Column #HR268 World Matchplay Reflections – a Midsummer Night’s Dream

Friday, August 2, 2019
Column HR268
World Matchplay Reflections – a Midsummer Night’s Dream

In 1595-96, William Shakespeare produced “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”  It’s said to be a comedy, which the Old Dart Coach will accept as fact.  (NOTE: This fellow Shakespeare was a writer not the Shakespeare that makes great fishing equipment.)

“A Midsummer’s Night Dream” is about a marriage.  Then add in four Athenian lovers who are controlled and manipulated by fairies. Hmm. Sounds funny to the ODC.

The PDC has its own “midsummer dream” called the Betfred World Matchplay. It’s held each July in Blackpool which has been called “The Las Vegas of England.” This year, it certainly had the high temperatures of the Nevada city in the desert – the weather was sweltering. Sweltering weather is bad.

World Matchplay is the PDC’s mid-summer Classic.  The state of the PDC and its Order of Merit took a hit on night 4 when both Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson bid the event a not very fond adieu in the second round.

Anderson took the biggest hit as he was the defending Matchplay champion – he saw his Order of Merit winnings fall to 5th.

Both Anderson and van Gerwen were favorites to roll though the second round. As Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” (Burns actually spoke this first but when no one knew what the hell he was saying he wrote it down.)

Michael van Gerwen most recently tanked in Las Vegas. He went on holiday and then got his comeuppance from the three-times Lakeside Champion Glen Durrant.

As has been the case lately, van Gerwen started slowly as he watched Durrant stroll to an 3-2 lead, then 4-3. The eighth leg saw Durrant start with 7 perfect darts only to settle for a 10-darter and a 5-3 lead.  At 5-4 Durrant took a pair for a 7-4 advantage.

van Gerwen’s strength has always been his ability to flip a switch that shocks his opponent into a tap out. Down 8-5 and using an 11-darter van Gerwen gained a break to start a run of wins that moved him ahead at 9-8 for the first time.  When level at 11 Durrant hit double 6 to move ahead 12-11.

What would become the final leg was a nail bitter for both players. van Gerwen had a chance to secure the leg and extend the match only to miss the bull on an 86-check.  Durrant had three darts in hand with 40 remaining. The first missed. The second nailed double tops for the match.

The 58 minutes encounter left Durrant in tears.  “This night will live with me forever; I’ve never experienced a crowd getting behind me like that.”

For van Gerwen there was a bright side. Last year, he got ousted in round one by fellow Wooden Shoe guy, Jeffrey de Zwaan 10-6. In that loss van Gerwen had the higher average – 97.88 against 94.42 for the winner. Durrant would outscore van Gerwen 99.33 to 98.67

For Durrant it was some kind of week.  He would beat James Wade (16-7) only to lose to Michael Smith 17-10 in the semifinals.

For Durrant critics, mostly drunks that have nothing better to do, he proved his bonafides in spades. He proved that he can play and do so at the highest level. The same critics will point out that MvG has been off lately.  Makes no difference. To quote Barry Hearn, “You can only beat the man in front of you.” Durrant punched his card. 

It’s no secret that Gary Anderson has lost interest in darts. One PDC official said, “He’d rather go fishing.”  Anderson has explained his absence from the darting wars as due to a bad back.

But he does seem to show a lack of interest. In the past, Anderson would pile up score allowing him to be an average finisher. It worked, but no longer. Many athletes over the years have said, “It’s harder to stay on top than it is to get there.” That alone places Phil Taylor’s achievements in bold type.

Anderson jumped off to a good start finishing a 130-check on a 12-dart leg for a 1-nil lead. King answered with three doubles from three chances for a 3-1 lead that included a 122-check. King would stretch his lead to 5-1 when the “real” Gary Anderson showed up – taking 6 of the next 7 for a 7-6 lead.

The match would be tied at 8 when King’s 14-dart break gave him a lead. Then King used 30 darts for the 11-8 victory. The win would be King’s first quarter finals of a TV event in 3 years. King would lose to the event finalist Michael Smith 16-11.

Robb Cross was the class of the field – which sometimes doesn’t lead to success. When Cross beat Daryl Gurney 17-15 he did it by reeling off 8 straight legs.  In the final he ran off 9 on the trot to put Michael Smith in a hole. Smith was unable to dig himself out, losing 18-13.

For Cross it followed up his 2018 World Championship with his second major, the Phil Taylor Trophy and £150,000. “It feels amazing,” said Cross. “I’m lost for words – so happy that I’ve won this title.” He also gets credit for not saying “I’m over the moon.”

The drunken Irishman posted that Barry Hearn met with former BDO officials Sue Williams and her husband in Las Vegas. Reportedly the visit concerned a group that wants to break away from the BDO.  Hearn wasn’t in Las Vegas during the PDC visit last month. In a July 23 interview (available on YouTube) Hearn clearly explained that he would do what he could to help the struggling BDO. “There has to be a place for the weekend player. I will do whatever I can to help them.”

Like those that run other sports Hearn is smart enough to know that the BDO is the feeding system to the PDC. For Yanks, dumping the BDO would be like the NFL trying to get rid of college football.

Hearn also answered a question regarding the number of darts rejected by the current dartboards.  “We had people statistically study over 68,000 darts. They found that only .03% of darts bounced out. Is that high? I leave that to you guys. Some darts come out because of the way they’re thrown and sometimes the board is bad.”  My goodness, honesty from a dart official. That alone puts Hearn in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The PDC’s midsummer night dream turned into a nightmare for both Gary Anderson and Michael van Gerwen, while for others (most notably Rob Cross and Michael Smith) their dreams of rainbows with unicorns jumping towards a pot of gold were realized.

Stay thirsty my friends.

 

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Howie Reed
The one and only Howie Reed (the Old Dart Coach) goes back decades with the legends of our sport - he knows where the skeletons are buried. Just ask any of the ADO and WDF old-timers! His widely popular column, Toeing the Oche, is a must-read.