World Matchplay 2019 - 5

"Let Us Entertain You"
Jesters and clowns - or as you would put it today comedians and entertainer - had always been important in Blackpool's summer season. Everybody who is or was anybody performed over the years in the Winter Gardens, the Grand Theatre or other establishment in Blackpool. For all those comedians and entertainers with the comedy carpet in autumn 2011 a memorial was erected. In the comedy carpet just across the Blackpool Tower you'll find quotations of more than thousand writers, comedians and entertainers. Artist Gordon Young worked together with his team five years to complete it.

The cross shaped carpet builds a connection between the tower and the beach. To build it needed lots of time and work because all the texts were set in type from single letters out of granite which were cemented. In this way 320 slabs were produced and put together. The artists used red and black granite from India. The letters vary in size - some of the quotes you even can read when you stand high up on top of the Tower. The slabs were angled in different directions - wherever you come from you are able to read some of the quotations. And you always will discover something you - the dart quotation I only discovered this year despite me walking over the carpet for several years already.

On my last night at the World Matchplay the entertainment started with the match between Daryl Gurney and Keegan Brown. I've no idea what both players did in between their matches - but both started not well into this match and it was an under par match at least till the first break. Besides the players had a lot of trouble hitting their doubles.Gurney went with a 4:1 lead into the first break. Well, everybody hoped the match would improve after it. It did but only a little bit and the averages before the second break at least were around the 90 mark. Keegan Brown even had a peak of almost 94. Both players were finally better on the doubles as well. Gurney was still in the lead before the second break though his lead had been reduced to only two legs. After the second break we finally had a match. Brown only just missed to level several times. Gurney played a strange match - some legs were really strong but those were always followed by really weak ones and he was far from happy himself. Gurney managed to win before the match needed the tie break. His average was 93.44 and his hitting rate on the doubles 30 percent...

Stephen Bunting and Ian White came on stage next and starter slightly better into their match. It was a quite evenly matched game but Bunting was far more clinical on the doubles. Then Buntings average dropped and White dominated and took the lead before the second break while Bunting found no way back to his great performance in his first match. To me it already looked White would swing himself over the finishing line first but suddenly Bunting decided not to give in yet and he won leg after leg from 4:9 down to 8:9. He first didn't manage to draw and White only needed another leg. But finally Bunting levelled. The match went into the tie break and White couldn't hit neither scores nor doubles any longer. To the delight of the crowd Bunting won the match.

The average didn't get much higher in the match between Rob Cross and Krzysztof Ratajski which followed.. Ratajski won the first two legs but instead to gear up he geared down and Cross was in the part of the all-round entertainer who went with an 8:2 lead into the second break. After the break Ratajski won a few more legs - might be Cross already had switched off. But he never was in danger to lose the match. With 11:5 he progressed into the next round.

The last match of the night as well developed into a one-sided affair. Peter Wright was too strong and Simon Whitlock had no chance at all. He even seemed to have lost all fighting spirit. till the second break he had only won a single leg. In fact it was quite similar to the quarterfinal both had played last year. So Wright took the reins and even performed a little bit of magic with a 170 finish and seven perfect darts to entertain the crowd. It's a pity he didn't manage to throw a nine-darter...

The second night with second round matches was far less thrilling then the first one. The only convincing players had been Peter Wright and Rob Cross and Stephen Bunting had impressed with his fighting spirit. Many players had shown weaker performances then in the first round and on my way home I of course ponder who in the end would win the event. Despite his so far convincing performances I was not sure Peter Wright would do it. I couldn't help the feeling that looking at the attitude and the demeanour it could be Rob Cross tournament in the end.

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