Wright and Whitlock collide in a repeat of last year’s Quarter-Final (credit:Chris Dean/PDC)
The final four places in the Quarter-Finals of the 2019 World Matchplay will be decided on Wednesday as a host of big-hitters aim to continue their progress.
Glen Durrant, James Wade, Michael Smith and Mervyn King have already booked their place at the business end of the competition in Blackpool, now a further three Premier League stars and a clutch of in-form hopefuls aim to join them.
With Michael van Gerwen and defending champion Gary Anderson both crashing out on a breath-taking Tuesday night, the tournament has been blown wide for a new name to potentially get their hands on the trophy.
All eyes will be on man of the moment Peter Wright as he looks to take his unbeaten run to 20 games in all competitions by overcoming former European Champion Simon Whitlock.
Wright is enjoying a blistering run of form, having followed up his recent German Masters triumph with back-to-back Players Championship titles a week ago.
The number six seed then picked up from where he left off with a 102 average in dispatching Vincent van der Voort 10-5 in Round One with a high checkout of 164 along the way.
Interestingly, though, ‘Snakebite’ has not reached the Quarter-Finals in any of his last five televised ranked majors since finishing runner-up in last October’s World Grand Prix and will be wary of the threat posed by a resurgent Whitlock.
Whitlock defied a 101.3 average from John Henderson to come through a high quality contest 10-8 for a win which he hopes could ignite the second half of his season.
Runner-up in the 2018 European Championship, in which he defeated Wright along the way, ‘The Wizard’ has since struggled to get his season off the ground, with the exception of a run to the final of the German Grand Prix in April.
He has generally fared well in this competition, reaching the Semi-Finals on two occasions (2010 and 2014) as well as a run to the Last Eight 12 months ago, which was ended by Wright with a thumping 16-5 scoreline.
Two players aiming to advance to the Quarter-Finals in Blackpool for the first time lock horns as world number two Rob Cross faces Polish debutant Krzysztof Ratajski.
Cross is out to avert a third straight Second Round exit at the Winter Gardens and will determined to mount a serious title challenge to finally follow up his famous triumph at Ally Pally almost 18 months ago.
He began his campaign in style with a 100.6 average in a 10-3 rout of Chris Dobey, a scoreline by which he won his only previous televised meeting with Ratajski at the 2018 UK Open.
Ratajski marked a dream debut in Blackpool despite the lowest winning average (89.2) of the opening round as he dispatched Darren Webster 10-5.
The only Polish player ever to feature on this famous stage, Ratajski claimed back-to-back ProTour titles last October and added to that tally in Wigan a month ago, having also reached the Last 16 of the UK Open.
Opening up the evening’s action is a clash between number three seed Daryl Gurney and former World Youth Champion Keegan Brown.
Gurney enjoyed a superb run to the Semi-Finals here two years ago which arguably proved to be the springboard to success as he went on to lift the World Grand Prix title later that year and the Players Championship Finals crown last November.
The Premier League semi-finalist landed nine 180s in defeating debutant Ricky Evans 10-7 and will look to utilise that trademark scoring power over this long distance once again.
Brown ended a four-year wait for a win at the Winter Gardens as he knocked out 14th seed Jonny Clayton 10-8 and a further scalp here would move him into a first major televised ranking Quarter-Final.
Brown has three Semi-Final appearances to his name this term, as well as two notable victories over Michael van Gerwen on the European Tour, underlining his impressive return to form and a rise up to 26th in the Order of Merit.
Another potentially close-run affair sees tenth seed Ian White take on a resurgent Stephen Bunting.
White has preserved his best form for the European Tour this season, picking up two titles from four final appearances, but transferred that ruthless edge onto this iconic stage by whitewashing Joe Cullen 10-0 with a 98 average in Round One.
Incredibly, the 48-year-old has still not progressed beyond the Quarter-Final stage of a PDC major but will is presented with perhaps his best chance yet of breaking that duck.
Bunting, the world number 18, is in the midst of his sixth straight Matchplay campaign since joining the PDC and ended a run of four straight First Round exits with a thrilling sudden death scalp of Gerwyn Price.
Runner-up in last month’s Czech Open, ‘The Bullet’ is back firing on all cylinders after admitting he came close to quitting the sport a year ago and will be keen to reach the heights of his debut since in 2014 in which he took the circuit by storm.
The action gets underway from 7pm BST, with all matches to be contested over the best of 21 legs. Matches must be won by two clear legs and will proceed for a maximum of five additional legs before a sudden death leg is required.
Betfred World Matchplay 2019 Match Schedule
Wednesday July 24
7.15pm Daryl Gurney v Keegan Brown
8.15pm Stephen Bunting v Ian White
9.15pm Rob Cross v Krzysztof Ratajski
10.15pm Peter Wright v Simon Whitlock