The opening round of the 2021 World Matchplay reaches its conclusion on Monday with four further places up for grabs…
The opening round of the 2021 World Matchplay reaches its conclusion on Monday with four further places up for grabs in the Last 16.
An action-packed opening two days in Blackpool has seen the big names largely progress unscathed, with James Wade and Glen Durrant the notable exceptions.
Two former World Matchplay champions are among those in action on Day Three at the Winter Gardens as the bottom quarter of the draw gets under way.
All eyes will be on world number three Michael van Gerwen as he launches his quest for a third Betfred World Matchplay title with a clash against dangerous debutant Damon Heta.
Van Gerwen claimed this trophy back-to-back in 2015 and 2016 but has failed to progress beyond the Quarter-Final stage since.
The Dutch star remains in hot pursuit of his first PDC title of 2021, with his most recent triumph coming at the Players Championship Finals last November.
Van Gerwen has lost in two finals on the ProTour this season and was a semi-finalist in both the UK Open and Premier League, suggesting his top form may not be far from reach.
Heta is the sole Australian in this year’s World Matchplay in the absence of Simon Whitlock, having qualified as the third highest ranked player from the ProTour Order of Merit.
The former Brisbane Masters champion claimed his first Players Championship title last season and reached a further final in February, having also reached the Quarter-Finals of the Grand Slam and Players Championship Finals in 2020.
Gary Anderson, the 2018 champion, marks his return to the Winter Gardens with a tasty tie against an inspired Stephen Bunting.
Anderson came close to lifting the Phil Taylor Trophy for a second time 12 months ago, losing out to Dimitri van den Bergh in the final in Milton Keynes and also went on to finish runner-up in the World Championship in January.
The Flying Scotsman has been an ever-present in this competition since 2009 but returns to Blackpool in the midst of an indifferent spell of form so far this season.
Anderson exited the UK Open at the Last 64 stage and finished eighth in the Premier League, with his Semi-Final appearance at Players Championship 14 last month representing his best run of the campaign.
Bunting, meanwhile, is enjoying a terrific run of form, having ended a five-year wait for a PDC ranking title at Players Championship 17 a fortnight ago.
Bunting began his resurgence by reaching the Semi-Finals of the World Championship and is eyeing a return to the world’s top 16 in the coming months.
The former Lakeside Champion’s best run in Blackpool to date came two years ago when he reached the Quarter-Finals, while his previous encounter with Anderson on this stage ended in a 10-7 defeat in the First Round in 2018.
Another fascinating contest sees 11th seed Nathan Aspinall take on Mervyn King in a repeat of their meeting at the same stage of the competition two years ago.
King prevailed 10-5 in a high quality contest on that occasion and returns for his 14th appearance in this prestigious event, having missed out last year for the first time since 2007.
Semi-finalist here in 2009, King has been in sublime form over the past nine months, finishing runner-up in both the Players Championship Finals and Masters, narrowly missing out on a place in the Premier League.
Aspinall reached the Premier League play-offs for the second consecutive year, this time falling at the Semi-Final hurdle, and is incredibly eyeing his first win at the World Matchplay at the third attempt.
The former UK Open champion reached the Semi-Finals of the first two Players Championship events of the season but has since suffered seven First Round exits.
The opening match of the night sees 14th seed Daryl Gurney take on world number 17 Ian White.
The pair previously met at this stage of the competition in 2016, with White running out a 10-2 winner, and their latest encounter could prove pivotal in the context of both of their seasons.
A win for White could see him leapfrog Gurney back into the world’s top 16, however, he has suffered eight First Round exits on the ProTour this season and is without a win in his last three televised events.
Gurney enjoyed a superb run to the Semi-Finals as the number three seed on his last trip to Blackpool in 2019 but has since struggled for consistency on both floor and stage.
He suffered three consecutive First Round exits in TV majors at the back end of 2020 before mounting a resurgent run to the Quarter-Finals of the World Championship.
Superchin has made only two Quarter-Finals in 20 Players Championship appearances this season and will be determined to kick-start a revival on this iconic stage.
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.
Betfred World Matchplay 2021 Schedule
Monday July 19
7.15pm Daryl Gurney v Ian White
8.15pm Nathan Aspinall v Mervyn King
9.15pm Michael van Gerwen v Damon Heta
10.15pm Gary Anderson v Stephen Bunting