The 2019 World Matchplay gets underway at the iconic Winter Gardens on Saturday evening, with defending champion Gary Anderson headlining the opening night in Blackpool.
Ahead of one of the biggest events on the darting calendar, I caught up with PDC major winner and pundit Paul Nicholson to preview the action from the Winter Gardens and ‘The Asset’ believes this year’s event could be the most captivating in recent memory.
Stayed tuned for the second part of my exclusive with the former Players Champion which will be posted following the World Matchplay, as Nicholson discusses his aims for 2020 and his decision not enter Qualifying School back in January.
Check out Paul’s thoughts on the World Matchplay below…
Most open Matchplay?
This year I think it’s all about the debutants. That aspect of the tournament makes it one of the most intriguing Matchplay’s we’ve had. Other things add a little bit of spice and the fact that MvG is probably not in an unbeatable mood – he’s got a tough game to start with himself against Steve Beaton.
Gary [Anderson] is the defending champion and he hasn’t played a lot this year. I just think it’s going to be a different feel this year and the fact that someone like Peter Wright has come from being not as strong in the Premier League to being arguably the best player at the minute, makes it a very interesting event.
Ones to Watch
I’m really looking forward to the first game of the tournament to be honest, between Nathan Aspinall and Mervyn King. I spent a lot of time with Mervyn yesterday, he was in a very relaxed mood. He understands that playing against Nathan Aspinall right now is one tough gig.
Aspinall is not far from home, just up the M6. He’s going to be loving this. He’s in a great spot in his life after winning in Vegas; he’s going to feel invincible and not being involved in the German Masters has probably worked in his favour.
Not only has he got enough practice under his belt, he’s got enough rest as well. He has had issues with his back so he’s had time to make sure he’s nice and fresh for this event. He works hard enough and I think that game will be very intriguing. You can pick any game you want really.
That Durrant vs Lewis game is just delightful. The walk-on song backstory of that game makes it even better, but for me [Rob] Cross against [Chris] Dobey has to be one of those games where you think if Dobey shows up and Cross shows up, we could be in for a bit of a dust-up here.
Seeds under threat?
You’d probably have to say Darren Webster is at most risk based on current form. In the Euro Tours backstage he’s looked a little erratic mentally and you think he’s just not really got any cohesiveness with his game and he’s had problems with tennis elbow in his right arm as well.
To be honest with you, the way things have gone this year, no seed is safe and that is what makes it so interesting in the first round. There’s been years gone by where we’ve thought can we get round one over with so we can start the tournament properly; this year the tournament will start from the first dart on Saturday night.
I’m hearing a lot of whispers which I agree with, thinking that this tournament is made for Gerwyn Price, because he is the kind of player for me who is very strong at putting in a big game once a day.
He has won Pro Tours this year, he has won Players Championships, he has won on the Euro Tour, but I think he’s at his strongest when he’s got to put in one explosive performance a day and this is exactly what you’ve got to do at the Matchplay and predominantly in the Grand Slam, which he’s already won.
I think Gerwyn Price will probably make the final and on the other side of the draw I haven’t really made my mind up yet. Personally just because I like things to be ruffled, I’d love Gezzy to win it.
I just think it would be two fingers up to people who said he’s a bit of a flash in the pan. Everybody knows that he’s not. He’s a phenomenal player and he’s great for the game. For me just to see the new bad boy of darts and the one everybody polarises be successful would be just brilliant.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig & Kelly Deckers/PDC