Can Anybody Vanquish Van Gerwen At The World Matchplay?

We’re posting this article a little earlier than usual this week due to the fact that today (Saturday 21st July) sees the start of arguably the second most prestigious tournament in the PDC World Darts schedule. The World Matchplay has been a feature of the organisation ever since 1994 and in the players eyes, a victory here is second only to winning the World Championship.

The champion last year was Phil Taylor who claimed his 16th World Matchplay title in 24 appearances, however Taylor will not be back to defend his title having retired at the end of the World Championships earlier this year. However, in recognition of his domination of this event, the World Matchplay trophy has now been renamed the Phil Taylor trophy in his honour.

There is no doubt who will start as favourite for the event as the current World Number One, Michael Van Gerwen has enjoyed a stellar 2018 so far, racking up an incredible 15 tournament victories over the year. Can anybody stop “Mighty Mike” making it 16 at Blackpool over the course of the coming week?

Before we take a look at some of the players that could stop van Gerwen (and who could be worth a flutter), we’ll quickly preview the World Matchplay event and quickly outline why it has become the second biggest event in the darting calendar.

World Matchplay History

The World Matchplay was first contested back in 1994 and it has been held every year at the same venue in Blackpool, the Winter Gardens. The tournament is played in a matchplay format, which means rather than legs and sets, players simply play until they win a stated number of legs in each round.

However, in order to win a match that is close, a player must win by two clear legs. Additional legs are played if a game requires it until a total of six extra legs have been played. If at this point the players remain tied, then a final winner-takes-all leg is played to decide who the victor is.

It is this simple format which appealed in particular to Phil Taylor who won an unprecedented 16 titles in Blackpool over the years. The Stoke-upon-Trent legend only lost eight games at the tournament in his entire career and no player ever beat him twice at the tournament.

Since the tournament began only seven players have ever won the event. The full list of tournaments, its winners, the runner up and the score in the final are listed below.

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

As you can see Phil Taylor is way out in front with 16 wins in total ahead of Rod Harrington and Michael van Gerwen who both have two wins apiece. The other four winners of the title are Larry Butler, Peter Evison, James Wade and Colin Lloyd, each of whom have one victory.

In terms of final appearances Taylor leads the way in that category too with 17 appearances (16 wins, one defeat) and second to Taylor is James Wade who made six final appearances, winning just the once and losing five times. Dennis Priestley lost all three of his final appearances, but Michael van Gerwen has won two and lost one of his three. John Part, Terry Jenkins and Alan Warriner have all made the final twice, but all lost both matches, however Rod Harrington also reached the final and won both times in successive years.

The 2013 Final is remembered as one of the best darts contests ever where two Stoke-upon-Trent players clashed and Phil Taylor posted an average of 111.23 in the final, while runner up Adrian Lewis also posted a 105.92 average in what was a classic encounter. In contrast, Rod Harrington’s win in 1999 was achieved with an average of 85.96.

Phil Taylor also set a new benchmark in darts at the 2002 tournament when he became the first ever player to land a televised, live 9-dart-finish. Since then the achievement has also been completed at this tournament by Raymond van Barneveld, John Part, Wes Newton and Michael van Gerwen, while Taylor repeated the feat at the 2014 tournament.

With Taylor’s name only adorning the winner’s trophy this year, can anybody in the current crop of stars stop Michael van Gerwen claiming what would be his third World Matchplay?

Lets’ take a look at some players that could potentially cause an upset.

Who could tame Mighty Mike?

Currently Michael Van Gerwen is 8/11 with bet365 Sport to win the tournament, but who are the players that could cause him problems?

Both Gary Anderson and Rob Cross are ranked as 7/1 shots with bet365, with Anderson just slightly drifting out in the betting overnight. The Scot has not been past the semifinals in this tournament, reaching that stage in 2014 and 2016 and in truth, he has yet to find his top form in Blackpool. Last year Cross went out in the second round but that was his only appearance at Blackpool since his meteoric rise in the sport and now, as World Champion, he has proven he has the game to beat van Gerwen on the big stage. However, van Gerwen has had the better of their encounters in recent times.

Peter Wright at 9/1 is an interesting one with the Scot having an up and down season so far, but he does seem to have an Indian sign over van Gerwen at times, picking up some crucial wins this season, notably in the Premier League, over the Dutchman. Raymond van Barneveld (40/1) is another player with fluctuating form but who on their day can give van Gerwen real problems.

If you want a player coming back into some form then the likes of Michael Smith and James Wade (28/1) are worth a look while Adrian Lewis (40/1) has started to get back to something like his best after a miserable 2017 saw him drop right down the rankings.

For me though, I think van Gerwen is the man to beat and I would be surprised if any other name other than his is adorning the trophy at the end of the tournament next Sunday evening.