World Matchplay Darts 2013
This week is one of the biggest in the darts calendar as the sport's leading stars head to the Blackpool Winter Gardens for the BetVictor World Matchplay Championship. The tournament lasts for eight days and is live on Sky Sports, with coverage beginning on Saturday 20th at 7pm on Sky Sports 1.
The event has been dominated by Phil Taylor down the years, with 'The Power' claiming the title 13 times in 19 editions, including each of the last five years. However, the emergence of Michael van Gerwen has created a genuine threat to Taylor's reign and the bookmakers can't split the two at the top of the betting.
Tournament sponsors BetVictor are offering customers who back a losing outright selection a free bet up to the value of £50 if Van Gerwen takes the title, which makes theirs a bold choice to go top price of 11/4 on Taylor.
Van Gerwen's breakthrough has been relatively recent - he won his first major title at last year's Grand Prix before going on to lose 7-4 to Taylor in the final of the World Championship. At Alexandra Palace he fired the highest number of 180s by a street and only fellow Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld could boast a higher three-dart average.
His run to the final saw him take out second seed Adrian Lewis and third seed James Wade and after the World Championship he went on to claim the Premier League darts title, again hitting the most 180s and this time turning the tables on Taylor in the final with a 10-8 victory. The world's two leading players were the only men to have a three-figure average in the tournament.
Alongside BetVictor, Bet365 make Van Gerwen the favourite at a shortest price of 9/4, but most firms have the big two side-by-side at 5/2. Next in the betting is Lewis, who is in Van Gerwen's side of the draw and is scheduled to face sixth seed Andy Hamilton in the quarter-finals.
Lewis, who won the World Championship in 2011 and 2012, has been a semi-finalist twice at this event, but if his performances in this year's Premier League are anything to go by he'll struggle to live up to his billing in Blackpool - he lost 10 of his 16 matches to finish down in eighth place.
Van Barneveld fared much better in that competition, winning 10 of his 16 matches to finish second behind Van Gerwen. His win at last year's Grand Slam represented something of a return to form - he won three major PDC events in 2007 but only one since - but if he is to win the MatchPlay he will almost certainly have to beat Taylor in the last eight. That's easier said than done, as Taylor has won 18 of their last 19 meetings, the other being a Premier League draw in April.
When you compare that to van Gerwen's record against Taylor - three wins and two defeats in the last six - Van Barneveld looks to be one to avoid at a best price of 14/1. Wade, who is a best price of 16/1 with Betfred, BetVictor, Ladbrokes and William Hill, also has a long losing record against Taylor.
The only man who does have a reasonable record against the mighty Taylor is Lewis, who has won four of their last 11 meetings. He also showed a return to form this month by beating Van Gerwen at the European Championships and racking up a 100 average in the process, so if anyone is going to gatecrash the party, it could be him. Betfred, BetVictor, Ladbrokes, Coral and William Hill all go 8/1.
The best bet, though, looks to be BetVictor's 11/4 about Taylor. He’s the reigning world champion and world number one and his Premier League stats were none too shoddy. He's made this tournament his own and you have the added bonus that, should he get to the final and face Van Gerwen, you'll be on either a winner or a free bet.
It's also worth noting that if any match at the World Matchplay is decided on a sudden death leg, BetVictor will refund losing outright bets on that match as a free bet (up to £50).
|Phil Taylor||Tournament Winner||11/4||BetVictor|