After one year away due to COVID-19, the second biggest major darts tournament of the season is upon us! A 32-player field consisting of sixteen players from the PDC Order of Merit and sixteen qualifiers from the one-year ProTour Order of Merit will battle for the Betfred World Matchplay Championship in Blackpool, England, for a piece of £700,000 in prize money. The event will take place over nine days spanning July 17 through July 25 and consists of a bracket-style tournament similar to the NCAA Basketball tournament.
First round matchups are now in the books, with the favorites coming out on top in 14 of the first 16 matches. That’s right, only two upsets; an interesting trend in a sport typically riddled with upsets.
Here is a look at the Round 2 matchups:
- (1) Gerwyn “Iceman Price v. (16) Jonny “The Ferret” Clayton
- (8) Dimitri “DreamMaker” van den Bergh v. (9) Dave “Chizzy” Chisnall
- “Cool Hand” Luke Humphries v. (13) Krzysztof “Polish Eagle” Ratajski
- (5) Rob “Voltage” Cross v. Callan “Riot” Rydz
- (2) Peter “Snakebite” Wright v. (15) Joe “Rockstar” Cullen
- (7) Michael “Bully Boy” Smith v. (10) Jose “The Special One” de Sousa
- (3) “Mighty” Michael van Gerwen v. Ian “Diamond” White
- (6) Gary “The Flying Scotsmen” Anderson v. (11) Nathan “The Asp” Aspinall
Please check back as we’ll continue to update this post with my latest predictions for this tournament.
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Round 2 Matchups – July 20
Callan Rydz +2.5 (-115) v. Rob Cross
“Riot” Rydz looked very sharp in his first round defeat of 2020 Premier League Champion Glen “Duzza” Durrant. Rydz won the first five legs in a row, to seize a 5-0 lead out of the gates, ultimately cruising to a 10-6 win. Despite dominating most of this match, Rydz comes in with the lowest first-round average at only 82.04, going 33% on checkouts. He will likely need to improve on both of these figures to get through Rob Cross on Tuesday.
In his first round match, Cross’s scoring was superior to that of Rydz, averaging 100.22. His checkout percentage was slightly worse, coming in at 32%. Despite winning 10-8, Cross was up 7-3 at one point in the match, nearly allowing his opponent back in the match, losing throw a couple times down the stretch.
I like Rydz to keep it close in this one and cover the spread of +2.5 legs. Rob Cross rarely blows his opponents out of the water, and when he wins, it is typically fairly close. Rydz is a very talented up-n-comer, and if he can start hot like he did against Duzza, he can certainly keep this match close, if not even coming out on top.
Luke Humphries (-110) v. Krzystof Ratajski
Humphries and Ratajski come in to this matchup with the two highest averages from the first round, averaging 101.08 and 101.57 respectively. “Cool Hand Luke” put on an epic display of darts, dismantling world No. 4 James Wade 10-3. Humphries jumped out to a 6-1 lead and was in control the entire time, breaking Wade’s throw in three of the first four opportunities. That’s a great recipe for winning a darts match.
Ratajski also looked impressive in a 10-4 victory over Brendan Dolan. The Polish Eagle was impressive not only with his high scoring, but also posting a 58.82% checkout percentage. Ratajski also became the first player in 2021 to average over 100 in five consecutive matches on television.
Despite Ratajski’s recent success, I like Humphries to come through in this match. Humphries has had an excellent 2021 campaign thus far, finishing as the runner up at the UK Open, Players Championship 6, Players Championship 9 and Players Championship 16. Ratajski has finished no better than the quarterfinals this year, and was knocked out in either the first or second round in five of his last seven events. Humphries is a potential superstar in the making, and I like him to advance to the round of eight.
Jonny Clayton (+150) v. Gerwyn Price
Taking the upset on this one, with world No. 16 Jonny “The Ferret” Clayton knocking off world No. 1 Gerywn “Iceman” Price. Hailing from Wales, these two are good friends and the current, reigning, undisputed World Cup of Darts champions.
As world No. 1, Price was the favorite to win this year’s Premier League, a plan ultimately derailed when he contracted COVID-19 just a week prior to the start of the event. Clayton ultimately went on to win the 2021 Premier League in style, and has arguably been the best darts player on the planet thus far this year.
In the first round matches, Clayton averaged 96 and posted a 41.67% check out percentage. Solid numbers, though we’ve seen him do better, in a very tough matchup against a fiery up-n-comer in Dirk van Duijvenbode. Price, on the other hand, was simply solid. Winning 10-4 over world No. 32 Jermaine Wattimena, scoring at a clip of 96.57 and checking out at 38.46%
This is setting up to be a cracker of a match, with both of these heavy weights being prospective favorites to win the entire tournament. I like everything The Ferret, Jonny Clayton, has shown us this year, and for that reason am taking him to win here. In a match that is likely closer to a coin flip, getting (+150) on the world’s hottest player seems too good to pass up.
Round 2 Matchups – July 21
Jose de Sousa (-190) v. Michael Smith
Aside from Clayton, Jose “The Special One” de Sousa has probably been the most impressive player this year. As a Premier League debutante, de Sousa finished as the runner-up and set a record for most 180s recorded in a single Premier League. He also dazzled fans with a rarely seen tops-tops-tops checkout of 120.
Bully Boy Smith is certainly no slouch, reaching the quarter finals in Players Championships 19 and 20, the two tournaments immediately preceding this event. But he looked a bit shaky with his scoring in a Round 1 victory over Ryan Searle, averaging 92.46. What ultimately secured the 10-7 victory for Smith in that match was a 52.63% checkout percentage, compared to only the 38% of his opponent.
(-190) is more juice than I prefer to lay on a darts match against two players in the top 10, but I am confident de Sousa can get the win here. For Smith to win, it will take a remarkable performance. For de Sousa to win, he will simply need to keep scoring and checking out at numbers we’ve seen from him all year. If de Sousa can average around 100 and checkout around 40%, he likely wins this match comfortably.
Round 1 Matchups – Saturday, July 17
Dave Chisnall (-225) v. Vincent van der Voort – WIN
The first match of this year’s World Matchplay is between two darts veterans, as World No. 9 Dave “Chizzy” Chisnall takes on “The Dutch Destroyer” Vincent van der Voort, the No. 27 ranked player in the world. Chizzy has the highest treble 20 accuracy and highest cover shot accuracy on the planet in televised matches over the last twelve months. Over the course of thirteen televised matches in the UK Open, Masters, World Championship, Players Championship, and Grand Slam tournaments, Chizzy’s lowest treble 20 percentage comes in at 38.67%, with his highest coming in at 54.08%. Rarely does he dip below 40%.
With first-round matches being a race to ten legs (best of 19), I expect Chizzy’s scoring to be too much for van der Voort to overcome. And while The Dutch Destroyer defeated Chisnall in their most recent televised match in this very event two years ago, Chizzy holds a 7-4 career record against van der Voort and otherwise had not lost to him since 2017. I like Chizzy to come out on top in this one.
Dimitri van den Bergh v. Devon Petersen
Player to score the most 180s – Dimitri van den Bergh (-115) – WIN
World Matchplay defending champion World No. 8 Dimitri “DreamMaker” van den Bergh comes into this year’s event in good form, snagging a Pro Tour victory back in April and averaging over 100 in the 2021 Premier League. In fact, his average across all events in 2021 is an impressive 97.81, placing him fifth in the world in terms of pure average. DreamMaker showed throughout the Premier League he can hit 180s, coming in second only to Jose de Sousa for most 180s in the table.
World No. 25 Devon “The African Warrior” Petersen has looked out of sorts throughout his 2021 campaign. He reached the quarterfinal in the UK Open but has not finished better than the last 32 in any event since. In his last ten events, he has lost in the first round five times, lost in the second round three times, and lost in the third round twice.
Van den Bergh is listed at (-300) to win this match, which I fully believe he will. But I prefer to save the juice and take (-115) for most 180s in a match. I expect the DreamMaker to dominate.
And as a potential sweetener, BetMGM offers a Saturday Special – Player to score the most 180s. Dimitri van den Bergh is listed at (+400).
If van den Bergh is dialed, as I expect him to be, then he’s certainly a favorite to win this prop. The one match that scares me a touch is Jonny Clayton v. Dirk van Duijvenbode, as I anticipate a tightly contested match between these two titans. If a match goes the distance, obviously a player has more opportunities to hit 180s. But scared money doesn’t make money, and based on van den Bergh’s performance throughout his 2021 campaign, I will be sprinkling a bit on him to win this prop at that price.
Round 1 Matchups – Sunday, July 18
Callan Rydz -2.5 legs (-145) v. Glen Durrant – WIN
Despite being ranked No. 54 in the world, 23-year old Callan “The Riot” Rydz is one of darts best up-and-comers. Rydz took down PDC Players Championship 2 back in February of this year, absolutely dominating his way to the finals defeating Jeff Smith 6-0, Ian White 6-1, and Nathan Aspinall 7-2. In the final, he defeated darts hottest player, Jonny Clayton, by a score of 8-7.
World No. 12 Glen “Duzza” Durrant has looked a shell of himself since winning the 2020 Premier League. In the 2021 Premier League, Duzza failed to win a match or record a single draw, finishing in last place with an 0-0-9 record. Duzza lost in the first round eight times in his last ten events and lost in the second round twice.
This draw is also likely considered the softest section of the bracket, with the winner of this match taking on the winner of Rob Cross vs. Ross Smith. I think Rydz has a legitimate chance to come out of this section of the bracket and reach the semifinals. To do so, he must first get through Duzza, and as he displayed in Players Championship 2, when he’s on form, he can absolutely bury his opponents. Going with Rydz to cover the 2.5 leg spread at (-145).
(Photo of Dave Chiswell by Zac Goodwin / Getty Images; The Athletic may receive an affiliate commission if you open an account with BetMGM through links contained in the above article.)