BLACKPOOL, UK - The 2012 World Match-Play darts gets underway on Saturday and the top players from around the globe will descend on Blackpool's Winter Gardens to try and walk away with the £100,000 cheque for first place. Phil Taylor has dominated this tournament, now in its 19th year, winning on 12 separate occasions and he will return to the larger-fuelled, raucous atmosphere this year attempting to write another chapter in his remarkable career.
Phil Taylor has been chalked up as the standout 7/4 favourite (bet £4 to make £7 profit) with BetVictor and he has been the undisputed champion of this event in recent history winning the last four editions and 'The Power' has only lost six matches in the history of the event, so is difficult to oppose here. Taylor opens his account with what looks to be a tricky encounter against Mervyn King and the pair have enjoyed a great rivalry in the past. King beat Taylor in the 2009 Premier League Darts semi-finals before Taylor exacted his revenge with victory over King in the World Matchplay later that year. That 2009 Premier League meeting was frought with controversy as King threw a dart over Taylor's shoulder as 'The Power' crouched to pick up one of his own arrows and following this spat anytime the pair meet is always a classic affair. Taylor has won the Premier League and the World Cup of Darts this season and he is sure to receive a warm reception from his adoring fans in Blackpool.
The two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis is the shortest priced alternative to Talyor and 'The Jackpot' is generally quoted at 11/1 with BetVictor. Lewis defended his title at the PDC World Championship in January this year, confirming his status as number two in the PDC Order of Merit and his continued his good form at the occy, when he represented England and won the World Cup of Darts, alongside Taylor. He then clashed with Taylor, a six-time Premier League winner, in the opening round of matches and despite leading his fellow countryman 6-1, 'The Power' showed what a true champion he is as he fought back, averaging 112.79 to draw the match 7-7. Lewis' inconsistency has let him down at crucial times and he has been drawn in the potentially more difficult bottom-half of the draw which will make his job more difficult here but he still hold massive claims.
Next in the betting comes Dave Chisnall who is a 12/1 chance with Ladbrokes to pick up one of the most prestigious titles of the season. Chisnall burst on the scene by beating Phil Taylor in the PDC World Championships and he has built on that success picking up numerous titles on the Pro Tour as well as in European Tour events with the world’s elite players. He has a very clinical game which should stand up to the pressures of a packed Winter Gardens and he could once again upstage some big-name rivals. He looks set to meet Taylor in the quarter-finals but won’t fear the Stoke legend after he has beaten him twice already.
James Wade is an industry best price of 12/1 with BlueSQ and he has reached four of the last six finals at Winter Gardens, beating Terry Jenkins to lift the trophy in 2007 while on the other three occasions he had to settle for second place behind the rampant Phil Taylor. He enjoyed a solid Premier League campaign without producing any performance of note and he seems to relish the atmosphere in Blackpool and is expected to go well here.
The Australian Simon Whitlock is another player chalked up at 12/1 with Coral after a decent Premier League season and on that form he should have no trouble making it through to the quarter-finals where it is likely that he will meet James Wade. He is a great all-round player and he will be eager to break his major duck over the coming weeks.
Skybet offer the top price on Raymond van Barneveld, pricing him up at 14/1 and he is a dangerous proposition in the bottom half of the draw. He won the European Open earlier this month and he will face a tough run against a string of top-ranked players if he is to lift this tie but on current form he holds strong each-way claims.
An outsider worth considering in this competition is Richie Burnett who is available at a massive 100/1 this week. He reached the semi-finals of the World Grand Prix last season and followed that up with victory over Mark Webster at the World Championships. He looked a solid partner to Webster at the PDC World Cup of Darts as the Welsh combination made it through to the semi-fianls. He comes into this event off the back of a decent performance in Dusseldorf two weeks ago where he was knocked out by the experienced van Barneveld in the semi-finals once more.
The 2012 World Match Play gets underway at 19:10 BST on Saturday 21st July and the final is scheduled to take place on Sunday 29th July. Coverage of the event is broadcast live on Sky Sports.