Wayne Mardle: Wise old heads Taylor and van Barneveld are the dangers

Wayne Mardle was real box-office in his pomp and one of the fiercest competitors in the game

Former World Championship semi-finalist Wayne "Hawaii 5.0.1" Mardle tells us why Blackpool is such a special venue for him, how to go about beating Phil Taylor and why "The Power" and the equally experienced Raymond van Barneveld look the outstanding bets at this year's World Matchplay.

"He’s won the event 12 times and the last four editions. I’ve said already that the standard is amazing these days but it’s Phil who keeps setting the standard. He’s always there or thereabouts in the big tournaments and if he’s still in it come the semis, he’ll be about 1.5 at that stage."

Hi Wayne, what were your memories of playing the World Matchplay?

This event used to be staged in Las Vegas which sounds glamorous enough but there just wasn't any real atmosphere out there, it all felt a bit empty. Alexander Palace (where the World Championships are staged) is a monster of a venue of course and it's great that so many darts fans can be there to watch the world's best. But it's a bit of a new venue so the players are still getting used to it.

But the Winter Gardens in Blackpool is a cracking venue, by a country mile my favourite of the lot and I'm sure 99% of the players would agree with me. The crowd get involved and it gives all the players a huge buzz. They love their darts up there.

The big difference with this tournament in terms of format is that it's played over a certain number of legs rather than sets. That means you can't switch off at any stage because it will cost you. The mindset needed is therefore a very different one and that will suit the players who can stay focused throughout the whole match. Guys like Phil Taylor.

What are the main differences between darts now and when you started out?

The standard. When I started in the early 90s scoring 60 or 70 at each visit was seen as decent effort. These days you need to be scoring 100 or 120 every other visit or you just won't be competitive against the big guns. And you need to nail your doubles. Very often with just the one dart. You can't afford to be missing them because you almost expect your opponent to hit them with their first attempt.

All the extra prize money is obviously a big bonus as well. And the way the PDC and Sky television worked together in terms of creating nicknames for the players and walk-ons to music has given it extra appeal. It's a lot more of a show these days and that has to be good for the sport.

Phil Taylor is 2.77/4 on Betfair to win this event. Would you be backing or laying him?

Definitely backing him. He's won the event 12 times and the last four editions. I've said already that the standard is amazing these days but it's Phil who keeps setting the standard. He's always there or thereabouts in the big tournaments and if he's still in it come the semis, he'll be about 1.51/2 at that stage. He's not invincible but I'm surprised he's that sort of price so now is the time to back him.

How did you approach your matches against Taylor?

You have to approach them the same as you would against anyone else. If he sees that you're nervous about playing him and feeling the heat, he'll relax. And that's when he plays his very best. And if that happens, you've got no chance. I always believed that if I brought my A-game to the oche when I played him I could beat him. My record shows that I didn't beat him that often but I think I always went in with the right mindset.

Who else is worthy of a bet?

Raymond van Barneveldt at 16.5. He's a proven performer in front of the TV cameras and was in super form in the Premier League. He was averaging just under 100 for the whole thing, which was streets ahead of anyone else bar Taylor. He's in the opposite side of the draw to The Power and should be about 9.08/1 in my book so he's definitely a really good value bet.

It's odd-against (2.1) that there will be a nine-darter at some stage of the tournament. Interested?

I think that at some stage someone will have the one attempt at a double for a nine-darter. But that's not the same as getting one. We see a lot more of them than we used to because the scoring is so much heavier but you essentially have to throw eight perfect darts and then hit a double with all the pressure, expectation and noise from the crowd playing on your mind. And that's easier said than done. No bet.

Back Phil Taylor @ 2.77/4
Back Raymond van Barneveldt @ 16.5

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