Column #CM42 World Matchplay 2018 – The Second Day (still no 100+ averages)

Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Column CM42
World Matchplay 2018 – Day 2 (still no 100+ averages)

The second day of the World Matchplay offered the same weather as the first one. The sky was grey and a cold wind blew in from the sea. It was not a day for the beach but perhaps hopeful darts weather – and really a long queue waited in front of the Empress Ballroom to enter the venue.

Punctually the doors were opened for fans and all other waiting people. Not only the ballroom was well filled – the press room was as well and it didn’t take long before Darren Webster and Steve Lennon, the first two players, came on stage. In a way I am still not used to walk-ons without the walk-on girls. So topo it seems are many of the players who look a little bit lost as they wait at the end of the walk-on carpet for their appearance..

I hadn’t thought Darren Webster would start like as he did. He played and scored much stronger then Steve Lennon at the start of the match. But the averages drew closer as the match progressed. Lennon several times came quite close to drawing even but Webster‘s lead was big enough and he never was in danger of losing the match. So Webster convincingly progressed into the second round and another debutant was out of the tournament.

The second match brought an a very interesting debut (as least for me) as Max Hopp, the first ever German to qualify for the tournament, stood on stage. He was greeted quite friendly by the crowd which was divided evenly into White and Hopp supporters. In the first leg both players looked very nervous – White has already lost several times against Hopp and probably was not sure what to expect this time and Hopp had looked nervous and unsure when I saw him exploring the venue the night before. White’s nerves were evidenced in a lot of double trouble which he couldn’t get rid of during the whole match. Several times he ended with double two as he had not succeeded to hit his original finish in his first attempt. Hopp didn’t play weak or bad, he just didn’t score as strong as White. The reason that the result was not clearer in the end was White’s problem with the doubles but finally he crossed the finishing line and it was a deserved win after all. So Hopp became the next debutant after Jonny Clayton and Steve Lennon to lose his first round match.

But it showed again in the next pairing that even the more experienced players are very much able to mess up their matches as well. Gerwyn Price just got nowhere against Joe Cullen. Perhaps his injury was the problem though his statistics weren‘t bad at all. In the end he was lucky not to bet he first whitewashed player of this year’s tournament – that would have been really devastating. I have seen him play much better matches here in Blackpool.

At the end of the afternoon session we all watched a match which was a little bit similar to a Greek tragedy. We had one player, who despite his mistakes – and there were a lot at the end of the match on the doubles – tried to stay positive: Steve West. On the other side we had Daryl Gurney who really looked like he would have preferred it to be far, far away but instead had to watch a literal flurry of missed match darts by his opponent. He literally slogged himself along to the oche against his will, and it looked every time as if he debated whether to throw at all. But he won in the end in overtime. He had no energy left to celebrate, only enough for some tears.

After an unusually long break the evening session started with the match between Mensur Suljovic and Steve Beaton. Suljovic looked the stronger player from the start of the match but nevertheless had some problems to get over the finishing line. Beaton used this double trouble for a few leg wins to get closer to the Austrian but in the end Suljovic won 10-6.

In the next match we saw Gary Anderson, the now favorite to win the title, come on stage und he looked very nervous. Anderson is always a player who looks a little bit antsy, but I hadn’t seen him like this for a long time. In a way he looked as though he was afraid to miss his train – Bunting was not throwing fast enough for him. The match was gripping and relatively close despite Bunting’s average being much lower then Anderson’s. Finally, Anderson settled into the match, was less nervous and managed to increase his performance. And so in the end the better scoring Anderson was the deserved winner of the contest.

Next up was the reigning champion of the world Rob Cross against Mervyn King. King had the much better start but that soon changed and Rob Cross dominated the match which had been quite close at the beginning. Cross achieved the best (so far) average of the tournament, but at this point comparing averages was not comparing anything particularly spectacular.

The last match of the night was the match between Raymond van Barneveld and Kyle Anderson. The crowd stood behind the Dutchman though there were a few Anderson supporters around as well. van Barneveld returned from a six week break and he looked rather fit. Anderson won the first leg but after that van Barneveld dominated and won several legs in a row. Anderson started a comeback but it was too late. van Barneveld just turned on high gear and progressed with a 10-6 win into the second round.

There were no big surprises on the second day – the most thrilling match was the match between Daryl Gurney and Steve West. Besides Gerwyn Price, who has the known problems with his foot, all other seeded players progressed into the second round. Favorites like Rob Cross and Gary Anderson showed good form.

Until this point we have witnessed no average above 100 and only one – Rob Cross’ 98.58 – close to the century mark. From among the debutants only the one with the most difficult draw – Jeffrey de Zwaan – is still in the tournament.

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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.