize fund has been increased from £450,000 to a staggering £500,000, with the winner set to walk away with the first prize of £115,000.
Michael van Gerwen has won the last two renewals, beating James Wade in 2015 and Phil Taylor in 2016. The Power had won the previous seven editions of the competition and will be having a last hurrah prior to his intended retirement in early 2018. Taylor has failed to live up to his own incredible standards this season though, and is in the top half of the draw along with Mighty Mike. If the Stoke-based ace progresses in the tournament he is likely to face van Gerwen in the quarter finals, and will need to roll back the years to compete with the world number one.
It’s hard to get away from backing van Gerwen in any competition at the present time, but as ever we’ll also look for a live each way bet to complement the obvious choice.
The betting markets suggest that the two most likely players to de-crown the Dutchman are Gary Anderson and Peter Wright. The Flying Scotsman is rated a +500 chance, while Snakebite is a best price of +700 .
Both players are in the bottom half of the draw and can therefore avoid van Gerwen until the final, and if both progress they would be pitched against one another in the semi final. Peter Wright has had arguably his best ever season this year, winning his maiden premier title at the UK Open and finishing runner up in the Premier League. He also reached the semi final of the World Championship and the quarter final of the Masters. He was knocked out of the US Masters at the quarter final stage by eventual runner up Daryl Gurney in a thrilling 8-7 match, and looks destined for at least a quarter final slot in this week’s tournament.
Anderson finished runner up in the World Championship, unable to land his third world title in a row, and also filled the number two slot at the Masters. He also succumbed to Daryl Gurney at the US Masters, going down 8-4 in the semi final, but also looks destined to make his way at least as far as the quarter finals next week.
The left-hander has an excellent record at the World Matchplay and is also in the bottom half of the draw, which means he can avoid playing van Gerwen until the final. He would have to navigate his way past both Anderson and Wright if all goes to form, but his previous record at Winter Gardens makes him worth a second look. Wade has contested six of the last eleven finals in Blackpool, as well as making two semi final, and two quarter final appearances. The only blip in performance came last year when he was knocked out in the first round by Mervyn King.
He beat Phil Taylor to land the title in 2006, before losing out to the same player the following year in 2007. He lost a further three finals to taylor in 2008, 2011 and 2012, before again finishing runner up to Michael van Gerwen in 2015. With most bookmakers paying out half the odds for a top two finish, Wade could provide a huge payout if he can have another good tournament this year.
Van Gerwen’s Domination
Phil Taylor, Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld all join him in the top half of the draw, but the dominant Dutchman has the measure of all of those players when at his best, and he shows no signs of a drop in form at the moment. In recent weeks he has taken the Shanghai Masters and the US Masters, adding to the World Championship, the Masters and the Premier League already won in 2017. He won every major tournament in 2016 bar the Champions League of Darts and the 2016 World Championship, and this will be a third World Matchplay in a row if he takes the trophy.
Michael van Gerwen to win the World Matchplay
22nd July – 30th July
James Wade to win the World Matchplay
22nd July – 30th July
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