In this article, I try to condense an action-packed 9 days at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool to 5 key headlines, covering the thrills and spills of the PDC circuit’s 2nd biggest crown.
Rob Cross is no one hit wonder
After a hard 18 months adapting to life as one of the darts circuit’s hottest stars, there will be mixed emotions of relief and delight today as Cross’ World Matchplay victory sinks in. But, overwhelmingly, the sense of achievement for Cross, a player who has been weighted with unique pressures since his World Championship victory in January 2018, will be most felt following his victory over Michael Smith. ‘Voltage’ becomes only the 4th player to have won the World Championship and World Matchplay in the PDC, joining Phil Taylor, Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson, a feat which must surely cast away any doubts regarding the longevity of Cross’ stay at the top. Cross may find it challenging over the next few months to keep his no. 2 ranking on the PDC Order of Merit, with the thrower defending some big money in the second half of the season, including the ‘ranking’ defence of his World Championship. Time will tell, but after an impressive 2019 so far, jam-packed with huge averages and latter stage event runs, he looks likely to cap off his 3rd season on the PDC tour in fashion.
Glen Durrant’s meteoric rise continues
‘Duzza’ needed no introduction onto the Matchplay stage as he began his campaign on the 21st July but has cemented his position at the PDC’s top table with a star-studded series of victories by the seaside. His defeats of two former world champions, including the three-times and defending champion Michael van Gerwen, as well as former World Matchplay winner James Wade saw a run to the semi-finals in only Duzza’s second major event. Now ranked 35 on the PDC Order of Merit, Duzza looks set to be seeded for the World Championship at the Alexandra Palace, an incredible achievement for the three-times BDO world champion in his first season on the PDC circuit. Duzza came up against an under-par Adrian Lewis and Wade en route to a semi-final where he was caught short early on against finalist Michael Smith, but a victory over world number one Michael van Gerwen was nothing short of magnificent as he showed composure to oust the Dutchman from the competition. Some may have expressed qualms about if and how quickly Durrant would adapt to PDC life but he is quickly looking more and more impressive as the days go by. With 2 Pro Tour titles to his name, it may not be long before Glen wins big on the TV stage, and he will have his eyes fixed firmly too on the Worlds in December.
Michael Smith is 2019’s star
If there is anything to take out of the 2019 season so far, it is that Michael Smith is quickly becoming of the most consistent players on the tour. A final in Blackpool, as well as a final at the recent US Darts Masters, semi-final at the UK Open and final of the Worlds last January are just some of the St Helens star’s recent achievements. He may not have had the most impressive Premier League campaign this year and may yet to have won the elusive TV major but is a major force to be reckoned with at the top table of world darts. Smith allowed Cross to run away with their final yesterday, falling at one point 12-4 down, but like Cross’ comeback against Daryl Gurney in Saturday’s semi-final, he clawed back to within 2 legs of the 2018 world champion before Cross showed class to win the next three legs on the bounce to lift the Phil Taylor Trophy. Sunday may not have been Smith’s day but if you were to place a bet on any player to win a TV title before the year’s end (other than perhaps maybe the world number one MvG), it would most certainly be Smith.
Mervyn King remains an arrowsmith to be feared
It may be ten years since Mervyn King’s best run at the World Matchplay in Blackpool but, last week, King rolled back the years to match the furthest he has gone in the event since with a run to the quarter-finals. The run included a victory over defending champion Gary Anderson in round two, no mean feat despite the Scotsman’s only recent return from injury. Also, King was the conqueror of UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall in the second round, taking six legs on the bounce from 5-4 down to defeat the Asp 10-5, impressive stuff against the recent Las Vegas champion. King may not be thought of as one of the more glamorous players on the tour, but with his enjoyable throwing style and pace and consistency on the circuit, he is definitely not a player you would want to be drawn against.
Michael van Gerwen still has a monkey on his back
A recent string of uncharacteristically low averages and poor performances on the stage recently may not seem like a crisis for the usually unflappable world number one, but there are some grumblings of discontent in the van Gerwen camp of late at his form. MvG played well against Glen Durrant in the 2nd round but it wasn’t enough, with 16 missed doubles and a sub-100 average unable to carry him over the line. With MvG’s last event win at the Premier League and, before that, a trio of European Tour wins in April/May, the Dutchman will be looking to end his drought in the upcoming Oceanian swing next month. If he can’t, the murmurs may just amplify.
Image Credits: PDC