Once again the darting gods delivered in a thrilling World Matchplay at the Winter Gardens, but what did we learn from a brilliant nine days in Blackpool?
Sunday’s final did not disappoint, as two-time world champion Gary Anderson took on sixth seed Mensur Suljovic in a repeat of last year’s Champions League of Darts finale.
Suljovic prevailed on that occasion, but the roles were reversed at the Winter Gardens, as Anderson came out on top 21-19 in an absolute thriller to become just the third player to complete the Triple Crown of darts.
As we reflect on another incredible tournament in Blackpool, here are our six talking points from the World Matchplay…
Nine-Dart Anderson triumphs in Blackpool
Anderson defeated Suljovic in a pulsating finale in Blackpool to clinch his maiden World Matchplay title and become just the third player to complete the Triple Crown of darts.
In his nine previous appearances at the Winter Gardens, Anderson had never gone beyond the last four; having reached the semi-finals in 2014 and 2016.
However, ‘The Flying Scotsman’ was a man on a mission in Blackpool. He produced impressive comebacks to defeat Stephen Bunting and Raymond van Barneveld in his opening ties, before landing a magical nine-darter in his epic quarter-final win over Joe Cullen.
1:13 Anderson nailed the nine-darter in his quarter-final clash against Joe Cullen
The two-time world champion then crashed in 16 maximums to defeat Jeffrey de Zwaan in a pulsating semi-final tussle, before seeing off Suljovic in the final to become only the third man to win the Triple Crown – following in the footsteps of Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen.
Anderson has now secured both ranking majors held this year – following up his maiden UK Open title. He may be ranked fourth in the world, but at present he’s certainly the man to beat.
Suljovic enjoyed a wonderful week at the Winter Gardens to reach his first World Matchplay final. ‘The Gentle’ was extremely unfortunate to suffer elimination on his Premier League debut earlier this year, but he’s bounced back emphatically since.
The Austrian secured the German Darts Masters title in May, before claiming his second European Tour title at the inaugural Danish Darts Open last month. However, his run to the final in Blackpool will surely rank as the highlight.
2:39 Mensur Suljovic performed superbly to reach his first World Matchplay final
Suljovic began his campaign by ending his darting hoodoo against Steve Beaton, before he came through gruelling tussles against Ian White, Darren Webster and Peter Wright to reach his third major televised final.
He saved his best performance until last against Anderson and although he fell agonisingly short, his displays throughout the week further underline why he’s regarded as an established figure in the darting elite.
Greatest final in Matchplay history?
We have enjoyed some amazing World Matchplay finals down the years – Phil Taylor’s record-breaking win over Adrian Lewis in 2013, Rod Harrington’s win over Ronnie Baxter in 1998 – but this may well top the lot.
Anderson was an overwhelming favourite with the bookmakers to defeat Suljovic, and the contest was dubbed as Anderson’s scoring against Suljovic’s finishing.
0:32 Here's the moment Gary Anderson sealed the World Matchplay title
However, ‘The Gentle’ posted a 104.43 average, his first ton-plus average at the World Matchplay, while he also landed 14 maximums – the most he’s ever registered in a professional darts match.
It still was not enough to defeat ‘The Flying Scotsman’, who prevailed in a marathon battle, in the longest final ever staged in the tournament’s 25-year history. It was a fitting way to end an incredible tournament.
Dream debut for De Zwaan
One of the biggest stories of the tournament has been the sensational emergence of Jeffrey de Zwaan. The 22-year-old was forced to regain his place on the PDC Pro Tour at Q-School in January, but just six months on, De Zwaan took the darting world by storm on his Winter Gardens debut.
‘The Black Cobra’ faced Van Gerwen in the opening round, having dumped MVG out of this year’s UK Open. Yet incredibly lightning did strike twice, as De Zwaan, the lowest ranked player in the tournament, repeated the feat to register a shock 10-6 victory.
2:45 Wayne Mardle was full of praise for Jeffrey de Zwaan's performance at this year's World Matchplay
De Zwaan then produced imperious displays to defeat Adrian Lewis and Dave Chisnall, before he succumbed to Anderson 17-12 in the semi-finals. Nevertheless, Anderson averaged over 106 and crashed in 16 maximums to eventually fend off the brilliant Dutchman.
The fact he still managed to register 12 legs against an irrepressible Anderson is testament to both his ability and temperament, and this could prove to be the tournament in which a new darting star was born.
Van Gerwen’s dominance wavering?
Van Gerwen has already secured 15 titles this year alone, but incredibly he doesn’t currently hold any of the three biggest ranking major titles – The World Championship, World Matchplay or World Grand Prix.
‘The Green Machine’ suffered a shock defeat by De Zwaan in the opening night of the tournament, the first time he’s been beaten in the first round at the Matchplay since 2009.
0:40 There was a shock on day 1 of the World Matchplay Darts in Blackpool as Jeffrey de Zwann beat Michael van Gerwen 10-6.
While the world No. 1 is scooping multiple titles on the Pro Tour and European Tour circuits, he’s failed to go beyond the third round in any of the two major ranking tournaments held this year, with De Zwaan having also accounted for MVG at the UK Open.
Is Van Gerwen’s dominance wavering ever so slightly, or as Wayne Mardle suggested, was ‘Mighty Mike’ jetlagged after his gruelling World Series excursions in Las Vegas and Shanghai?
Taylor and Webster join Sky squad
There were a number of new exciting talents that made big impressions at the Winter Gardens, but we also had a few fresh faces joining the Sky Sports commentary team.
Phil Taylor appeared back on our screens for the first time since his retirement in January, and the 16-time World Matchplay champion enjoyed a welcome return to the scene of his final major triumph.
7:07 Phil Taylor interviewed Gary Anderson ahead of the Scot's World Matchplay semi-final
Former Lakeside champion Mark Webster was another exciting addition to the Sky Sports line-up during the opening weekend of the tournament, although the Welshman will be hoping to return to the Winter Gardens in a playing capacity next year.
Join us for coverage of the World Grand Prix from Dublin, which will be held from September 30-October 6 at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin. The unique Double in, Double out format will be shown live and starts on Sunday, September 30 on Sky Sports Arena from 7pm.
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