2020 Betfred World Matchplay Preview by James Punt
2020 Betfred World Matchplay Tips and Preview
All the big names will be in action at the 2020 Betfred World Matchplay. This is one of the biggest tournaments of the season but it will be played behind closed doors because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Our darts tipster James Punt has written a comprehensive preview. Check out his 2020 Betfred World Matchplay tips below…
2020 Betfred World Matchplay Preview
Widely regarded as the second most prestigious major tournament in darts, the World Matchplay will be a very different affair this year. Due to the ban on large numbers of people congregating, the tournament cannot be played with an audience.
As a result, the venue has been moved from its traditional home at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, to the MK Arena in Milton Keynes, the same venue which hosted last week’s PDC Summer Series. With a hotel attached to the venue it can run in its own self-contained bubble with all players and officials having to pass a Covid 19 test before the start of play.
It is still classed as a major and every match will be televised. The prize fund is £700000 with £150000 going to the winner. But there will be no audience and the crowd in the Winter Garden is a very big part of what makes the tournament so prestigious. Up close, sweaty and noisy, the audience make the tournament.
I presume the players will still be on a stage with all the lights and sponsor’s logo’s. But, they will be in an empty room, without any atmosphere but for some artificial crowd noise which will be played through the arena’s sound system.
It will be much more like a floor event, but it is not like a floor event. There will not be 128 players playing on 16 boards, just the one, with longer format matches and played over nine nights. There will be TV cameras and all the accompanying equipment, but no ‘live’ atmosphere. It will be another new experience for all the players taking part.
At least they have all had something of a dry run at last week’s Summer Series. They will be used to living in the bubble and getting tested but not playing on a stage, in front of nobody. It will be a bit like playing a first round Euro tour match on a Friday afternoon.
Others have likened it to the UK Open two years ago that had to be played without a crowd due to the bad weather which had made the venue unsafe. There was something of a crowd there as managers and a few guests, journalists etc, where in the ‘audience’. It was a bit odd to watch, but you just get used to it and so will the players.
Some players will find it a little harder to get motivated, or get the adrenaline flowing without the crowd. But, that will be balanced by the awareness that this is a major title with major prize money to go with it.
Could A Surprise Be On The Cards?
Will the new venue and the lack of an audience lead to a surprise result? That is the question being asked but I am not so sure why it should. We have just seen five players championship events played in the same venue. The winners of those events, the first ‘proper’ tournaments since the shutdown? Michael van Gerwen won two, Peter Wright won one, James Wade won one and we had one surprise winner in Ryan Joyce. The top ten on the Summer Series OOM contained seven of the world’s top 10 ranked players.
The only surprise was the lack of surprises. The lesson is that the best players play the best darts wherever they play, whenever they play. Over a longer format, that is likely to even more the case.
Looking at past form for this event is of less value this year, given the change in venue and circumstances. However, looking at players who can and have played well in major championships remains important. The players are playing for serious amounts of money and a good run is crucial for the majority of these players, who need to keep their rankings as high as possible. MVG can afford to not have to think about the money but the rest have one eye on their ranking and bank balance.
Various players are defending a lot of prize money they earned in 2018. The world rankings of winner Gary Anderson, and runner up Mensur Suljovic will drop unless they have a decent run. The same applies to players like Joe Cullen, Jeffery de Zwaan, Simon Whitlock and Darren Webster. They will need to win a couple of matches to avoid painful drops.
World Matchplay Outright Preview
Michael van Gerwen
MVG is the 2.75 favourite and he comes here on the back of winning two of the summer series events and finishing second in the Summer Series OOM. He has won 25 PDC major titles including two Matchplay titles. It must be said that that his last Matchplay title was in 2016 and he lost in the second-round last year, and the first round in 2017.
World number two and winner of the Summer series OOM, Peter Wright is the 7.50 joint second favourite. He is the reigning World Champion but has won only two PDC major titles (seven times a runner up). His record in this event is good in the last five years (SF/QF/RU/SF/QF). Also, his form this year is very good having won the World Championship, the Masters, players championship 5 and players championship 13 at the weekend.
The Iceman is a 7.50 shot but it must be said that his record in this event is poor (QF/2/1/1/1). Could he be a player who benefits from the change of venue? He says he needs a crowd to play his best. However, if that crowd is calling you a wanker, then maybe an empty room is preferable. Both his PDC majors have been in the Grand Slam of Darts.
However, he was a semi-finalist at the World Championships, runner up in this year’s UK Open and has reached at least the quarter final of the last seven televised tournaments, so he should be expected to be in the mix once again. His Summer Series form was decent. There was a slow start, but he got better, and his scoring was very hot at times. He ended the series as runner up in PC13 and overall, he played 19 and won 14.
The Asp is the 4th favourite at 13.00. He has only played in one Matchplay and lost his first round match last year 5-10 to Merv King, despite a 102 average. Aspinall has won one major and certainly isn’t fazed by playing in the big events. He won two players championship titles before the shutdown and the Home Tour remote darts marathon. His form in the Summer Series was good with a quarter final and a semi-final and winning 14 of his 19 matches.
The Flying Scotsman (15.00) won this title back in 2018, ending a long drought in this event. He never hid the fact that he didn’t enjoy playing in Blackpool and his 2018 title win was his first final in eleven Matchplay appearances in Blackpool. Is he another player who may enjoy the change of venue? His bedroom will be in the building next door and there will be plenty of time for sleeps. His form in the Summer Series was decent, if a bit inconsistent, winning 7 of 12 matches.
Anderson is in the 1st quarter with MVG and he faces the agonisingly slow Justin Pipe in the first round. We all know how much Anderson hates slow players. His Summer Series form was a mixed bag, he reached one semi-final but failed to get past the second round in the other four. His scoring was decent, very good at times, but played 12 and won 7 doesn’t inspire great confidence at the odds. Especially in a tough quarter of the draw.
The new slimline Michael Smith (23.00) was another player in less than stellar form in the summer series. He didn’t win too many matches (P15 W10) and I am weary of players who lose a lot of weight quickly. He has never won a major PDC title and his tournament record was very poor until last year when he was runner up, the first time he had gone beyond the second round. Odds of 23.00 look very short.
Duzza (29.00) reached the semi-final last year on his Blackpool debut. He is a very consistent player and while he has only played in eight PDC majors as a PDC player, he reached three semi-final and the quarter final of the world championship. He has a decent chance of beating Jeffery de Zwaan in the first round but then faces the winner of the Peter Wright, Jose de Sousa match. Not an enviable task, but he did beat a certain MVG in the second round last year. His form in the Summer Series was decent enough (P17 W12) and a longer format should suit his consistency. However, odds of 29.00 look a bit too short.
We then have a group of players who played well in the Summer series and have been attracting some money in the market.
Defending Champion, Rob Cross, is in to 21.00 with most bookies but Skybet are going 26.00. He finished eighth in the Summer Series OOM and played some good stuff (P15 W10). He was runner up on Saturday, but he also suffered two first round defeats and continues to blow hot and cold. It is hard to see him being consistent enough to win five big matches.
There is a big step in the odds to the ‘outsiders’ in the field. Daryl Gurney, a two time PDC major title winner, is a 41.00 shot. He was tied nineth in the Summer Series and was playing some very good stuff (P19 W14). Superchin reached the semi-final on Friday, but it was his scoring that was eye catching, even in defeat. He got spanked by 6-3 Gabriel Clemens in PC10 but averaged 102.
In PC11 he lost the semi-final to Jose de Sousa but the Portuguese was just about unplayable. Gurney followed that up with a quarter final on Saturday, averaging 101 across his matches. He’s not quite there just yet but he was getting better day by day and looks like a contender. He faces Ricky Evans in the first round, as he did last year, winning 10-7.
The Machine (41.00) won PC12 on Saturday and he has been off the radar a bit in recent months despite being in decent form. He started 2020 well, reaching the quarter final of PC6, the semi-final of PC7 and was runner up in PC8. He is a player who can play very well in spells and when he hits form, you take notice.
Wade won three players championships in a month last year and back to back majors in 2018 and those where on the back of a Euro Tour win. It was interesting that when winning on Saturday, he was hitting big averages, which is not his trademark. Wade looks worth supporting. He won the title way back in 2007 but has been a runner up on five occasions. The Machine wants to prove a point that he is still a force to be reckoned with. He is in the tough top quarter of the draw along with MVG and Gary Anderson, but Wade is a tough opponent and looks in form.
The rest of the field are either yet to win a major or past their best. Krzysztof Ratajski (41.00) is on the up but still doesn’t look entirely at home on stage. Could the fact that this is not really a stage event now help him? Possibly. He has won multiple titles on the floor, a Euro Tour title and the next box to tick in a major. He played some good stuff in the Summer Series, reaching a semi-final, a quarter final and winning 14 of his 19 matches. A dangerous opponent but maybe a semi-final is the limit given his draw.
Chizzy (51.00) has never won a televised tournament, of which this is another, albeit a very different one. He reached the final of PC 10 but completely blew it. He was 7-3 up but lost 8-7, at 34.00, with a 1 point e/w bet on him. Furniture was kicked. You just can’t trust him. His throw, or should I say his two throws, are too inconsistent. Surgical one minute, lassoing a horse the next. That doesn’t work under pressure and playing for big money, crowd or not, is pressure.
Diamond (51.00) is getting plenty of mentions as a possible winner. He is a top class player who has never really produced the goods in the big events. On the floor he is elite level, he has won three Euro Tour titles but in the televised tournaments it is not so good. His best result in a big televised event was reaching the semi-final of last year’s Players Championship finals.
His form in the Summer Series was mixed. He reached the quarter final of PC11 but was whitewashed 0-6 by Daryl Gurney. He then reached the semi-final of PC12 but lost 4-7 to James Wade despite averaging 103. At the odds, I would rather have Wade and Gurney than White.
2020 Betfred World Matchplay: Others to Note
Mensur Suljovic (51.00) showed a few flashes of form in the Summer Series (P17 W12), reached a quarter and a semi-final, but he seems some way from the player who took Gary Anderson to the wire two years ago. Gabriel Clemens (67.00) looks to be the real deal but he lacks much experience in the big events and lacks a PDC title never mind a major one.
One of the dark horses who could cause a surprise is Jose de Sousa (81.00). The Portuguese player is a real talent and won two pro tour titles in his debut season last year. He won 13 of his 18 Summer Series matches and was runner up to MVG in PC11. His scoring can be ridiculously good at times even if his counting is poor. He will go on to win many more titles, but to go from being a very good floor player to winning a televised major is no small step.
He lacks much experience of these big events and his record in televised PDC tournaments is played 8, won 2. Another big problem for De Sousa is that he faces Peter Wright in the first round. Wright is the second favourite for the title, is the World Champion and has an enormous amount of major tournament experience. On the other hand, De souse has a 2-1 H2H record with Wright.
One other player who played some very good darts in the Summer Series was Jonny Clayton (81.00). His scoring at times was excellent and he looked like he would go on and win a title but a quarter final in PC10 was the best it got. He was semi-finalist in the UK Open in March and he could have another good run.
2020 Betfred World Matchplay Outright Tournament Selections
Wright had a near ideal warm up for this by winning the Summer Series OOM, just pipping MVG, which he was at pains to point out. He won 24 of his 28 matches, by far the best record, and he smashed in 97 maximums, no less than 30 more than the second best 180 hitter.
That he has drawn Jose de Sousa in the first round is a worry, but this is a major and Wright is relishing being the World Champion. Even the fact that he took to wearing glasses did not knock him out of his stride, something that can’t be said of Phil Taylor and Gary Anderson, two other World Champions who struggled to adapt. He has a difficult first round match, but you have to win them all to win the title and Wright is capable of doing just that.
2020 Betfred World Matchplay Tips: 2 points e/w Peter Wright to win the World Matchplay @ 7.50 with Betfair Paddy Power, Unibet
There was enough in his performance in the Summer Series to suggest that Superchin is very close to his best form. His scoring was very healthy, he was hitting the treble 20 a lot more than he has for a while and he had a very healthy win rate. He has won two major titles so he has the knowledge that he can win. His form in the big televised events is good, outside of the World Championship, he has won two and reached no less than eight other semi-finals.
His draw looks OK, until he could face Peter Wright in a quarter final. That would be a tough match, but we must remember that he beat Wright 10-6 in the UK Open, a match where both players played at the top of their form. I don’t like backing two players in the same quarter, but they are both worthy of support.
2020 Betfred World Matchplay Tips: 0.5 point e/w Daryl Gurney to win the World Matchplay @ 41.00 with Betfred, Unibet, Betvictor, William Hill, BET365
James Wade is in a very tough quarter, that said, is there an easy one? He won one of the Summer Series titles and 19 of his 23 matches, scoring well by his standards. He is a confidence player and those five events and plenty of matches won, will have given his confidence a boost.
2020 Betfred World Matchplay Tips: 0.5 point e/w James Wade to win the World Matchplay @ 41.00 generally available
All of the quarters are going to be hard to win but arguably, the second quarter is the most open. Rob Cross is the top seed, but he isn’t consistent enough to justify odds of just 4.50 to win the quarter, never mind being just 26.00 to win the title. Michael Smith was not impressive in the summer series and he may struggle for form due to his rapid weight loss.
It is the unseeded players in that quarter who look the more likely to win it. We have Ratajski, Clemens, Clayton and Jamie Hughes all in there as dangerous opponents and it’s not difficult to see them all in the second round.
Ratajski is a proven winner on the pro tour and the Euro tour and the next box to tick is a televised tournament. He had a good Summer Series. I like his chances against Wattimena in his opener and that could settle him in nicely.
2020 Betfred World Matchplay Tips: 0.5 point e/w Krzysztof Ratajski to win the World Matchplay @ 41.00 generally available