World Matchplay 2021: Callan Rydz is into the last eight on his debut in Blackpool
Callan Rydz takes on Krzysztof Ratajski in the last eight of the World Matchplay on Thursday night, followed by Gerwyn Price vs Dimitri Van den Bergh - watch the action unfold on Sky Sports Arena from 7pm
By Paul Prenderville at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool
Last Updated: 22/07/21 6:47pm
Callan Rydz has never previously been to a major televised darts quarter-final, but in knocking off two world champions to reach the World Matchplay last eight he is preparing for the biggest night of his darting life in Blackpool. But, as The Riot tells Sky Sports Darts, he is taking it all in his stride.
"If I can win with a 70 average, happy days. If I win with a 100 average, happy days, but it's all about winning, that is all this game is about, is winning," the softly spoken Geordie says in the sweltering Winter Gardens after his latest victory on the Lancashire coast.
Rydz has just beaten Rob Cross, the 2019 World Matchplay champion and the 2018 world champion with an astonishing display of finishing that included four bullseye finishes.
That victory followed a first-round success over three-time BDO world champion Glen Durrant in the first round. Rydz has not displayed his very best, but he has done what he has needed to do and his reward is a spot in the quarter-finals on his Blackpool debut.
The 23-year-old spoke to Sky Sports ahead of the tournament, admitting it was a dream come true to be on the Winter Gardens stage, but now he's had a taste, how does the reality stack up?
"It is hot. Very hot. I've got a tan now off that," he smiles.
"The crowd were fantastic. I'd love to do a walk-on but part of the walk-on is high-fiving them, hugging your family and friends, but now it's just on to the next match.
He's been to the tournament as a fan but he is here this week on merit, having risen into the world's top 64 and his endeavours this week mean he has now cracked the top 50.
It's steady progress after he earned his Tour Card via the Challenge Tour in 2019 - he topped the Order of Merit for the PDC's second tier and is evidence that the system that has been built works.
Prior to the Challenge Tour he was on the PDC's Development Tour, and his performances there earned him a spot in the World Youth Championships in 2018 where he knocked out top seed Luke Humphries. Two more appearances at that level followed, while his Alexandra Palace debut came at the 2020 tournament.
A victory over Steve Lennon was followed by defeat to Danny Noppert in the last 64, and it was the same at the 2021 edition where he beat James Bailey before losing to James Wade.
It's been steady progress but 2021 has been his breakthrough year, culminating in his first senior title when he won Players Championship 2 in style in February.
Having beaten Boris Koltsov, Ross Smith, Alan Soutar and Jeff Smith he proceeded to knock out Ian White in the last eight, Nathan Aspinall in the semi-final and the year's in-form man, Jonny Clayton, in the final.
World Matchplay 2021: Quarter-Finals
|Thursday||Krzysztof Ratajski vs Callan Rydz|
|Gerwyn Price vs Dimitri Van den Bergh|
|Friday||Peter Wright vs Michael Smith|
|Michael van Gerwen vs Nathan Aspinall|
So why now? What has clicked? The man himself puts it down to a bit of a reset after the World Championship where he felt he needed a break.
"When Wadey [James Wade] beat me at the World Championship, I took two months off. I never picked the darts up.
"I just wanted time to myself, time with my family, and that is the best part about it.
"I am not the biggest practiser to be fair, I will happily say that, but when a tournament is coming up, I do practise a bit. I try and get out every day for a practice, even if it's just an hour.
"It was time to reset but all I thought about was getting in the top 64, keeping my Tour Card - now I should be safe, but it's one of those things where I am in dreamland at the moment."
The answer is as unassuming as the man, but things have fallen into place for him in Blackpool this week. Humphries' victory over James Wade opened up the quarter, but the two-time world youth champion fell at the next hurdle.
Rydz has created his own path in seeing off the experience of Cross and Durrant, neither player in the greatest form but both with proven pedigree on the Winter Gardens stage.
Up next for The Riot is Krzysztof Ratajski, the Polish Eagle and world no 13 who is a tough nut to crack and like Rydz is seeking a first major semi-final.
Opportunity knocks for both men, neither picked out as semi-finalists at the start of the week but by the end of Thursday night one of them will be two wins away from a major title - not that Rydz is looking that far ahead.
"You cannot look to the semis or the final, it is just one game at a time with me, you don't need to change what is going right," he says with what is becoming typical understatement.
"It is one game at a time, I have never played Ratajski.
"With Rob - he is not the fastest, but he is not the slowest. It was perfect for me. That is why if I do play Ratajski - he is quite similar, he takes his time a little bit, but he is not very slow and he is a good player to get rhythm around."
Ahead of the biggest game of his life what will he be doing?
"On Tuesday I went in the hotel swimming pool just to relax, just to chill. I went to really relax my muscles and take some time away from everyone, my management and all that. It has worked well, so I will be doing the same!"
A repeat would see him into the last four and closing in on the top 32 in the world, he is rising fast but he's taking it all in his stride during a statement week in one of the sport's statement events.
Watch the World Matchplay from the iconic Winter Gardens all the way through until Sunday, July 25. Check out daily Darts news on skysports.com/darts, our app for mobile devices and our Twitter account @skysportsdarts