This year’s PDC World Matchplay has already been a tournament like no other. The Winter Gardens has seen tensions rise on the oche, big match-ups involving star names and shocks aplenty. And we’ve not even started the second round yet.
Although a number of the big names have already gone out, old favourites Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor and Gary Anderson remain. The trio will all have their eyes on the prize in what will surely be a scintillating Sunday finale.
But what exactly has made the event so memorable already this week…
Seeds are tumbling
James Wade, Kim Huybrechts and Jelle Klaasen have all exited the competition at the first round stage, leaving open the possibility of an unseeded player reaching the latter stages at the Winter Gardens.
Of those outside the top 16 it’s Daryl Gurney that makes the most appeal following his run to the final of the US Masters last week.
But he faces a stern test against two-time world champion Gary Anderson if he is to surpass his Matchplay best and reach the quarter-final for the first time.
Another to look out for is Rob Cross.
The Pembury-born thrower has lit up the PDC Pro Tour circuit this season and is beginning to translate that form onto the main stage.
Cross’s defeat of the ultra-consistent Ian White in round one should make other players sit up and take note of the inexperienced 26-year-old.
El Clasico of Darts
We thought their clash at the world championships would be their last, but Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld will go head-to-head once more on Wednesday night.
The famed El Clasico of Darts will pit the two ageing giants against each other for possibly the final time, with The Power’s retirement at the end of the year closing in.
It’s Taylor who holds the advantage in this their 76th renewal, with 58 wins to Barneveld’s 17.
Barney, though, won the last meeting between the pair at the 2017 World Championships and is likely to feel more comfortable over the longer format.
The prize for the victor? A mouth-watering quarter-final clash with Simon Whitlock or Michael van Gerwen.
Irresistible Michael van Gerwen
The man, the myth, the legend – MVG is on the hunt for his third successive World Matchplay crown.
The Dutchman has been in scintillating form this calendar year, and has taken home 12 titles and over £1m in prize money since the start of 2017.
He was less than impressive in his first round disposal of Stephen Bunting, but rest assured the best is yet to come from Mighty Mike.
At just 28-years-old, the Green Machine will no doubt have his eyes on emulating Taylor’s incredible 15 title wins on the Blackpool stage.
MVG is gunning for his 25th PDC major success and will stop at nothing to get it.
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