Wayne Mardle on the World Matchplay: Back-to-form Smith can go deep

Wayne fancies Michael Smith to go well at the Winter Gardens in the World Matchplay
Wayne fancies Michael Smith to go well at the Winter Gardens in the World Matchplay

We're off to the Winter Gardens in Blackpool for a week of 'arrers as the World Matchplay comes to town. Our resident columnist and tipster Wayne Mardle will guide you through the week, starting with his tournament previews and first round bets...


"I'm taking a real punt on Michael Smith to win the bottom half, I just feel he's over his self doubt and is throwing aggressively again. He has a possible tough draw, West, Wade (or Webster), Wright and Anderson. But that's why he's 40/1."

It could be an intriguing tournament this year. Michael Van Gerwen is still the man to beat, which is why he's the strong 8/11 favourite, so no change there, but there are a few established names struggling a tad.

Adrian Lewis (33/1) has had a few weeks off because of a medical procedure, thankfully the twice World Champ should be fighting fit for a tilt at a first Matchplay success.

James Wade (50/1) hasn't been setting the board alight recently, he'll be looking for a marked improvement.

Peter Wright (7/1) isn't playing near his brilliant best. Peter has clearly been experimenting with pace of play changes. Odd.

There are a couple of outsiders this year that those in the 'know' think can have a major say, Daryl Gurney (50/1), Rob Cross (66/1) and Michael Smith (40/1) are just a few of those.

Cross will experience the Winter Gardens for the first time. Gurney and Smith come into this event playing with confidence and swagger. They know they can mix it with the best, it's just doing it when it matters.

Gary Anderson (5/1) will be tough to beat from the bottom half, while MVG looks the inevitable pick from the top.

Phil Taylor (20/1) will be playing in his last ever World Matchplay. Please don't be so quick to rule out a 16th success for The Power. He has a potential brutal draw, but we all know it's folly to doubt him.


First Round


From the first round draw I like the look of a few unseeded players.

Jelle Klaasen had a wrist injury that ended his Premier League hopes prematurely, Jelle had that operated on, but hasn't found the form prior to the injury. His opponent, Justin Pipe has to fancy his chances.

Benito Van Der Pas hasn't looked comfortable in a while and has the toughest draw of all the seeds, Gurney starts the favourite in that match, and rightly so. Daryl is arriving in Blackpool off the back of two superb wins in Las Vegas over Wright and then the world number two, Anderson.

The evergreen Adonis, Steve Beaton is another who could cause a big upset. Adrian Lewis takes on Steve. Beaton won a tour event just last month and knows Adrian won't be ultra sharp after a short layoff.

Robert Thornton just can't seem to get any consistent results. A final or semi final one week, followed by a dismal run seems the norm right now. Cristo Reyes, who takes on the likeable Scotsman will feel the better about their games.

Cristo is definitely one of the most improved players in the world of darts.

Wade will have to be deadly on the doubles if he's to beat Darren Webster. Webster is playing some real steady stuff and has to believe this match is so winnable. Wade as aforementioned isn't flowing currently.

Recommended First Round Bets

Back Reyes @ 4/5 to beat Thornton
Last meeting: Reyes beat Robert in the European Championships 6-4 last November

Back Pipe @ 15/8 to beat Klaasen
Last meeting: Not met since 2015.

Back Webster @ 9/4 to beat Wade
Last meeting: Wade beat Webster in a pro tour event October last year


Outright betting


Michael Van Gerwen is difficult to oppose, but will probably have to deal with either Taylor or Van Barneveld in the quarter final, if he should get that far, obviously.

I'm taking a real punt on Michael Smith to win the bottom half, I just feel he's over his self doubt and is throwing aggressively again. He has a possible tough draw, West, Wade (or Webster), Wright and Anderson. But that's why he's 40/1. It'll take a good performance to beat him. Like I said, it's a real punt.

Recommended Bets

Back Michael Van Gerwen to win @ 8/11
Back Michael Smith each-way @ 40/1


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