World Matchplay Darts: Player-by-player guide to the 32-man field in Blackpool

A player-by-player guide to the World Matchplay
A player-by-player guide to the World Matchplay

Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Peter Wright, Raymond van Barneveld and Rob Cross are among the 32-man field at the prestigious World Matchplay Darts in Blackpool.

Here, our darts expert Chris Hammer brings you his player-by-player guide to the second biggest major in the sport, which takes place from July 21-29, complete with predictions, facts & odds...

MICHAEL VAN GERWEN

  • Nickname: Mighty Mike
  • Date of Birth: 25/04/1989
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • Seeding: 1
  • World Ranking: 1
  • Walk-on music: Seven Nation Army, White Stripes
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 10/11
  • Career highlights: 2x World Champion (2014 & 2017), 2x World Matchplay champion (2015, 2016), 4x Premier League champion (2013, 2016, 2017, 2018), 3x World Grand Prix champion (2012, 2014, 2016), 2x UK Open champion (2015, 2016), 3x Grand Slam of Darts champion (2015, 2016, 2017), 4x European champion (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017), 4x Masters champion (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018), 4x Players Championship Finals champion ( 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017), 3x World Cup winner (2014, 2017, 2018) & over 60 other PDC titles!

His quest to win a third world title may have been foiled by Rob Cross but that hardly ended his domination of the sport did it? Since then he's won his fourth Masters, fourth Premier League and third World Cup in addition to six ProTour and six European Tour titles.

His career tally stands at 109 titles at the ripe old age of 29! In Blackpool last year he was thrashed 16-6 by Phil Taylor during the Power's fairytale triumphant run and there's no doubt he'll be a bit miffed at not having the opportunity for revenge. That said, being the first person to lift the newly-named Phil Taylor Trophy will come a close second.

He obviously should go close to what would be just a third World Matchplay title in 10 attempts - but be wary that his first round opponent Jeffrey de Zwaan beat him at the UK Open in a best-of-19 leg showdown. Albeit without the big crowd atmosphere.

Prediction: I'm not backing him to win it because he has an awkward first-round tie although he should come through that, he's in the same half of the draw as Adrian Lewis, Michael Smith, Daryl Gurney, Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld.

PETER WRIGHT

  • Nickname: Snakebite
  • Date of Birth: 10/03/1970
  • Nationality: Scottish
  • Seeding: 2
  • World Ranking: 2
  • Walk-on music: Don't Stop The Party, Pitbull
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 10/1
  • Career highlights: UK Open champion (2017), World Championship runner-up (2014), Premier League runner-up (2017), World Matchplay runner-up (2017) 18 non-televised PDC titles and four more televised final appearances. Fourth player to win 10 PDC tournaments in a calendar year (2017)

Whereas 2017 was very much a landmark season in the career of Snakebite - winning his maiden televised title at the UK Open and also becoming just the fourth player ever to win 10 PDC tournaments in a calendar year - 2018 has been a bit of a let down.

He's only managed to win one Pro tour event, beating Rob Cross in the final, and failed to reach the play-offs in the Premier League.

Snakebite has been reaching latter stages of tournaments, including two finals on the European Tour, but these days his standards are about getting the job done. And right now he's not doing that.

Prediction: Snakebite is certainly in the right half of the draw and while there's 'no easy games' in a high-class tournament such as this, most will be fairly confident of him reaching the semi-finals, where he'd likely meet Rob Cross or Mensur Suljovic. That said, I'm strong on the chances of his prospective quarter-final opponent James Wade so he might not even play a recharged Voltage.

ROB CROSS

  • Nickname: Voltage
  • Date of Birth: 21/09/1990
  • Nationality: English
  • World Ranking: 3
  • Walk-on music: Hot Hot Hot - Arrow
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 7/1
  • Career highlights: World champion (2018), Five non-televised PDC titles

This time last year, the former electrician was enjoying a dream debut season with the PDC but was still ranked 49 in the world and priced up at 50/1 to win the World Matchplay at his first attempt. He bowed out to Adrian Lewis in the second round.

Twelve months later he's world champion and 7/1 second favourite to win the sport's second biggest prize.

While his rapid rise to world champion was such an incredible story, apart from the world title, he hasn't won a tournament away from the five he's managed on the floor - be it the majors, European Tour or World Series of Darts events.

Nevertheless he deserves a lot of credit for his debut Premier League campaign, which was a whole new experience for him from a routine and pressure perspective, and by reaching the play-offs he proved he's no flash in the pan.

He's coming into form having reached back-to-back finals at the US Darts Masters and Shanghai Masters while he's in the 'easier' bottom half of the draw so will fancy his title chances.

Prediction: I backed Cross to win the world title and there are clear signs to me that he's about to challenge strongly for another major crown.

GARY ANDERSON

  • Nickname: The Flying Scotsman
  • Date of Birth: 22/12/1970
  • Nationality: Scottish
  • Seeding: 4
  • World Ranking: 4
  • Walk-on music: Jump Around, House of Pain
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 8/1
  • Career highlights: 2x World Champion (2015, 2016), 2x Premier League champion (2011, 2015), UK Open champion (2018), Players Championship Finals champion (2014), over 30 other PDC titles, runner-up in 10 other major finals including the World Championship, UK Open, World Grand Prix & Champions League of Darts

The Flying Scotsman ended his two-year drought for another major televised title when he won the UK Open at a frozen Minehead back in February, which meant the event was played behind closed doors.

Anderson will therefore be feeling like he still needs another 'proper' biggie and where better to do that than in front of the huge Winter Gardens crowd?

Mind you, his record is pretty poor here for someone of such calibre. He's reached two semi-finals in nine appearances and apart from that has never gone beyond the second round.

That said, he'll be forced to find his A-game early on in the tough top half of the draw while he also has decent recent form having won six events in 2018 including the US Darts Masters.

Prediction: As much as I'd like to see Anderson finally win a World Matchplay, he's going to have to do it the hard way. Whoever comes through that top half will likely to be pretty fatigued come the final and if it's a relative old timer like the Flying Scotsman, then he better hope he's not playing Rob Cross. Anyone else though, it shouldn't be a decisive factor.

DARYL GURNEY

  • Nickname: SuperChin
  • Date of Birth: 22/03/1986
  • Nationality: Northern Irish
  • Seeding: 5
  • World Ranking: 5
  • Walk-on music: Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 40/1
  • Career highlights: World Grand Prix champion (2018), World Matchplay semi-finalist (2017), winner of one non-televised PDC title

The Northern Irishman 'arrived' as an elite player by winning last year's World Grand Prix, which effectively earned him a spot in the Premier League for the first time.

Considering he then had to wait until week eight to get his first win, Gurney did fantastically well to not only avoid relegation but kick on and finish fifth, just missing out on a place in the Play Offs.

He's yet to win a title of any kind since his major success in Dublin but he's a regular contender and at least has the experience and recent memory on how to handle and win one of the biggest prizes.

Prediction: Last year I tipped Gurney at 10/1 to win his quarter and he did so impressively by reaching the semi-finals, where he lost to eventual runner-up Peter Wright. I'm not sure he can do it again because I fancy other players in his half this time.

MENSUR SULJOVIC

  • Nickname: The Gentle
  • Date of Birth: 05/03/1972
  • Nationality: Austrian
  • Seeding: 6
  • World Ranking: 6
  • Walk-on music: Simply The Best, Tina Turner
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 28/1
  • Career highlights: Champions League of Darts champion (2017), winner of five non-televised PDC titles

Mensur Suljovic's popularity has continued to soar since defying pre-tournament odds of 40/1 to win the Champions League of Darts last year but more importantly, his belief in his own talents are quite rightfully growing.

This is a man who didn't think he was ready for the Premier League a year ago but when the call-up came off the back of his breakthrough 2018, he gladly accepted the invite.

Unfortunately the affable Austrian will go down in history as the most unlucky Premier League player in recent years to be relegated after playing so well - he just came out the wrong side of too many 7-5 thrillers.

It's testament to his character that he put that disappointment behind him to win his first World Series of Darts title at the German Masters - in front of a record-breaking crown no less - and a second European Tour crown at the inaugural Danish Darts Open.

He's in the 'easy' bottom of half of the draw so he'll fancy his chances of a good run here although he is on course to meet Rob Cross in the quarter-finals.

Prediction: Everyone likes Mensur and his price is big enough to tempt many punters in but I'm too hot on Rob Cross in this major so I can't back him to go any further than the quarter-finals.

SIMON WHITLOCK

  • Nickname: The Wizard
  • Date of Birth: 03/03/1969
  • Nationality: Australian
  • World Ranking: 7
  • Walk-on music: Down Under, Men at Work
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 100/1
  • Career highlights: European champion (2012), World Championship runner-up (2010), Premier League runner-up (2012), winner of 16 non-televised TV titles

The experienced Wizard earned a controversial return to the Premier League this year after a 2017 in which he won three floor tournaments and made the final of the World Grand Prix.

Some wanted another younger up-and-coming star to be given a shot but the Aussie proved the door of opportunity should never be shut on anyone by giving a pretty good account of himself to avoid relegation.

He hasn't gone deep enough in enough tournaments this year to suggest he can win this event at 100/1 but he is in the softer half of the draw and, on his day, is a match for many.

Prediction: Definitely a contender to win a very open third quarter of the draw at 5/1 although an in-form James Wade awaits him potentially in the second round.

DAVE CHISNALL

  • Nickname: Chizzy
  • Date of Birth: 12/09/1980
  • Nationality: English
  • Seeding: 8
  • World Ranking: 8
  • Walk-on music: Dizzy, Vic Reeves & Wonderstuff
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 125/1
  • Career highlights: World Grand Prix runner-up (2013), Grand Slam of Darts runner-up (2014), Masters runner-up (2016), Players Championship Finals runner-up (2016), winner of 12 non-televised PDC titles

Chizzy is still waiting for his maiden televised title but the longer his career at this level goes on without one, the harder it gets. Especially with so many good young players rising up the ranks.

Always good for a 180 or plenty, the St Helens thrower is one of the most popular players on the circuit - both with his fellow pros and the fans - so should he finally ever get the job done, there won't be many dry eyes in the house.

It was no surprise to see him dropped from the Premier League after winning just one TV title last year and he's still struggling to find consistency and another level in his career.

Prediction: He's in a horrible quarter of the draw and could easily go out in the first round.

MICHAEL SMITH

  • Nickname: Bully Boy
  • Date of Birth: 18/09/1990
  • Nationality: English
  • Seeding: 9
  • World Ranking: 9
  • Walk-on music: Shut Up & Dance, Walk The Moon
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 33/1
  • Career highlights: World Youth Champion (2013), Premier League Darts runner-up (2018), winner of 10 non-major PDC titles

This St Helens thrower is ninth in the world only by number. By form and potential, I'd have him well inside the top four and will not be fazed whatsoever with being in the tough half of the draw.

Bully Boy was among the favourites for Premier League relegation and 80/1 for the title but he made a mockery of those odds by brilliantly finishing runner-up to MVG in both the regular season and Grand Final.

Smith beat MVG 8-4 at the weekend's Shanghai Darts Masters before thrashing Rob Cross 8-2 in the final to claim his first World Series of Darts title and his third tournament triumph of a highly encouraging year.

Prediction: Michael Smith is nearing his time to win a maiden TV major and while he's in this tough half of the draw, there is literally nobody he doesn't think he can beat. A quarter-final with MVG is a distinct possibility and 15/2 for him to reach the semis is tempting. However, if he can do that then why not back him at 33/1 for the whole thing?

JAMES WADE

  • Nickname: The Machine
  • Date of Birth: 06/04/1983
  • Nationality: English
  • Seeding: 10
  • World Ranking: 10
  • Walk-on music: The Boys Are Back In Town, Thin Lizzy
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 33/1
  • Career highlights: 2x World Grand Prix champion (2007, 2010), World Matchplay champion (2007), Premier League champion (2009), 2x UK Open champion (2008, 2011), Masters champion (2014), 20 non-televised PDC titles, runner-up in 11 televised majors

It feels like he's been around forever but Wade is only 35 so I scoff at anyone who say his best days are behind him.

Sure, all his major titles - including the World Matchplay in 2007 - have come a long way back in the past and he hasn't won a title of any kind since 2016 but there's something exciting happening to the Machine.

If recent form is anything to go by it looks he's finally been re-programmed to find another level.

Dropped from the Premier League - and quite rightly so - he's gone away, licked his wounds and worked hard on his game to get himself as a serious contender once more.

For too long the pundits have been saying his timing was his big weapon and but recently he's been banging in big three-figure averages too against the likes of Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson. While he thrashed MVG 8-3 in Las Vegas he fell short against eventual champion Anderson in the semis despite averaging 101 and leading 6-2 at one point.

Although he lost to Rob Cross at last weekend's Shanghai Darts Masers, he's beaten the Voltage in all their three other meetings this season, including during his runs to his two final appearances on the European and Pro Tours.

Prediction: Wouldn't it be great to see Wade back in the winners' enclosure? I really think he's a cracking bet at 4/1 to win his quarter, which is headed by 11/10 favourite Peter Wright, and as mentioned above, he won't be scared of Rob Cross in the semis.

IAN WHITE

  • Nickname: Diamond
  • Date of Birth: 17/08/1970
  • Nationality: English
  • Seeding: 11
  • World Ranking: 11
  • Walk-on music:  Play That Funky Music, Wild Cherry
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 100/1
  • Career highlights: Winner of nine non-televised PDC titles

The veteran Englishman is enjoying another superb season with two Players Championship titles to his name - including the most recent in Barnsley at the end of June - but questions remain whether he can perform to his best on the TV stage.

He's reached seven major quarter-finals over the past four years but this is when the matches get longer and he perhaps can't sustain his A game.

Although he's in the softer bottom half of the draw, his first-round opponent is rising German star Max Hopp, who has beaten him in two of their three meeting this season.

Prediction: He's in the same quarter as Max Hopp, Mensur Suljovic and Rob Cross and I wouldn't be too confident on him beating any of them on the big stage.

GERWYN PRICE

  • Nickname: The Iceman
  • Date of Birth: 07/03/1985
  • Nationality: Welsh
  • Seeding: 12
  • World Ranking: 12
  • Walk-on music: Vanilla Ice, Ice Ice Baby
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 125/1
  • Career highlights: UK Open runner-up (2017), winner of two non-televised PDC titles

Price has taken over from Justin Pipe as the 'best body in darts' - and by quite some distance it must be said - but the musclebound former rugby union player wants to be more than just oche eye-candy.

Having earned a deserved spot in the Premier League, he endured the worst campaign ever seen by failing to win a single game and picking up just two points.

The Welshman did rally to reach a final on the European Tour back in April, where he lost to fellow countryman Jonny Clayton, but there's not much to suggest he can challenge in Blackpool.

Prediction: I'm actually expecting a first-round exit for Price as he comes up against a player I'm impatiently waiting to hit the big notes on the big stage - Joe Cullen.

RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD

  • Nickname: Barney
  • Date of Birth: 20/04/1967
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • Seeding: 13
  • World Ranking: 13
  • Walk-on music: Eye of The Tiger, Survivor
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 50/1
  • Career highlights: PDC World Champion (2007), 4x BDO world champion (1998, 1999, 2003, 2005), 2x UK Open champion (2006, 2007), Premier League champion (2014), Grand Slam of Darts champion (2012), 4x World Cup winner (2010, 2014, 2017, 2018), 20 other PDC titles, runner-up in eight majors including the World Championship, World Matchplay and World Grand Prix

Everybody loves Raymond. And everyone would love to see him end his four-year drought for a major individual TV title in Blackpool.

Barney lifted the World Cup of Darts for a fourth time this summer, with more than a little help from MVG, but he really wants another big individual prize to his name.

He's got a poor great record at the Winter Gardens, however, having only reached one quarter-final since his best finish of runner-up in 2010 and he's in that loaded top half of the draw this year.

We all know the brilliance he can produce, such as that magical night in Rotterdam in this season's Premier League when he won the 'Dutch derby', but he struggles to do it consistently enough to win these big majors.

Prediction: The right Barney will need to turn up five times in a row to win this title and I just can't see that happening.

DARREN WEBSTER

  • Nickname: Demolition Man
  • Date of Birth: 10/06/1968
  • Nationality: English
  • Seeding: 14
  • World Ranking: 14
  • Walk-on music: Dancing In The Dark,- Bruce Springsteen
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 250/1
  • Career highlights: Players Championship Finals semi-finalist (2016), winner of two non-televised PDC titles

The Norwich thrower's rise into the world's top 20 can be traced back to the end of 2016 when he stormed into a 6-0 lead over MVG in his first major semi-final at the Players Championship Finals. But like being chased in a bad dream, he then predictably started wading through treacle as MVG hunted him down in a 11-8 victory but to his credit he's taken a lot of confidence from the whole experience.

He won his first ranking title for 12 years when defeating Daryl Gurney in a Players Championship final in July of 2017 and last summer reached the World Matchplay quarter-finals.

He's not done a great deal since then and it's be a big shock to see him matching that run this year considering Rob Cross potentially awaits in the second round.

Prediction: He faces a 50:50 showdown with Steve Lennon in the first round and even if he gets through that, I'd expect his run to end against Cross, who has beaten him two times out of two.

KIM HUYBRECHTS

  • Nickname: The Hurricane
  • Date of Birth: 16/11/1985
  • Nationality: Belgian
  • Seeding: 15
  • World Ranking: 15
  • Walk-on music: Hi Ho Silver Lining, Jeff Beck
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 200/1
  • Career highlights: Players Championship Finals runner-up in 2012, World Cup runner-up (2013), winner of four non-televised PDC titles

A confidence player who seems to find his best form in bursts, Huybrechts hasn't produced much to shout about since reaching the World Cup semi-finals with Dimitri van den Bergh.

He does have a fighting chance of winning his quarter, which includes Peter Wright, Simon Whitlock and James Wade, but on recent evidence it's fair to have him fourth favourite at 8/1.

That said, he hasn't won a single match here since making his debut in 2012!

Prediction: I can't see his wait for a first major TV title ending in Blackpool but it wouldn't be too big a shock if he manages to battle his way into the semis.

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ADRIAN LEWIS

  • Nickname: Jackpot
  • Date of Birth: 21/011985
  • Nationality: English
  • Seeding: 16
  • World Ranking: 16
  • Walk-on music: Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag, Pigbag
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 50/1
  • Career highlights: 2x World Champion (2011, 2012), UK Open champion (2014), European champion (2013), 4x World Cup winner (2012, 2013, 2015, 2016), 17 other PDC titles, runner-up in 10 majors including 2011 Premier League & 2016 World Championship

This time last year Adrian Lewis headed into the World Matchplay as fourth seed.

But when a pretty dreadful 2017 ended in that astonishing first-round loss to Kevin Munch at the Ally Pally, the former two-time world champion dropped out of the top 16 for the first time in a decade.

He therefore failed to qualify for the Masters for the first time ever and wasn't invited back to the Premier League. And when you thought it couldn't get any worse, he was involved in an embarrassing oche altercation with Jose Justicia in the first UK Open qualifier.

But the cash is starting to pour back into the Jackpot thanks to reaching two Players Championship finals and another in the Gibraltar Darts Trophy - not to mention numerous semi-final on the ProTour - so he's now back in the top 16.

Two of those finals he lost to MVG and Michael Smith while the other he blew against the most journey of journeymen in Micky Mansell - but overall I think it's safe to say we can expect to see Lewis producing performances of old back on major stages soon enough.

Prediction: The downside to being ranked 16th is that he ends up with a second-round meeting with MVG, who has beaten him in their last seven meetings.

JOE CULLEN

  • Nickname: The Rockstar
  • Date of Birth: 13/07/1989
  • Nationality: English
  • World Ranking: 18
  • Walk-on music: Freed From Desire, Gala
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 150/1
  • Career highlights: Winner of two non-televised PDC events

Probably too cool to be a top darts player but with the sport's image changing massively there's no doubt Barry Hearn would love The Rockstar to finally reach the next level, having shown plenty of promise over the past couple of years.

His two Players Championship titles came in 2017 while this season he's reached five quarter-finals on the European Tour and one semi-final, so he's starting to show consistency in front of the big crowds you get at these events.

That semi-final defeat was an agonising 7-6 scoreline against Gerwyn Price in Austria having previously thrashed Michael Smith 6-2 so he's clearly getting to the level where I - and many of his fans - believe he's capable of.

Prediction: I fancy him to get revenge on Gerwyn Price in what could be the match of the opening round, with the Welshman no doubt trying to intimidate Cullen's cool demeanour. If he gets through that then his quarter also includes Gary Anderson, Daryl Gurney and Raymond van Barneveld so it'll be tough for him. That said I really feel he has the game and growing confidence so the 12/1 available on him to reach the semi-finals is worth consideration.

JELLE KLAASEN

  • Nickname: The Cobra
  • Date of Birth: 17/13/1984
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • World Ranking: 19
  • Walk-on music: Sex On Fire, Kings of Leon
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 400/1
  • Career highlights: BDO world champion (2006), winner of three non-televised PDC titles

We've all expected more success from this Dutch talent. Not only since his Lakeside title in 2006, but when his thrilling triumph over Phil Taylor 10 years later en route to the World Championship semi-finals gave his career a second wind of sorts.

But he's only amounted to being a consistent entertaining performer without winning much at all. 

Prediction: A massive price and few will expect him to get past Peter Wright in the opening round.

MERVYN KING

  • Nickname: The King
  • Date of Birth: 15/03/1966
  • Nationality: English
  • World Ranking: 21
  • Walk-on music: King of Kings, Motorhead
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 250/1
  • Career highlights: Runner-up in five PDC majors including the 2009 Premier League Darts and 2014 Masters, winner of eight non-televised PDC titles. 

The King has the most epic walk-on music of them all - King of Kings by Motorhead - so it's such a shame it doesn't grace major finals anymore. He's past his peak years which saw him challenge for the sport's biggest prizes without winning one - not least the agonising 2014 Masters defeat to James Wade.

But he's still a useful operator having won his first PDC title in almost four years when triumphing at a Players Championship event in Barnsley, beating James Wade in the final.

He's had his fair share of run ins over the years but he's an emotional guy. Arguably one of the biggest lump in the throat moments from the 2017 World Championship was the sight of good old Merv fighting back the tears after his first round win. It meant so much to him so goodness knows how he'll react if he ever breaks his major duck.

Prediction: I'm predicting an early exit against Rob Cross.

STEPHEN BUNTING

  • Nickname: The Bullet
  • Date of Birth: 09/04/1985
  • Nationality: English
  • World Ranking: 22
  • Walk-on music: Surfin' Bird, The Trashmen
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 300/1
  • Career highlights: BDO world champion (2014), World Grand Prix semi-finalist (2014), UK Open semi-finalist (2015), winner of two non-televised PDC titles

The Liverpool thrower initially made a promising start to his PDC career after winning the BDO crown in 2014 but he's struggled to build it.

This year, however, he's reached four quarter-finals and three semi-finals on the Pro Tour, including a recent run to the last four of the European Matchplay where he lost only to MVG, so maybe he's on an upward curve again.

Prediction: Plays Gary Anderson in his opening clash so I doubt he'll last long in Blackpool.

JONNY CLAYTON

  • Nickname: The Ferret
  • Date of Birth: October 4 1974
  • Nationality: Welsh
  • World Ranking: 23
  • Walk-on music: Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 250/1
  • Career highlights: Players Championship Finals runner-up (2017), winner of two non-televised PDC titles

The Welshman is really making a mark just three years after joining the PDC and back in April he won his maiden European Tour title at the Austrian Darts Open.

That was his second PDC crown having won his first last October while he also reached a maiden televised final at the 2017 Players Championship Finals, only to lose to the relentless MVG.

He has a bright future but it'll be tough to demonstrate that here as he opens up against Michael Smith in the top half of the draw

Prediction: First-round exit but well capable of springing a surprise.

STEVE BEATON

  • Nickname: The Bronzed Adonis
  • Date of Birth: 05/04/1964
  • Nationality: English
  • World Ranking: 24
  • Walk-on music: Stayin' Alive, Bee Gees
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 500/1
  • Career highlights: BDO world champion (1996), European championship runner-up (2009), winner of four non-televised PDC titles

As far as housewives choices go in darts, I always think of the Bronze Adonis as the original and the best. Beaton may not have the flowing curly locks of yesteryear but he's still got it, at 54 years young.

The popular Englishman enjoyed something of a mini renaissance in 2017 when landing his first title in four years at a Players Championship event in Wigan, beating Gary Anderson in the final, while he also reached the final of the Dutch Darts Masters at the start of September only to lose to MVG.

As for this season he's reached a couple of Players Championship semi-finals but nothing to suggest he can go deep in this major.

Prediction: Starts up against Mensur Suljovic so I'm expecting a first-round exit.

STEVE WEST

  • Nickname: Simply
  • Date of Birth: 05/06/1975
  • Nationality: English
  • World Ranking: 25
  • Walk-on music: Don't Stop Believin', Journey
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 400/1
  • Career highlights: UK Open quarter-final (2018)

Steve West is a solid performer but he finally got his magic moment on a big stage with that stunning victory over 11-time champion Phil Taylor at the 2016 World Grand in Dublin. He struggled to get himself back down to earth in time for the second round, losing 3-0 to Daryl Gurney.

He's yet to win a title of any kind and was bitterly disappointed to spurn a huge opportunity at the UK Open, when he lost to Dave Pallett 10-5 in the quarter-final after the tournament had really opened up for the outsiders.

Since then he's made two semi-final runs on the European Tour so it's fair to say this is the best period in his career.

Prediction: Will fancy his chances of shocking Daryl Gurney but I'm not so sure he will.

KYLE ANDERSON

  • Nickname: The Original
  • Date of Birth: 17/09/1987
  • Nationality: Australian
  • World Ranking: 26
  • Walk-on music: "Solid Rock", Street Warriors feat. Shannon Noll
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 200/1
  • Career highlights: UK Open quarter-finalist (2016), European Championship quarter-finalist (2016), Auckland Darts Masters champion (2017), winner of one non-televised PDC title this year

The second best Anderson - by quite some distance - and the second best Australian - but only off the rankings - in the field.

The Original looked as though he'd soon overtake Simon Whitlock as top Aussie midway through 2017 having won his maiden PDC ranking title at a Players Championship in August, with the aid of a nine-darter, and one week later defeating future star Corey Cadby 11-10 in the Auckland Darts Masters final.

He played electrically well at the 2017 European Championship, hitting another perfect leg in a stunning semi-final with eventual champion MVG, which he really should have won before losing 11-10.

But since then he's not really given us many more glimpses of his true potential.

Prediction: I reckon he'll beat Barney in the opening round but then come unstuck if he plays Gary Anderson in the second.

JOHN HENDERSON

  • Nickname: Highlander
  • Date of Birth: 04/05/1973
  • Nationality: Scottish
  • World Ranking: 27
  • Walk-on music: Rockin' All Over The World, Status Quo
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 500/1
  • Career highlights: World Grand Prix semi-finalist (2017)

Big John is a popular chap but has still never won anything on the PDC circuit.

That said, he came memorably close at last year's World Grand Prix when he caused one of the biggest shocks in the tournament's history by knocking Michael van Gerwen out in the first round en route to the semi-finals.

He's been a steady operator on tour this season with two quarter-final appearances and a semi-final but he'll need to re-produce the magic of Dublin to go far again.

Prediction: Will fancy his chances against Kim Huybrechts in the opening round but a second-round meeting with Peter Wright is likely.

JAMES WILSON

  • Nickname: Lethal Biscuit
  • Date of Birth: 20/02/1972
  • Nationality: English
  • World Ranking: 30
  • Walk-on music: "Daydream Believer" - The Monkees
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 500/1
  • Career highlights: BDO World Trophy (2014)

Wilson has steadily climbed the rankings since joining the PDC in 2015 off the back of winning a televised title in the BDO's World Masters.

He's currently at a mark of 30 and is a consistent performer on tour, reaching three quarter-finals and one semi-final this year.

Prediction: Can't see him getting past a revived Adrian Lewis but even if he does, he'll probably end up playing MVG in the second.

JERMAINE WATTIMENA

  • Nickname: Machine Gun
  • Date of Birth: 09/03/1988
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • World Ranking: 34
  • Walk-on music: Trumpets - Sak Noel & Sean Paul
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 400/1
  • Career highlights: Last 16 of two televised majors (Players Championship Finals 2017, UK Open 2018)

Blink and you'll miss most of his matches, such is the speed at which the Machine Gun fires.

His 3-2 victory over Joe Cullen in the opening round of the World Championship was an unforgettable 60 seconds (or so it seemed) for anyone who watched and it was just a shame they couldn't play a few more sets. The standard and speed from both players was astounding.

He's pretty inconsistent and needs more experience on the big stage before he can develop the game needed to regularly see off the bigger names.

Prediction: In theory he could blow James Wade away but I'd expect Wade's more accurate timing to win the battle of the Machines.

MAX HOPP

  • Nickname: The Maximiser
  • Date of Birth: 20/08/1996
  • Nationality: German
  • World Ranking: 40
  • Walk-on music: Kolo Yaya
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 200/1
  • Career highlights: World Youth Champion (2015), Winner of one non-televised PDC event

Germany has been waiting for young star Max Hopp to deliver on his rich potential and now there's clear signs that he'll be winning big trophies in years to come.

The 2015 world youth champion claimed the biggest win of his career at this year's 2018 German Open, defeating Michael Smith 8-7 in a thrilling final in front of a passionate German crowd. (well worth a watch below)

He also handled the pressure of expectation during the World Cup in Frankfurt where he helped Germany reach the quarter-finals alongside Martin Schindler while he's reached the last eight in two other Pro Tour events.

Hopp v Smith: German Darts Open 2018

Prediction: I would have been really tempted to back Hopp to win any quarter - except the one he's in. He'll beat Ian White and give Mensur Suljovic a real run for his money but then he'll run into my main tournament tip Rob Cross.

KEEGAN BROWN

  • Nickname: The Needle
  • Date of Birth: 05/11/1992
  • Nationality: English
  • World Ranking: 42
  • Walk-on music: The Ramones - Blitzkrieg Bop
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 500/1
  • Career highlights: World Youth Champion (2014), Winner of one non-televised PDC event

Not to be confused with Arya Stark's weapon of choice in Game of Thrones, The Needle hasn't exactly fulfilled his promise since become world youth champion four years ago but he's turned into a reliable performer on tour.

He enjoyed his best World Championship when reaching the last 16, where he was beaten by Phil Taylor, and since then has reached a couple of quarter-finals on the circuit.

Prediction: Could spring a mini surprise against Dave Chisnall in the opening round but I'd expect his run to end against either Michael Smith or Jonny Clayton.

RICHARD NORTH

  • Nickname: Mouth of the South
  • Date of Birth: 23/04/1990
  • Nationality: English
  • World Ranking: 46
  • Walk-on music: Here Comes the Hotstepper, by Ini Kamoze
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 500/1
  • Career highlights: Runner-up in Players Championship 18 in August 2017

OK, so North's career highlights are thin on the ground to say the least but he's now starting to get his foot in the door of the televised majors. This will be his fifth, but fourth since last year's World Grand Prix.

He came agonisingly close to winning a maiden Players Championship event in August, when he lost 6-5 in the final to Dave Chisnall having earlier knocked out Steve West, Joe Cullen and Stephen Bunting.

This year he's reached a couple of quarter-finals and one semi-final on the circuit and won't be too fazed about his draw here.

Prediction: Don't be surprised to see Richard North in the quarter-finals - he'd 'only' have to beat Simon Whitlock and either James Wade or Jermaine Wattimena to do it.

STEVE LENNON

  • Date of Birth: 25/11/1993
  • Nationality: Irish
  • World Ranking: 48
  • Walk-on music: Horslips - Dearg Doom
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 500/1
  • Career highlights: Dutch Darts Masters runner-up 2018

The young Northern Irishman has bags of potential, although he's not displayed it much on a televised stage.

He did reach the last 16 of the Grand Slam of Darts having qualified through his group at 5/1 (which yours truly tipped up) while this year he reached the final of the Dutch Darts Masters, finishing runner-up to MVG.

Prediction: I'm happy to back him defeating Darren Webster in the opening round but then he'll probably come a cropper to Rob Cross in the second.

JEFFREY DE ZWAAN

  • Nickname: The Black Cobra
  • Date of Birth: 26/03/1996
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • World Ranking: 68
  • Walk-on music: Rocking With The Best - Deepack
  • Sky Bet odds (Price Boosted): 750/1
  • Career highlights: Runner-up in Players Championship 18 in August 2017

Last, but certainly not least, is 22-year-old Jeffrey De Zwaan who won't be as high as 68 in the world for too much longer, that's for sure.

Having joined the PDC Tour three years ago, we're now seeing the fruits of his development years and back in March he caused a huge upset by knocking out Michael van Gerwen in the very first round of the UK Open.

his run was halted by Paul Hogan in the next round but since then he won his first senior PDC title by defeating Jonny Clayton in the final of a Players Championship event.

Prediction: Surely lightning can't strike twice against MVG again? Their UK Open clash was the best of 19 legs and so is their meeting in Blackpool...

World Matchplay Draw Bracket

  • (1) Michael van Gerwen v Jeffrey de Zwaan
  • (16) Adrian Lewis v James Wilson
  • (8) Dave Chisnall v Keegan Brown
  • (9) Michael Smith v Jonny Clayton
  • (5) Daryl Gurney v Steve West
  • (12) Gerwyn Price v Joe Cullen
  • (4) Gary Anderson v Stephen Bunting
  • (13) Raymond van Barneveld v Kyle Anderson
  • (2) Peter Wright v Jelle Klaasen
  • (15) Kim Huybrechts v John Henderson
  • (7) Simon Whitlock v Richard North
  • (10) James Wade v Jermaine Wattimena
  • (6) Mensur Suljovic v Steve Beaton
  • (11) Ian White v Max Hopp
  • (3) Rob Cross v Mervyn King
  • (14) Darren Webster v Steve Lennon

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