Dutch darts ace Michael van Gerwen is pushing hard to secure a hat-trick of World Matchplay titles this week at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, just weeks after celebrating a World Cup of Darts success.
It promises to be a big second half to the year for van Gerwen, who has the World Matchplay in his sights before the build-up to the World Championship at the end of the year at Alexandra Palace.
van Gerwen picked up yet another title to add to his collection earlier this month in the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, at the US Darts Masters, seeing off Daryl Gurney 8-6 in front of a packed house at the Tropicana.
The world number one is already the second most successful darts player in the history of the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) behind the legendary Phil Taylor, but with every year it seems possible that van Gerwen could rival Taylor for trophies given his tender age of just 28.
Securing a third successive World Matchplay title would make it 24 victories at PDC premier events. ‘Mighty Mike’ was unable to defend his UK Open title this year with a back injury forcing the fiery Dutchman to the side-lines, before resuming normal service in the Premier League.
The World Matchplay is always a highly respected event and the format suits van Gerwen nicely, as his fast-paced style enables him to go through the gears and rack up legs quickly, putting his opponents out of sight before they’ve even really started.
The majority of bookmakers have him at odds of 4/6 to prevail in Blackpool, with only a handful offering anything close to a value bet at 8/11 on the Dutchman to retain his crown.
For a more genuine value bet, you’d be hard-pressed to ignore 66/1 on Rob Cross. The former electrician has dazzled on the Challenger Tour throughout the last 12 months and is already within the world’s top 50 despite holding a PDC Tour Card for just half-a-year. Cross would certainly make a great each-way punt at those long odds given that he already has two Players Championships under his belt.
It’s difficult to make a case for Phil Taylor, even at 18/1, with the 57-year-old making his final appearance at the Winter Gardens as he nears a well-earned retirement. At these odds, it may be worth taking advantage of a number of great betting offers, including matched deposit and welcome bonuses, on the legend going out with a bang.
However, the longer you scan the betting list, the quicker your eye returns to van Gerwen and he certainly seems in confident mood, after speaking to Sky Sports in the build-up to the tournament:
“Last year I won against Phil Taylor and I hope I can retain the title this year. It's a format and a tournament that I like, a long format and that suits me, so I'm really looking forward to going back.”
One thing’s for certain, the Empress Ballroom oozes atmosphere and tradition and is one of the most inspiring places to play darts on the big stage - we’re definitely in for some fireworks over the coming days.