On the latest episode of the Josh’s Dartistry Podcast, we were joined by Sky Sports expert Wayne Mardle to review the World Matchplay, discuss the key talking points from nine days of drama in Blackpool and assess how this will impact the rest of the darting season.
Wayne discusses Rob Cross’ triumph, Michael Smith’s bid for a first major TV title and Michael van Gerwen’s slump in form. The former Matchplay finalist also praises the strength in depth within the PDC and claims Ian White has a point to prove after another disappointing showing on TV.
Wayne’s interview featured on our latest podcast at the 47 minute mark, but you can check out every word of our exclusive with ‘Hawaii 501’ below….
Wonderful Winter Gardens
It was a cracking field, there is no doubt about that. There were some exciting games; the format kind of lends itself to that with it being legs. It was a great event. Of course there were upsets, Michael [van Gerwen] and Gary [Anderson] getting beat, Peter Wright getting beaten by what I thought was the performance of the whole tournament by Daryl Gurney.
That was one of the best games I’ve seen in a while. They were just at it constantly Daryl and Peter Wright. Every single dart, every single leg. It was so hard to predict a winner, but as tournaments go, I think it went really well.
The players are becoming more professional, media-savvy, their game management is better. When you look at those winners in the past – Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor and Gary Anderson, Rob Cross joins that list of winning the Worlds and the Matchplay, so the rightful winner in the end.
I was talking to Rob quite a lot throughout the event and I said: ‘Look, in the World Championship you had one of the best games that you could have against you – De Zwaan that was a fabulous game. You played fantastically well, OK you ended up getting beaten in the last 16 and didn’t retain it’.
‘Since then you’ve reached the final of the Premier League and the final of the UK Open, OK none of those went your way, but you’re in another final. You keep giving yourself shots and one of them will land, you will win’ and he did.
You need that little bit of luck and he had that with Daryl Gurney, but you’ve got to do the right things at the right time and that is why Rob Cross is the World Matchplay champion. If you look at the way he’s been playing it’s incredible he’s not won on Tour.
He was averaging 98 for the year, that’s above everyone barring Van Gerwen. He’s still so so tough to beat. You have to play very well to beat Rob Cross, whether it’s over best of 11 or over the Matchplay format which is slightly more elongated. He is definitely up there as one of the players to beat every single event.
Smith ‘waiting to explode’
I was one of the first ones five or six years ago saying that Michael Smith is the one to break through, he’s the future, the one to win this or that. He hasn’t won one of the big ones yet but he’s getting so close. It was the most outrageously dreadful start for him, to go 9-0 down in that final.
I just wanted him to play like he does and he got back into it, but Rob Cross held him at bay. You can’t give Rob Cross a nine-leg start, I’m sorry. If it’s three sets in a first to seven it’s a completely different story, which is what the final of the World Championship is. I really felt for Michael.
When you think about the way he’s played in those finals, he’s not played poorly at all. He didn’t play poorly in that final, he started off poorly but then got a lot better. In the World Championship final against Van Gerwen he had darts to win four of the sets he lost.
In the first final when he played in the Premier League, Michael van Gerwen was averaging about 120 for the first ten legs. Michael Smith played well there. He’s just been unlucky and I think it’s just a matter of time. I’ve got a lot of respect for his game. I just think he could slow down for a millisecond when throwing from a treble to a double.
He throws so quickly sometimes. I know he’s young and I know he knows it’s a rhythm thing and he’s 100% right, but sometimes you just need to slow that down when you’re not following the previous dart. He’s waiting to explode – if he won the Worlds this year it wouldn’t surprise me.
Van Gerwen’s slump
I expect Michael to bounce back, but it’s certainly a slump. The aforementioned Premier League was really the last time he played well. Bearing in mind that Michael van Gerwen doesn’t usually have to play anywhere near his best to win, it shows you everything you need to know.
He was average for me against Steve Beaton, not average for himself, he was way below that. Against Glen Durrant he looked panicked at times but then he got himself in front at 10-9 and he seemed to play within himself, rather than running through the finishing line which is what he does.
He seemed to go into defensive mode which is not what he’s about. Glen Durrant was magnificent, I’m not taking anything away from him, he played brilliantly in the latter part of the game. Michael had the game there and you’re thinking he’s going to wrap it up and who knows what happens afterwards.
I’ve never considered that Michael van Gerwen has ever taken a World Series event that seriously, I think he has to right now, I think he has to win one. I think he has to get into the winner’s circle again, hold up that trophy so the players are looking at him thinking: ‘OK, you’re back’.
Sometimes in the past I’ve said that Michael just has to win rather than concentrate on performances all the time. He wants to prove that he’s the best player every single day of the year which is great, but now I think he needs to prove it to himself and everybody else. He’s had a poor three or four months and he’s got to put it right. He needs to win one of these World Series events coming up.
Strength in Depth
There are a lot of players out there that are capable of winning. We’re speaking a day or so after Brendan Dolan beat Jermaine Wattimena in a Tour final. On the day, there are dozens of potential winners.
Once Gary Anderson, Michael van Gerwen, Rob Cross, Peter Wright and Daryl Gurney get beat, these tournaments – they are open to absolutely anyone, because the format dictates that you only have to do something special at the right time and who knows?
With the majors, we watched Nathan Aspinall crawl over the line against Rob Cross and that’s all you have to do. There are so many players that think you know what, I can win a major and why shouldn’t they think that way?
The game of darts is in rude health but there are a lot of players that need to start showing how good they really are on a regular basis. There are too many inside the top 16 and top 32 that are getting away with it because their ranking is helping them. They need to come out fighting.
White with a point to prove
We’ll start with the players that have something to prove. I’ve been in his corner for probably the last two years and that is Ian White. After playing like he did in the Matchplay he has a lot to prove. He was playing so well – winning on the European Tour and I was one of probably thousands thinking, has it finally clicked? Then he blows it again in the Matchplay.
It was an awful way for him to lose, missing double after double but look, it happens. It’s just a shame that Ian White seems to lose in the same manner so often and I think he’s got a lot to prove, I really do. He needs a strong Grand Prix and Grand Slam.
Big guns to make their mark?
As for people I see making a mark with all the majors coming up, I’m going back to what I know. I think Peter Wright is playing great, Rob Cross has proven that he has to be teeing it up anywhere, even when he’s not at his best – Michael van Gerwen.
Michael Smith you have to add in there. Gary Anderson has got to get fit and ready for big events. He clearly wasn’t match ready, his nerve was that little bit tethered in the World Matchplay. Those four or five that I’ve mentioned, they’ll be ready for the Grand Prix, they’ll be ready for the others and I think they’ll clear the board.