World Matchplay preview
The question everyone wants to know the answer to is will Phil Taylor return to winning ways?
It’s not often you see the Power collecting the runners-up prize, but that is exactly what happened the last time darts were thrown on the grand stage, at the UK Open in Bolton.
Taylor reaching a final has equated to Taylor filling his cabinet with another trophy. However, on this occasion, Robert Thornton altered the formulae, and the determined Scot demolished Taylor 11-5 to land his first major title on the PDC circuit, beating Mark Webster, Dennis Priestley, Gary Anderson and Wes Newton en route as well.
A 250-1 outsider ended up being the champion at the UK Open. Anything like that is unlikely to happen at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool as the big guns are ready to fire, especially Taylor.
A year ago the Power seemed to be on the decline, but he blew everyone away and stormed his way to a 12th World Matchplay title, defeating James Wade in the final, and it began a flurry of wins as the 51-year-old went on to lift the trophies a week later at the European Championship, and then the World Grand Prix and Grand Slam.
In 2012 Taylor got his hands back on the Premier League, and given the form he was in we all expected him to win in Bolton. Taylor will be hurting from the Thornton defeat, and that could spell trouble for the rest of the field at the World Matchplay.
Taylor begins the defence of his title against Mervyn King, a player who once used to be his rival but has fallen down the rankings and is far from his best. On his day, King is a danger to anyone, but, having already been upset once by Thornton, an opening round loss to King isn’t going to happen.
There is pressure on back-to-back world champion Adrian Lewis to start doing the business outside of the Alexandra Palace.
Failing to make the Premier League play-offs when he had one foot in them took its toll on Jackpot, whose unlucky run continued in Bolton after a fourth round lost.
Lewis performs well at the Winter Gardens. Twice a semi-finalist and twice a quarter-finalist, the world champion needs to start putting on displays that live up to his billing, and if he can do this will be the man to take the fight to Taylor.
First up for Lewis is Thornton, and the former knows all about what the latter can do to the best in the world, including the very best.
Wherever you look, there are standout matches.
Wade for the third time finished as a losing finalist at Blackpool, and the Machine is out to put things right in 2012. As the third seed, he takes on former champion of the world Richie Burnett, a revived Welshman with the fire still burning.
Raymond van Barneveld has the winning touch off the cameras but can never bring it to the oche in front of the mass crowds. The five-time champion of the world is the ultimate crowd entertainer, and the Dutchman will be on guard against the very talent Michael Smith- a protégé of Anderson.
Anderson hopes to recover from an eye problem that has side lined him for a while, and has a tricky encounter against PDC newcomer Dean Winstanley, who was a former BDO world championship and World Masters finalist, as well as a second-round loser in the last Grand Slam and has adjusted well since making the switch from the BDO to the PDC at the turn of the year.
The opening match to kick off the tournament is the bad-boy of darts Paul Nicholson against Andy Smith, which will be followed by Terry Jenkins versus Kim Huybrechts- a clear favourite not guaranteed in that one.
Simon Whitlock, Premier League runner-up and the player who famously blew a 15-8 lead to Andy Hamilton in the quarters in Blackpool 12 months ago, faces Michael van Gerwen, and a quick battle will be witnessed between Dave Chisnall and home-boy Ronnie Baxter.
Whether Scott Waites will win as many world titles as Phil Taylor may not be a matter for debate if only because it is hard to believe anyone matching the Power.
Scott Waites will play Tony O'Shea in the final of the BDO world Championship at the Lakeside Country Club.
The BDO world championship might be the poor relation in the world of darts but it is fashioning a Cinderella story this year.