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World Matchplay 2021 Day One preview and order of play: Summer show-piece commences in Blackpool

Jamie Shaw in World Matchplay 15 Jul 2021
Dimitri van den Bergh celebrates (Photo by Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

The 2021 World Matchplay gets under way on Saturday as the prestigious major returns to the iconic Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

After being held behind closed doors in Milton Keynes last year, the £700,000 tournament returns to its spiritual home for the first of nine days of unmissable arrows.

The top 16 players from the main PDC Order of Merit will square off against the 16 qualifiers from the one-year ProTour Order of Merit in Round One.

The opening night three current major champions, including defending Betfred World Matchplay champion Dimitri van den Bergh.

Van den Bergh claimed the title in fairy-tale fashion on his debut 12 months ago, defeating Gary Anderson 18-10 in the final to secure his first major silverware.

The 27-year-old now heads to Blackpool for the first time as the number eight seed hoping to become only the fourth player in the history of the event to successfully retain the title.

The Belgian ace enjoyed an impressive debut Premier League campaign which saw him finish fifth, narrowly missing out on a play-off place on the final night of league action.

He kicks off his title defence with a clash against his dancing rival Devon Petersen – one of seven debutants in this year’s competition.

Petersen qualified as the second highest ranked player from the ProTour Order of Merit, reflecting his superb form on the floor circuit, particularly in 2020, though he has struggled to replicate that for much of this season so far.

Since reaching the Quarter-Finals of the UK Open in March, Petersen has suffered eight First Round exits on the ProTour, however the most recent Super Series saw him cash in all four events.

Semi-finalist in last year’s European Championship, the South African also reached the Last 16 of the World Championship and will look to rise to the big occasion once again.

Reigning World Champion Gerwyn Price aims to end his miserable record at the Winter Gardens this year and opens up with an unexpected meeting with Jermaine Wattimena.

Gerwyn Price celebrates (Photo by Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

Price had initially been drawn to face Mensur Suljovic, however the Austrian’s withdrawal through illness meant Wattimena took his place as the next highest non-qualified player from the ProTour rankings.

World number one Price will be out to make up for lost time having been forced to miss the Premier League due to a positive Covid test pre-tournament and is eyeing an illustrious double to back up his Ally Pally triumph in January.

Price reached the Quarter-Finals on his debut here in 2015 but has since failed to make it beyond Round Two, suffering four consecutive exits at the first hurdle.

Wattimena, meanwhile, is yet to register a win in three consecutive World Matchplay appearances and has the mental scarring of a 7-0 whitewash at the hands of The Ice Man when he made a guest appearance in the 2020 Premier League.

The new-look Dutchman has re-invented himself over the past seven months, undergoing a radical fitness regime, which could prove crucial to handling the notorious heat on the Winter Gardens stage.

One of the stand-out ties of the opening round sees Premier League and Masters Champion Jonny Clayton take on World Grand Prix finalist Dirk van Duijvenbode.

Clayton has been arguably the stand-out player of the year so far, but both of his televised triumphs have come in non-ranking competition, meaning he enters this event as the number 16 seed.

Clayton is yet to register a win in three consecutive attempts at the Matchplay and will be determined to stop the rot and remain on a collision course for a potential Second Round meeting with his Welsh World Cup winning partner Gerwyn Price.

The Ferret has also been formidable away from the TV cameras, picking up two Players Championship titles this season and reaching a further two finals.

Van Duijvenbode takes to the famous Winter Gardens stage for the first time, having continued his meteoric rise over the past 18 months.

The passionate Dutchman claimed his first PDC ranking title in April, reaching the final again the following day, and more recently made the Semi-Finals of Players Championship 16.

Now ranked Dutch number two, Van Duijvenbode has reached a further three major Quarter-Finals since his runner-up spot at the Grand Prix and will look to explode into life immediately on his Blackpool debut.

The opening match of the tournament sees Dave Chisnall take on Vincent van der Voort for the second successive year.

Ninth seed Chisnall is looking to avenge his 10-6 defeat at the hands of the Dutchman last time around and recapture the form which led him to the Semi-Finals of the World Championship.

Chizzy has reached the Quarter-Finals in five of his last eight World Matchplay appearances but is yet to surpass that stage of the competition.

Crowd favourite Van der Voort is making his eleventh appearance in this event, having reached the Quarter-Finals last year for the first time since 2009.

The former UK Open finalist has been solid if not spectacular so far this season, reaching the Last 16 of four consecutive ProTour events, with his best run coming to the Semi-Finals of Players Championship Two back in February.

The action gets under way from 7pm BST, with First Round ties to be contested over the best of 19 legs.

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.

WATCH WORLD MATCHPLAY DARTS STREAMED LIVE HERE (18+)

Betfred World Matchplay 2021 Day One Schedule

Saturday July 17

First Round

7.15pm Dave Chisnall v Vincent van der Voort
8.15pm Jonny Clayton v Dirk van Duijvenbode
9.15pm Gerwyn Price v Jermaine Wattimena
10.15pm Dimitri Van den Bergh v Devon Petersen