Column #HR307 And this year’s World Matchplay champion will be…

Friday, July 22, 2021
Column HR307
And this year’s World Matchplay champion will be…

Matchplay 2021 officially kicked off at the Winter Gardens when Dimitri Van den Bergh belatedly raised the Phil Taylor Trophy he won last year.  That one played sans crowd in Milton Keys.  The Old Dart Coach was shocked that presenter John McDonald was not wearing a tie but rather a mock turtleneck.  His explanation: “dressing down.”  Unacceptable.

The pros reflected on the passing of Andy Fordham.  Gary Anderson: I’d known Andy for a long time – an absolute gentleman.  Like myself, he was one of the laziest dart players but he was very, very good!  He would sit on his backside all day but then go up and play good darts – he was absolutely fantastic.  If you mention dart players from the past, you had Eric Bristow, Jocky Wilson, Andy Fordham.  He’ll be sadly missed in the darting world. 

The round of 32 to 16 went as expected.  The one exception may have been when Luke Humphries sent James Wade home 10-3.  This was payback to Wade for when he defeated Humphries in the final of the UK Open.  As Humphries built a 6-1 lead one pro said, “Wade just gave up.”  Luke would exit next round to Krzysztof Ratajski 11-5, this after the Polish Eagle made roadkill of Brendan Dolan 10-4 in Round 1.

Ratajski will face Callan Rydz in the quarter finals.  Rydz, a Matchplay rookie, took out #5 seed Rob Cross 11-8 recording a “Big Fish,” aka T70-out along the way.  Rydz’s first round was a pounding of “fast fading” Glen Durrant 10-6.  Durrant went through the Premier League with nary a win.

Defending Champion Dimitri Van den Bergh skipped into the quarters 11-8 over Dave Chisnell averaging 103+ which included 14 T80’s.  It was close only because Van den Burg was miserable on doubles, connecting on less than 28%.  His scoring allowed him to come from 7-6 down.  He’ll have to be a lot better in the round of 8.

Watching Gerwyn Price dismantle Johnny Clayton 11-3 in the battle of the “Y Ddraig Goch” most would think “there’s the champion.”  The two had paired to win the World Cup for Wales.  Price, despite the boos of the crowd, led 3-nil.  Clayton got his footing to move level at 3.  From then on, the Fat Lady was ready to sing “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau,” the unofficial national anthem of Wales.

“Y Ddraig Goch”?  The Red Dragon.  It was a dominating performance.

ThursdayQUARTER FINALS best of 31

Krzysztof Ratajski vs. Callan Rydz.  The rookie Rydz should be the favorite here.  Ratajski took out Humphries but Rydz’s nail bitter over Rob Cross was more impressive.  Still, with time to think Rydz’s rookie nerves will cost him.

Gerwyn Price vs. Dimitri Van den Bergh.  Price should win this one even if Van der Bergh solves his double troubles.  The only “if” here is if Van der Bergh, who’s slower than the Second Coming of the Lord, tosses Price off his game.  The crowd will be behind Van der Bergh to no avail.

Michael Smith and José de Sousa took part in a “wing ding doozy.”  de Souza used double tops/double tops to break tie at 6.  Once de Sousa got to 10-8, one leg from a win, he wilted like the ODC’s backyard tomato plants in the 110-degree heat.  Smith broke and then held to force overtime where it took 2 clear legs to win, except at 13-all one leg wins.  de Sousa came back refreshed for 11-10.  Missed doubles allowed Michael Smith to moved level at 11, then to 12 – 11 when de Sousa missed a bushel of doubles.  Double 10 had been the bug-a-boo for Smith throughout the match.  He finally hit it ,winning 13-11.  Yes, de Sousa wilted like last week’s wedding flowers.

Gary Anderson was asked, “Do you think you can win it?”  His answer was “no.”  That’s the way he started play against Nathan Aspinall, going 0-3.  Aspinall was coming off a 10-6 win over Mervyn King.  Afterwards he said, “It’s my first win in the World Matchplay so I’m very happy.  As Aspinall’s DNA shows, he’s there to be had after the first break.  Leading 3-2, the match creeped along until Aspinall got up 9-7 – when Anderson then took out 149 to make it 9-8.  Then Aspinall answered with 117 for 10-8 – one leg from victory.  Anderson saved for 10-9 but then misses in the next leg gave the “W” to Aspinall.

Ian White, coming off a 10-7 win over #3 Daryl Gurney, wouldn’t have been the betting favorite but he could have been a “live dog” against Michael van Gerwen.  van Gerwen’s 10-7 win over Aussie Damon Heta was ordinary.  One elixir fueled lady raised the sign: “MVGoat.”  White-van Gerwen followed two great matches that had the crowd rockin’ and a rollin’.  Not this one.  When van Gerwen hit a 121 on the bull to win 11-8 the crowd woke from their slumber.  It was either for the 121 or that the match was finally over.  Or a combination thereof.

Peter Wright started his match against Joe Cullen up 3-2 at the first break.  Wright changed stems and flights winning 11-5 with a 105.46 average.  Those flights and shafts will be available at dartest Jan Turner’s Dart Shoppe soon, maybe tomorrow.   

Friday: QUARTER FINALS best of 31 

Gary Anderson opined, when asked if Michael van Gerwen would win the tournament – “No.” The Old Dart Coach doesn’t think so either so is going with Nathan Aspinall – as MVG is human.

Peter Wright has a steep hill to climb when he meets Michael Smith.  Wright said, “I’ll win it.”  #1Gerwyn Price said, “Talk is cheap.”  Michael Smith might have said “We’ll see on Friday.”  Should be a cracker.

Only fools would predict a winner.  The ODC qualifies…

I’m taking world #1 Gerwyn Price to eliminate defending champion Dimitri Van der Bergh to reach the semifinals against Callan Rydz.  The rookies dream trip will end with a big Price.

On the other side of the draw, I like Peter Wright to better Michael Smith (that’s for Julia in Phoenix), then beat Nathan Aspinall in the semifinals.

Aspinall will be on cloud 9 after beating MVG but to no avail.

The Champion: Peter “Snake Bite” Wright.

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.