Darts guru Ben Levene (@benlevene96) looks ahead to the 2018 Darts World Matchplay, one of the year's showcase events.
World Matchplay 2018 | 21st July – 29th July 2018| Sky Sports
It’s July, and that means we’re off to Phil Taylor’s favourite venue, Winter Gardens. The Power took last year’s crown but won’t be in action this time around. Instead he’ll be in the Sky Studio alongside Wayne Mardle – that should be fun!
Top heavy draw
En-route to last year’s victory Taylor beat this edition’s favourite, Michael Van Gerwen (4/5), in the semi-final. It’s no surprise to see Van Gerwen a short favourite here.
He’s won 15/38 (39%) of tournaments since the World Championship and he’s not played in them all. MVG has sat out multiple Players Championship and European Tour events with the bigger picture in mind.
Since his 2017 World Championship success, TV majors such as the UK Open (x2), Matchplay, and Grand Prix have deserted Mighty Mike. On the Pro Tour in 2018 he’s produced a seasonal average 100.24, which is higher than any other player on the tour. He is the best player around.
Thanks to his false number four ranking, Gary Anderson finds himself in the same side of the draw as MVG. Anderson doesn’t do the Euro Tour, and so he misses out on prize money, hence the ranking.
Don’t be deceived though, the two-time World Champion has won six titles this year, including the only major thus far, the UK Open. He produced some astronomical stuff in this year’s Premier League. Anderson is second behind Van Gerwen in terms of the seasonal Pro Tour average, with 98.16.
Two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis holds the unfortunate 16th seed that’ll see him potentially face MVG in the second-round. After an underwhelming couple of years that saw him slide down the rankings, Jackpot has seemingly knuckled down and has enjoyed an impressive 2018. He’s reached three-finals and four semi-finals since the turn of the year and is on the up again. Lewis is throwing well.
If three World-Champions isn’t enough, the lower half of the draw also contains Premier League runner-up and last week’s Shanghai Masters champion Michael Smith, and World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney. Oh, and Raymond Van Barneveld too…
Wade looks back to his best
With the quality in the upper-half of the draw in mind, it makes sense to target each-way value in the opposite half.
Peter Wright is the highest-ranked player in this half. Snakebite picked up his first title of 2018 last month but has failed to reach the heights of 2017. At this point last year Wright had won nine titles including a major in the form of the UK Open. He’d also missed match darts for the Premier League. At last year’s World Matchplay, Wright reached the final. Snakebite looked vulnerable in both of this July’s World Series events and is opposable at sub 10/1.
James Wade could be the man to profit, with the Machine enjoying a revitalised 2018. Wade has sorted out both his throw and personal life, and the rewards have been evident on the oche.
He’s reached three finals and five semi-finals’ so far in 2018. At the US Masters, Wade proved that he’s comfortable producing his a-game on the big stage as he disposed of MVG 8-3 with a 102 average.
Averages of 92, 102, 101, 103 and 99 on tv in the last two-weeks indicate he has the game to put a run together at a venue where he’s reached the final four in eight of the last 12 years. He’s 3/1 to win the 3rd quarter, but given he avoids a fair few big guns, the 33/1 available at 1/2 the odds each-way with Bet365 gets the nod.
A potential semi-final meeting with World Champion Rob Cross shouldn’t put you off. Wade has won three of the last four meetings with Voltage. Wright and Cross go off far shorter than Wade, but on current form that should not be the case.
Webster warrants a dart
Cross has admitted himself that off-oche commitments have taken its toll on his performance. Having said that, Cross looked back to his best in both Vegas and Shanghai but at even money he’s too short to come through the 4th quarter. He’s in decent company. Mensur Suljovic is the obvious challenger, while Ian White, Max Hopp and Mervyn King have all enjoyed excellent 2018’s.
However, at 14/1 Darren Webster is overpriced to make a semi-final appearance. The Demolition Man has proved countless times he has the game to compete against the elite. The Norwich-based thrower reached the quarter-final of both the World Matchplay and World Championship in 2017. So far in 2018 Webster has won two pro-tour finals and his tenacious style means he is never out of the game.
World Matchplay 2018 – James Wade to win each-way (33/1 Bet365)
World Matchplay 2018 – Darren Webster to win the 4th quarter (14/1 Sporting Bet)