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Shaw Says - Six mystic predictions for the 2016 World Matchplay

Jamie Shaw in Editor's Column 12 Jul 2016
Will Thornton be feeling the Payne in Blackpool again? (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

Forget the astronomical calendar, summer will officially commence on Saturday July 16 when the first dart enters the board at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

For the next nine days, life's a beach for the darting purist as the sport's elite slug it out in the event which is hard to rival in terms of its feel-good factor.

The PDC has overseen many changes over the past 22 years, but one thing has remained a constant: The World Matchplay, in summer, in Blackpool. It's the perfect fit and one which very few players or fans have a bad word to say about. 

The temperature on that iconic stage is so hot it probably touches the melting point of tungsten, but somehow, not a bead of sweat will fall from Phil Taylor's head.

As the great Sid Waddell once proclaimed: "He [Taylor] wouldn't give a drip of his sweat to a man dying of thirst."

Taylor raising the trophy above his head come the end of the week also used to be synonymous with this competition, but that is no longer a formality.

In the true spirit of Blackpool Pleasure Beach, I've shone my hands over an imaginary crystal ball to forecast six happenings in this summer's show-piece...

Seventh time lucky for Thornton

For many players, the World Matchplay is their annual darting highlight, but not if you're Robert Thornton. 

As a multiple major winner, one would expect a player of Thornton's calibre to have featured at the business end of this tournament at least a handful of times. Quite the opposite.

The Scot is yet to taste victory on the Winter Gardens stage in six appearances, notably suffering 10-0 whitewashes at the hands of Gary Anderson and Adrian Lewis in 2010 and 2012 respectively.

Surely this time the world number eight has enough in the locker to end his Blackpool hoodoo and deny a dream debut for emerging star Josh Payne?

Back Thornton to beat Payne @ 1/2 with Coral

A very long Daryl Gurney walk-on...

Gurney is one of three debutants in this year's event and is likely to have the crowd eating from the palm of his hand as he makes his way to the stage to the sound of Neil Diamond's 'Sweet Caroline.'

The Northern Irishman became an instant hit with the Ally Pally faithful during last December's World Championship, orchestrating them to belt out the chorus, and expect more of the same ahead of his first round show-down with Ian White on Sunday afternoon.

A new name on the trophy

The World Matchplay is entering its 23rd staging, but only seven men have managed to get their hands on this illustrious trophy.

This year, I feel, that could be about to change. Van Gerwen was the man to end Taylor's stranglehold 12 months ago, but the net is closing on the Dutch sensation.

Anderson has helped himself to three of the four World Series titles so far this season, defeating MVG en route to two of those, while Lewis is showing signs of a return to form and few would be surprised if Peter Wright was to claim that elusive maiden major on this stage.

Back a first time winner @ 13/8 with William Hill

Mensur to weave his magic

Mensur Suljovic really is one of a kind. Watching him over a best of 19 with a potential tie break could be likened to pulling teeth, but there's just something mesmerising in the way he goes about his business. 

I came across a stat on Twitter last week which claimed Suljovic was the only player to have picked up prize money in all 22 ProTour events this year. That really is an underrated feat all things considered. 

Anyway, he faces Stephen Bunting in the first round - a man who has gone off the boil somewhat since his breakthrough debut season. Bunting is the 14th seed, Suljovic adores double 14. It's written in the stars. 

The big Austrian went all the way to the Quarter-Finals last time around and I fancy him to double 14 his way into a second round show-down with Taylor. Now that would be interesting. 

Back Suljovic to beat Bunting @ 10/11 with BetVictor

Perfect nine on the Golden Mile

This iconic event has served up six nine-darters over the past 14 years and the sheer quality of the field, combined with a lengthy format, paves the way for more perfection this month.

It was perhaps surprising that no player achieved the feat on this stage last year, though Phil Taylor did fire in eight perfect darts against Andy Hamilton before missing the double 12 and going on to lose the leg!

As well as hitting one at the UK Open, van Gerwen is now into double figures for missing the final double this year alone, and it's difficult to envisage the green machine not carving himself out another opportunity to replicate his 2012 heroics.

Back a nine-dart finish @ 10/11 with Betfred

Big names to go out with the tide

In my opinion, the gap in class between the top 16 seeds and the ProTour qualifiers is narrowing year-on-year, and expect that to be evident in the number of seeds who fall at the first hurdle.

It may sound cliché, but there really is no longer such a luxury as an 'easy draw' in this competition. Four of the top 16 failed to reach Round Two in 2013 and 2014, while six were sent packing at the first time of asking last year. 

The sheer number of events in a season mean that the lower-ranked players have become accustomed to facing the big names and that eradicates the fear factor when it comes to meeting them on the big stage.

A testament to the quality of the overall field, don't be surprised to see at least half a dozen seeded stars fall by the wayside in the opening round.

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Shaw Says - Six mystic predictions for the 2016 World Matchplay

Forget the astronomical calendar, summer will officially commence on Saturday July 16 when the first dart enters the board at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

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