World Matchplay 2019 - Preview

The 2019 Betfred World Matchplay gets underway on Saturday as last year's nine-dart hero Gary Anderson begins the defence of his title against Danny Noppert on a mouth-watering opening night.

Blackpool's famous Winter Gardens will host the summer's biggest darts event from July 20-28, as 32 players compete for 700,000 pound in prize money live on Sky Sports in the UK, worldwide through the PDC's broadcast partners and through PDCTV-HD for Worldwide Subscribers.

The first round is split across the opening three days, including a double session on Sunday July 21, and begins on Saturday with Anderson starting his bid to retain the Phil Taylor Trophy against Dutch debutant Noppert.

"I'm looking forward to getting back up on the stage, but it might take a while for me to get my consistency back so I'm not putting too much pressure on myself," said Anderson, who missed the majority of the first half of the year due to a back injury. "I've been taking things easier recently, it's done me the world of good and I've also managed to drop a couple of stone thanks to my diet. "I've not had the long match play to see how the back stands up so it will be interesting. Everyone knows I've not played much but my body's good. "The venue at Blackpool is absolutely brilliant - all the fans are jammed in and it's always a top atmosphere."

Night One will also see Gerwyn Price take on Stephen Bunting, while Rob Cross plays Chris Dobey and UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall faces Mervyn King in the opening fixture. Aspinall continued his meteoric rise with a second successive televised title in Las Vegas earlier in July, and the 27-year-old is now dreaming of a hat-trick of TV crowns in Blackpool.

"Before the Worlds I was a nobody, now I'm living my dream," said Aspinall, who won his first PDC ranking title in September 2018. "I feel like I'm proving my worth, but it's not easy - I work so, so hard and practice so much because I want to be a top player, I want to be talked about with the likes of Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson. "Ultimately, I want to be a top sportsman in my field. I've started off well but there's a long way to go to the top, and this week is another chance for me to show people what I'm about."

Sunday's second day of action will see Michael van Gerwen begin his bid for a third Blackpool title against Steve Beaton, a repeat of the 2012 fixture which saw the Dutchman hit a nine-dart finish. Van Gerwen suffered a shock first round loss to fellow-Dutchman Jeffrey de Zwaan at last year's event, and the world number one is focused on setting the record straight.

"I think I performed well so far this year in the big tournaments. I won the World Championship, The Masters and the Premier League, so I think that's not bad," said Van Gerwen, the 7/4 pre-tournament favourite with sponsors Betfred. "The last couple of tournaments I played in didn't go my way, but that can happen in darts and it's a reminder that you have to perform all the time. "I'm not happy with how I played in Blackpool the last two years, so I'm more determined than ever to put that right by winning this tournament for a third time."

Sunday will also see three-time Lakeside Champion Glen Durrant make his World Matchplay debut after just over six months competing on the PDC circuit.Durrant will face two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis in a highly-anticipated tie, and the 48-year-old explained how much it will mean to walk out onto the famous Winter Gardens stage.

"It's always been one of my biggest ambitions to play in Blackpool, it will be another dream come true for me," said Durrant. "I went there last year as a guest and it was just one of those moments that I thought 'I've got to play here one day.' "The tradition, the building itself, the knowledgeable crowd, the heat, which I love. To qualify this year was momentous for me, it was huge and I'm delighted and so excited."

The first round will reach its conclusion on Monday, with 2017 runner-up Peter Wright coming into the tournament in superb form ahead of his meeting with Vincent van der Voort.

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