World Matchplay darts: Sky Sports previews the Winter Gardens tournament
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SportsPaulH
Last Updated: 18/07/14 7:32pm
One of the most eagerly awaited weeks in the darting calendar is upon us as the BetVictor World Matchplay returns to our screens on Sky Sports from the wonderful Winter Gardens in Blackpool.
Phil Taylor has won the last six titles in Blackpool, taking his overall tally to 14, but this year he finds himself the second favourite behind world No 1 Michael van Gerwen, something that will not sit well with The Power.
Sky Sports 1 HD will be your home for every dart thrown during the week, starting at 7pm every night and an afternoon session on the first Sunday (July 20) at 1pm.
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20 years of Blackpool
It’s a momentous year for the World Matchplay at the Winter Gardens, as we celebrate 20 years of the event that has become synonymous with the sport over the last two decades. We look back at some of the best moments from the event over the years. The venue, the fans, the tremendous arrows, and the occasional heatwaves have all added to the tournament!
History of the Matchplay
There was a darting revolution led by, amongst others, Phil Taylor as the PDC came into being, and the World Matchplay in Blackpool became one of the shining lights in the new darting world. Hear from the man himself Taylor, 2007 Matchplay champion James Wade and also Rod Harrington on the move that made the Winter Gardens a darting stronghold.
No man was more suited to the tournament in Blackpool than Wayne Mardle, and even though his Hawaiian shirts are no longer seen on the big stage, he still knows a thing or two about the arrows. Now a regular Sky Sports darting pundit and commentator, Mardle goes through the field in Blackpool and picks out who he thinks are the ones to watch out for.
Michael van Gerwen has never claimed the title in Blackpool, but he’s desperate to end that run as he enters this year’s event as the World No 1 and pre-tournament favourite. The Dutchman rates the Winter Gardens as right up there with the best venues in England, and told Sky Sports News he’d like to lift the title before he gets married.
Phil Taylor has vowed that he will topple Michael van Gerwen and return to the top of the world darts rankings, and in his Q&A he says what better way to start than by adding yet another World Matchplay title. With his new darts settling in, a 15th title in Blackpool would be all he needs to turn around what so far has been a disappointing season.
Hitting the Jackpot
Adrian Lewis almost cashed in in Blackpool last year, beating van Gerwen in an epic semi-final before losing a cracker against Taylor in the final, and this time he tells us that he is looking to go one better. Lewis says that the atmosphere at the Winter Gardens is as good as it gets in the world of darts, and hopes he can add that title to his two world crowns.
Scouse thrower Stephen Bunting will make his debut on the Blackpool stage this week, after the BDO World Champion, who made the tough decision to switch to the PDC at the start of 2014, produced some superb darts to qualify for the 32-man event. He feels he is settling into life in the PDC quicker than expected, but faces a tough start in the Matchplay against Peter Wright.