Day 3, and the first round of the Betfred World Matchplay is over
What a cracker it has been …
Postcard from Blackpool, with Betfred TV’s Mark Pearson
The iconic Winter Gardens witnessed the biggest crowd at a darts event since the pandemic started. Two thousand darts fans rocked up and watched top level tungsten action.
In this crazy world we live in, it was great to see punters in Hawaiian shirts and dressed as road cones. It’s not a darts party without traffic management.
First up the crowd belted out “Sweet Caroline,” not for the first time this summer, as Daryl Gurney walked out. That was a special moment after all these months without full crowds.
But it was Ian “Diamond” White who was dancing at the end, (below), after knocking out 14 seed Gurney 10-7. That scoreline does not tell the whole story of this roller-coaster of a match, with missed doubles galore just to add to the darting drama.
Next up, Nathan Aspinall won his first-ever game on the Matchplay stage and it was superb hearing the Blackpool crowd singing his walk-on song Mr Brightside. Maybe not quite the killer performance, but he did see off Mervyn King 10-6. In his press conference he spoke of how he loved the crowd, and especially the walk-on.
Now surprisingly one man who said he struggled to get used to the capacity crowd was Michael Van Gerwen. The Green Machine is not hitting the levels he used to, and struggled early on against Damon Heta.
Going into the second break MVG was 6-4 down but whatever he had in that interval, the old Van Gerwen turned up and he won 10-7 with an average of 95.69.
It’s job done for Michael though, and hopefully he can return to those dizzy heights when he averaged just under 104 when he last won the title 2016.
Last up we had another cracking walk on, with Gary Anderson appearing to the legendary House of Pain anthem. No packing in here – the Scot jumped into the last round, comfortably beating Stephen Bunting 10-5.
So – Tuesday brings up the second round, with a couple of absolute crackers. Dimitri Van Den Berg, the current Betfred World Matchplay Champion, plays Dave Chisnall, a consistent performer on the Blackpool stage.
While that’s not bad support, the headline act surely is World Champ Gerwyn Price versus in-form Jonny Clayton who has had a golden twelve months winning the World Cup with Price, the Masters, and the Premier League title.
Plus away from the oche they are both good mates, which will all be put aside on Tuesday night.
TV coverage starts at 7pm, which will allow me time to soak up a bit of sun here in Costa-del-Blackpool. And don’t worry, I’ll slap on the sun cream.
Just like the darts, it’s red hot here.