Round One draws to a close at the 2020 World Matchplay on Tuesday before four unmissable Last 16 ties take…
Round One draws to a close at the 2020 World Matchplay on Tuesday before four unmissable Last 16 ties take centre stage in Milton Keynes.
Defending champion Rob Cross was the only seed to tumble across the opening two days, but was joined on Monday by world number three Gerwyn Price, tenth seed David Chisnall and eleventh seed Ian White in crashing out.
Those departures, all coming in the bottom half of the draw, have left the door ajar for a potential first-time finalist in this iconic competition.
Nathan Aspinall is one player who will have his sights set on challenging for the Phil Taylor Trophy this weekend, and he starts his campaign against Belgian ace Dimitri van den Bergh.
Aspinall’s meteoric rise is underlined by the fact that this is only his second appearance at the World Matchplay and he is vying for a first win, having lost out to Mervyn King on debut in Blackpool 12 months ago.
The 2019 UK Open champion, now ranked world number six, reached his second consecutive World Championship Semi-Final in December, defeating Van den Bergh 5-3 in the Last Eight.
Van den Bergh is one of four debutants in this year’s summer show-piece and will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Gabriel Clemens in making an instant impact.
The former World Youth Champion, a renowned big stage performer, will have to make do without a crowd, but will be fired up to register his first win over ‘The Asp’ in five attempts.
The opening tie of the Second Round sees the two most recent World Matchplay runners-up collide as Michael Smith faces Mensur Suljovic.
Suljovic was denied by Gary Anderson in an epic 2018 final, while Smith fell short to Rob Cross 12 months ago and is a man on a mission to go one better this year.
Smith was emphatic in his opening salvo, thrashing Jonny Clayton 10-3 with a 101 average, and is looking to follow up his 10-6 success over the Austrian this year’s Masters at the same venue.
Suljovic’s route to Round Two was in stark contrast, having battled through a tie break to deny Jamie Hughes 12-10, but the standard remained superb throughout with both players registering ton-plus averages.
The world number 12 boasts a strong record in this competition and is out to reach his fourth Betfred World Matchplay Quarter-Final since 2015.
Two former champions go head-to-head in a mouth-watering battle as 2018 winner Gary Anderson faces 2007 winner James Wade.
This will be the 55th time this fixture has been played out over the last 15 years, with Anderson having come out on top on 33 occasions.
The Flying Scotsman admitted he has struggled to get back into the swing of things on the oche since lock-down but dug deep to defeat Justin Pipe 10-5 despite an average of just 90 in Round One.
Wade, meanwhile, averaged 96.5 in a thrilling 12-10 triumph over Keegan Brown, continuing the fine form which led him to a PDC Summer Series title a week ago.
The pair have twice met at this stage of the Matchplay, in 2009 and 2013, with Wade winning on both occasions at the Winter Gardens.
Another familiar fixture in this event sees Michael van Gerwen take on Simon Whitlock, with the world number one to extend his emphatic record over the Australian ace.
Van Gerwen began his quest for a first Matchplay crown since 2016 with a steady 10-7 victory over Brendan Dolan, averaging just shy of in a tricky tussle.
The reigning Premier League champion now faces a player against whom he has not lost to in PDC competition since October 2016, a run spanning 15 matches.
Their most recent World Matchplay meeting came in the same round three years ago, with MVG running out an emphatic 11-3 winner.
Whitlock safely saw off debutant Ryan Joyce 10-4 in the opening match of the tournament and admitted afterwards that he feels he is “better than ever”.
Twice a Matchplay semi-finalist, ‘The Wizard’ knows he must improve on an 89 average if he is to threaten an upset against the sport’s hottest property over the long format.
The final match of the night sees two of the PDC’s most improved stars of the last 18 months face off as Gabriel Clemens plays Krzysztof Ratajski.
Ratajski, seeded 13th in only his second Matchplay appearance, produced one of the stand-out performances of the opening round by dismantling Jermaine Wattimena 10-4 with a 107.5 average.
A multiple PDC ranking title winner, Ratajski had struggled to replicate his red hot floor form prior to that blistering display, and will be determined to follow it up and mount an outside title challenge.
Ratajski admitted he was eyeing a shot at revenge over Rob Cross following his defeat in Round One last year, but Clemens put paid to those plans with a stunning scalp.
The German number two marked his Matchplay debut in dream fashion by becoming the first player to knock out the reigning champion in 14 years.
However, he averaged 18 points less than Ratajski in doing so and will look for significant improvement if he is to record a first win over the Polish ace at the fifth time of asking.
The action gets underway from 6pm BST, with First Round matches to be contested over the best of 19 legs and Second Round ties best of 21.
All matches must be won by two clear legs, with a match being extended if necessary for a maximum of six extra legs before a sudden death leg is required.
World Matchplay 2020 Match Schedule
Tuesday July 21
1x First Round, 4x Second Round Matches
6.15pm Nathan Aspinall v Dimitri Van den Bergh (RD1)
7.15pm Michael Smith v Mensur Suljovic
8.15pm Gary Anderson v James Wade
9.15pm Michael van Gerwen v Simon Whitlock
10.15pm Gabriel Clemens v Krzysztof Ratajski