All Eyes On Anderson's Matchplay Defence
Last year the PDC twittered: "ANDERSON WINS CLASSIC MATCHPLAY FINAL. Gary Anderson was crowned BetVictor World Matchplay champion after defeating Mensur Suljovic 21-19 in a tie-break to lift the Phil Taylor Trophy.
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Gary Anderson produced an outstanding performance to claim the 2018 PDC World Matchplay Championship, winning the event for the first time. The Scot entered the tournament under pressure to prove his quality after dropping off in the leading competitions since claiming the second of his World Championship crowns in 2016.
Anderson rose to the occasion, although the stress on his surge was elevated by the weight of expectations. Top seed Michael van Gerwen crashed out in the first round, while reigning world champion Rob Cross failed to make it past the second. Anderson himself faced a test of character in the second round against the great Raymond van Barneveld, edging out the Dutchman by a narrow margin.
The 48-year-old surged past Joe Cullen and Jeffrey de Zwaan to reach the final before enduring a battle of wills against Austria's Mensur Suljovic. The two men played out a thriller in the best-of-35 match as neither player was able to break free to earn the two clear legs required to complete the victory. Anderson hit 52 180s over the length of the game and he finally was able to pull away from Sujlovic to record a 21-19 triumph.
Only Phil Taylor, Rod Harrington and Van Gerwen have achieved back-to-back World Matchplay titles, and Anderson has value in the darts odds of 9/1 to join an elite company of players at the event in Blackpool. His form entering the tournament has been up and down over the last year, although Anderson and Peter Wright combined to win the World Cup of Darts for Scotland in June. In the final against Ireland, Anderson lost his head-to-head clash against Steve Lennon. However, Wright picked up the slack to win his two singles matches before the duo won their doubles clash to claim the crown.
Anderson has been battling a back injury that forced him to miss time earlier in the year, while his return resulted in a first-round exit at the UK Open.
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Another area of concern for Anderson's hopes of reclaiming the crown will be his recent record against Van Gerwen. The Dutchman has been his nemesis since his triumph in the Matchplay, defeating him twice at major events. The two players played out an exciting duel in the semi-final of the 2018 Players Championship.
Anderson was the higher seed in the tournament, but he suffered an 11-9 defeat at the hands of Van Gerwen, who later went on to lose in the final. The second contest came in the 2019 World Championship once again at the semi-final stage. On this occasion, Van Gerwen dominated the contest, advancing into the final with ease via a 6-1 triumph.
Anderson has struggled against the elite players of late and needs to find his peak form to defend his Matchplay title as he may not have the benefit of avoiding his rivals as he did in his run last year. It will take a special effort from the Scot to make history by claiming his second title on the bounce, although he has proven he is capable after stringing together back-to-back World Championship crowns in 2015 and 2016. All eyes will be on him to see whether lightning can strike twice.