Column #CM41 World Matchplay 2018 – Day 1 (de Zwaan sends van Gerwen packing!)

Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Column CM41
World Matchplay 2018 – Day 1 (de Zwaan sends van Gerwen packing!)

“Everybody is here… to have a good time.”

The “here” means Blackpool and it is one of the reasons why the PDC decided in 1994 to organise a darts tournament during the summer season in Blackpool.

The quotation though doesn’t come from a darts player or the PDC but from Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys who was born here in Blackpool. His grand father played the trombone and his mother was a dancer in many of the shows in and around Blackpool. Chris learned to play the trombone as well and even played in a local brass band (that still exists). When he got older Chris preferred the clubs of Blackpool and worked in some of them. Though he loved the contemporary music he always stood out not wearing the trendy fashions but rather jeans, sweatshirts and sneakers. After school Chris moved to Liverpool to study architecture. Later he moved on to London as it was easier to find a job there. One day in an electronics shop on King’s Road he by chance met Neil Tennant. They talked and discovered a common interest in underground club music and synthesizers and it took them only a few weeks until they started to work together on some songs and – the Pet Shop Boys were born. In 1985, they had their first big hit – “West End Girls.” The Pet Shop Boys achieved something quite rare in the music scene – they survived until today.

One hears that the darts players are more relaxed playing in Blackpool as well. But neither Adrian Lewis nor James Wilson looked relaxed when they came on stage. Lewis was cheered more by the crowd then Wilson – astonishing, as for some time Lewis has been greeted with boos. Whether the crowd reception ignited him or whether he had a plan I’ve no idea but he stormed through the first few legs and Wilson just couldn’t keep up. The Lewis storm stopped as suddenly as it started and Wilson drew even at 3 and then got into the lead. Lewis didn’t look good any longer until he decided to pull himself together and got stronger again while Wilson’s scoring powers at the same time dwindled. So, in the end Lewis celebrated a 10-8 comeback win.

In the second match Dave Chisnall and Keegan Brown stood at the oche and it was only a close match for the first few legs. Then Brown couldn’t keep up any longer while Chisnall played a decent match. Brown‘s average in the end was below 80 – just not enough. Not even casting his eyes to the heavens, or rather to the ceiling of the Empress Ballroom, helped him. When Brown threw his last few darts into the board in frustration he was booed by the crowd.

This followed the match between the hottest title contender, Michael van Gerwen, and his fellow countryman Jeffrey de Zwaan. de Zwaan had eliminated van Gerwen from the UK Open. I had anticipated this time it would be a rather one sided match dominated by van Gerwen – but that didn’t happen.

van Gerwen at the beginning had the clearly higher average but de Zwaan was not impressed at all and while being quite clinical on his doubles. So, the two players entered the second break 5-5. All those who had expected van Gerwen would turn up the heat after the break to be sure were disappointed. Instead, de Zwaan got stronger while van Gerwen experienced some double trouble. de Zwaan won 10-6 and was cheered by the crowd who sent van Gerwen packing while singing “He’s going home.” So the top favorite went out first round – to be sure the biggest upset of this tournament, possibly one of the biggest upsets in the history of the event.

And suddenly the tournmanet is wide open. van Gerwen really seems to be in a crisis. To be sure it’s nice to win European Tour Events or on the Pro Tour but what really counts – especially for he Dutchman – are the major events.
The last match of the night was between Michael Smith and Jonny Clayton. At first it didn’t seem to enthrall the crowd which was still buzzing with van Gerwen’s elimniation. The first few legs were close but then Smith started to dominate the match and he progressed with a good performance and a 10-6 win into the second round. It looks as if Clayton still has problems bringing his A-game on the big stage.

That was the end of the first night and what a night it was. The crowd still was quite pumped leaving the venue. Tomorrow, Rob Cross and Gary Anderson – two more top favorites – will stand on the stage.
Will there be more upsets?

Also tomorrow afternoon, Max Hopp will be the first ever German to walk onto the Empress Ballroom stage. He had a first look around today and seemed to be rather impressed…

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Charis Mutschler
The founder of Global Darts, darts journalist Charis Mutschler hails from Marbach, near Stuttgart, Germany. A regular at most major PDC tournaments, a lover of literature, dance and music and cats, Charis' popular writings about darts and its players often transcend the usual. She brings something unique to the chroniclers of the sport we all love.