Two former champions return to the Winter Gardens stage in part one of an unmissable double-header on Day Two of…
Two former champions return to the Winter Gardens stage in part one of an unmissable double-header on Day Two of the 2021 World Matchplay.
The first of two sessions in Blackpool on Sunday also features three debutants as they look to make an instant impact in the sport’s summer show-piece.
Only Phil Taylor has appeared in more World Matchplay finals than James Wade, and the 2007 champion aims to kick-start another memorable run by overcoming former World Youth Champion Luke Humphries.
Wade has finished runner-up on a further five occasions in Blackpool and holds the longest active run of Matchplay appearances, with this his 16th in a row.
However, ‘The Machine’ has reached just one Quarter-Final in his last five Matchplay outings and will be determined to continue his superb spell of form and mount a serious challenge again.
The match signals a re-run of March’s UK Open final, which saw Wade thrash Humphries 11-5 to claim his tenth major televised title.
Humphries will be eyeing a slice of revenge as he takes to the iconic Winter Gardens stage for the first time, having been ultra consistent on the ProTour this season.
The 26-year-old is still awaiting his first PDC ranking title, having lost in four finals this year, but is now comfortably ranked inside the world’s top 32 and making rapid strides.
Rob Cross was the last player to lift the prestigious Phil Taylor Trophy at the Winter Gardens two years ago and begins his latest campaign against dangerous debutant Ross Smith.
Cross defeated Michael Smith 18-13 in the 2019 final to become only the ninth different winner of the event but saw his title defence come to an abrupt end with defeat to Gabriel Clemens in Round One last year.
Cross was eliminated from the Premier League at the halfway stage for the second successive season but has shown glimpses of a return to form in recent months, reaching three Quarter-Finals and a Semi-Final on the ProTour.
The number five seed faces a tricky opener against world number 41 Smith, who comes into the event on a high after winning his first PDC ranking title at the Super Series just over a week ago.
UK Open quarter-finalist in 2019, Smith has previous for beating big names on the televised stage, having notably dispatched Michael van Gerwen in the opening round of the 2019 European Championship.
Elsewhere, a North East derby sees Middlesbrough’s Glen Durrant take on Newcastle’s Callan Rydz.
Durrant has made the Semi-Finals in each of his previous two Betfred World Matchplay appearances but returns to Blackpool in the midst of a worrying slump in form.
The 2020 Premier League champion finished bottom of this season’s Premier League table without a point to his name and had gone 17 games without a win in all competitions prior to the recent Super Series.
The tenacious Teessider will be desperate to gain a confidence-boosting victory to kick-start a potential resurgence and avoid dropping down the rankings.
Rydz, meanwhile, claimed the penultimate qualification place via the ProTour Order of Merit, having picked up his first Players Championship title back in February.
The 23-year-old is the lowest ranked player (54) in this year’s World Matchplay but already has experience aplenty on the big stage, having competed in two World Championships, three UK Opens and the Players Championship Finals.
The opening match of the afternoon sees number 13 seed Krzysztof Ratajski take on an in-form Brendan Dolan.
Polish ace Ratajski reached his first major ranking Quarter-Final at last year’s World Matchplay, defeating Jermaine Wattimena and Gabriel Clemens before going down 16-13 to Michael Smith.
He was also a quarter-finalist in the World Championship and UK Open this season but has struggled to produce his usual level of consistency on the floor circuit, suffering seven First Round exits.
Dolan will perhaps fancy his chances of a minor upset on current as he enters his seventh World Matchplay campaign as the highest ranked ProTour qualifier.
The unflappable Northern Irishman claimed a Players Championship title in March and was runner-up in Players Championship 19 earlier this month.
He also reached the Last 16 of the UK Open and took eventual champion Gerwyn Price all the way to a sudden death leg during their epic World Championship encounter in December.
The action gets under way from 1pm 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.
World Matchplay 2021 Day Two Schedule
Sunday July 18
1.15pm Krzysztof Ratajski v Brendan Dolan
2.15pm Glen Durrant v Callan Rydz
3.15pm Rob Cross v Ross Smith
4.15pm James Wade v Luke Humphries