Phenomenal World Matchplay record makes Taylor the only choice

The World Matchplay may have gone smoothly for the single-figure seeds in the top half of the draw on the opening day at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, but they’ll all be looking to see how the second seed gets on in his first round match on Monday. If Phil Taylor wins it, the rest of the field stand little chance of glory.

Aside from Alexandra Palace’s World Championships over Christmas, there isn’t a tournament on the circuit that the Stoke man has dominated more.

Only two players, Colin Lloyd and James Wade, have managed to win the World Matchplay in the last 14 years. Phil The Power has won all the others.

Somewhat surprisingly then, Taylor sits as the 10/3 second favourite to triumph in the north west, with Michael van Gerwen ahead of him in the betting with Ladbrokes at 13/8. Based on his phenomenal record in the event, that’s value that should be snapped up with vigour.

In the previous two years that Taylor didn’t take home the World Matchplay trophy he lost in the quarter and semi finals respectively. This year however, he has a potential second-round match against Raymond van Barneveld to overcome.

His first-round opponent John Henderson has a mountain to climb on Monday night as far as the betting is concerned. Ladbrokes make him a 15/2 longshot to be the first man to ever knock out Taylor in the first round of this tournament.

Darts’ godfather arrives at the Winter Gardens on a seriously formidable 35-game winning streak stretching from the first round of the 2008 edition to his win over Van Gerwen 12 months ago. Taylor has never reached the final of the tournament and lost and he has only tasted defeat six times in the event during his entire career.

Unfortunately for some of the other seeds in this year’s competition, their hopes of building a World Matchplay CV as good as Taylor’s will have to start next year. Justin Pipe, Michael Smith and Terry Jenkins all lost their opening round matches, while Van Gerwen, Adrian Lewis and Peter Wright – three of the top five seeds in action on the first day – all cruised through.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.