Michael van Gerwen will begin the defence of his BetVictor World Matchplay title against former Lakeside world champion Stephen Bunting, as Phil Taylor’s Blackpool farewell kicks off with a potential banana-skin against Gerwyn Price, after the draw for this month’s event at the Winter Gardens was made on Tuesday evening.
There were some enthralling ties pulled out, but defending champion Van Gerwen will begin his bid for a third successive World Matchplay crown against former Lakeside world champion Stephen Bunting- who has endured a difficult start to 2017.
Two-time world champion Gary Anderson faces another former Lakeside world champion in the shape of Christian Kist, whilst UK Open champion Peter Wright kicks off his campaign with a tussle against Winter Gardens debutant James Wilson.
Phil Taylor begins his final World Matchplay with a very tough assignment against UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price. ‘The Iceman’, who also reached the World Cup of Darts Final last month, represents a difficult test for ‘The Power’, who is going in search of an unprecedented 17th World Matchplay crown.
Taylor could potentially face a second-round showdown with his old adversary Raymond van Barneveld- in a repeat of the 2009 final. However, the five-time world champion has also been handed a tough task, as he takes on Joe Cullen- who celebrated his second Pro Tour victory in as many months at Barnsley last weekend.
Two-time World Matchplay winner James Wade will meet Darren Webster in the opening round, after ‘The Demolition Man’ secured his first PDC ranking title in over 12 years at last weekend’s Players Championship event in Barnsley, whilst former finalist Adrian Lewis plays the legendary Steve Beaton in another tasty tie.
World number five Dave Chisnall will face a resurgent Mervyn King, who reached the last eight in Blackpool last year, whilst seventh seed Mensur Suljovic has been pitted against John Henderson- who will be searching for his first victory on the Winter Gardens stage since 2011.
Former World Grand-Prix champion Robert Thornton will aim to improve his horrendous Matchplay record against Cristo Reyes. ‘The Thorn’ has lost seven of his eight matches in Blackpool and will face a stern examination against the Spanish star- who has two European Tour semi-finals to his name over the last month.
Simon Whitlock and Kyle Anderson will collide in an all-Aussie clash, whilst Gibraltar Darts Trophy winner Michael Smith takes on debutant Steve West. Another man making his Blackpool debut is Rob Cross- who has enjoyed a stunning start to life in the PDC.
The 26-year-old has already won two Players Championship titles since claiming his PDC Tour-Card in January, and he’s been drawn against 13th seed Ian White in round-one. Another evenly-matched tie sees Premier League star Kim Huybrechts face Alan Norris, in a repeat of their thrilling UK Open quarter-final back in March.
Elsewhere, fifteenth seed Benito van de Pas plays an in-form Daryl Gurney, whilst Jelle Klaasen marks his first TV appearance since undergoing wrist surgery with a tie against former quarter-finalist Justin Pipe. ‘The Force’ secured the final qualification spot by virtue of reaching a Pro Tour semi-final in the penultimate event before the cut-off.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2017 BetVictor World Matchplay
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Stephen Bunting
Simon Whitlock (16) v Kyle Anderson
Phil Taylor (8) v Gerwyn Price
Raymond van Barneveld (9) v Joe Cullen
Dave Chisnall (5) v Mervyn King
Kim Huybrechts (12) v Alan Norris
Adrian Lewis (4) v Steve Beaton
Ian White (13) v Rob Cross
Gary Anderson (2) v Christian Kist
Benito van de Pas (15) v Daryl Gurney
Mensur Suljovic (7) v John Henderson
Jelle Klaasen (10) v Justin Pipe
James Wade (6) v Darren Webster
Michael Smith (11) v Steve West
Peter Wright (3) v James Wilson
Robert Thornton (14) v Cristo Reyes
The Draw – As It Came Out
3 Peter Wright v 27 James Wilson
11 Michael Smith v 28 Steve West
14 Robert Thornton v 23 Cristo Reyes
7 Mensur Suljovic v 30 John Henderson
1 Michael van Gerwen v 24 Stephen Bunting
13 Ian White v 20 Rob Cross
12 Kim Huybrechts v 18 Alan Norris
6 James Wade v 25 Darren Webster
8 Phil Taylor v 22 Gerwyn Price
5 Dave Chisnall v 21 Mervyn King
2 Gary Anderson v 31 Christian Kist
16 Simon Whitlock v 29 Kyle Anderson
10 Jelle Klaasen v 32 Justin Pipe
9 Raymond van Barneveld v 19 Joe Cullen
4 Adrian Lewis v 26 Steve Beaton
15 Benito van de Pas v 17 Daryl Gurney