Wayne Mardle previews the World Matchplay at the Winter Gardens
"Quality wise it should be the best ever."
Last Updated: 20/07/19 10:37pm
The World Matchplay gets underway this Saturday at the Winter Gardens and Wayne Mardle returns with his crystal ball to preview the highlight of the darting summer.
Gary Anderson kicks off the defence of his World Matchplay title against former Lakeside finalist Danny Noppert, whilst Michael van Gerwen aims to return to winning ways when he takes on the veteran Steve Beaton.
This year's field is arguably the strongest in Matchplay history and Mardle previews this year's event and reflects on his Matchplay memories...
Wonderful Winter Gardens
I reached the final in 2003. It was my debut! Obviously they were real fond memories. But just throughout the years when I've been there, there's always a buzz about it. I've said it before; it's really the only major event in the calendar that is played during the English summer.
The next major is in October. I just think it has a real different feel and the Winter Gardens - it seems like it was built for Darts. If you were going to purpose-build a venue it would look similar and have a similar atmosphere to the Winter Gardens.
It's got such a history about it and it will continue because the field is so good.
Personally I've had some real good battles up on the oche but I think about the others as well.
Watching Phil [Taylor] win so many times, watching Michael [van Gerwen] get the better of Phil in the final and Phil not knowing what to do. All he could muster was the Icelandic clap thinking that was going to put Michael off.
Then you've got Gary last year. I got really emotional when Gary won it last year for some strange reason. I don't know why - maybe because Rachel, Tai and Cheylea were there.
It had a real good vibe about the final and with Mensur [Suljovic] being the way he is as well, there were no shenanigans, it was just a real good clean battle.
Over the years just seeing those that have trod the boards, John Part, Dennis Priestley. How did Priestley never win it? That's just amazing.
Seeds in Danger?
I can't see how Darren Webster can possibly win that tie with Krzysztof Ratajski. I just can't see it. I think that is the absolute certainty of all certainties.
I'm not saying he's going to get beat but I think Vincent van der Voort can give Peter Wright a game.
I think John Henderson can give Simon Whitlock a fright, Keegan Brown can upset the odds against Jonny Clayton. Mervyn King could beat Nathan Aspinall.
De Zwaan is capable of beating [James] Wade. I go along with the rest of the world here where I think Glen Durrant is going to beat Adrian Lewis.
Jamie Hughes could beat Michael Smith. It's such a strong qualifying field away from the top 16. If there were seven, eight, nine or ten seeds who got beat, it wouldn't surprise me at all.
Ones to Watch
All those that I've mentioned have got bonafide chances. I do think in the bottom half Van der Voort has something to offer against Peter Wright. I don't think he wins, I think he gives him a hell of a fright but I'm really looking forward to it.
There are so many ties that I'm looking forward to watching. Lewis vs Durrant, Wade against De Zwaan. Michael Smith up against Jamie Hughes. Dave Chisnall vs Max Hopp - I think that's a fascinating encounter as well.
Quality-wise it should be the best ever. Back in the day when I was playing there were some games where you thought neither player is going to win this, they were that bad. You look at the names now, they're all brutal dart players. They're very very good.
I know a few people have jumped on the Steve Beaton will beat Michael van Gerwen bandwagon because Michael is not at the peak of his powers right now but come the big majors, these big hitters seem to hit form.
It happened a couple of years ago. He won the Grand Slam, then won the Worlds and the Premier League and it was like: 'Oh right, what was all the nonsense about?'
He's won it twice before and I don't think Michael has much trouble against Steve. Steve is an absolutely wonderful competitor but you've got to have something extra to beat Van Gerwen over that kind of format.
Even though Peter Wright has hit a rich vein of form - you've got to be performing at the right time and he's performing - Rob Cross cannot continue to keep playing well and get beaten.
He's not producing an 84 average here or there and getting beaten, he's producing the goods and somehow not winning. I'm going to predict that Michael van Gerwen plays Rob Cross, the top two seeds in the final.
I just think Rob Cross is playing better than his results suggest and no offence to Chris Dobey but I think that's a very winnable game for Rob.
In his section, he's got Darren Webster, Gerwyn Price and Ian White. I don't see any reason why he can't come through that.
I'm going to go for Michael van Gerwen to win 20-18 in extra-time.
Wayne Mardle was speaking to Sky Sports' Josh Gorton. You don't have to wait long until darts is back on Sky Sports, with every dart from every session in Blackpool and the World Matchplay. It starts on Saturday, July 20 and the final is on Sunday, July 28.