Thirty Years World Matchplay - Part 2 - The Continantal Europeans
After the first part of the World Matchplay history which dealt with the participants from North America, the second part has a look at the continental European players, well, and the players from Australia.
Even before with Roland Scholte the first Dutch player appeared among the World Matchplay participants, far from well known Belgian Jef Scheyltjens made a one time guest apperance in 1995. So he was the first continental European in the tournament. Roland Scholten on the other side stayed from 2000 to 2008 in the field of participants and was till 2007 the only Dutch player - something one can't imagine now-a-days in such an important topurnament. The World Matchplay was not exactly Scholten's tournament. Though he was seeded throughout he only once reached the semi-finals - 2006 - and once a quarterfinal - 2007.
2007 both Raymond van Barneveld and Michael van Gerwen joined him. This time van Barneveld really turned up and reached the quarterfinals, van Gerwen lost second round. 2008 was the first year in which Vincent van der Voort took part as well. While van Barneveld and van Gerwen reached the same placings again, van der Voort was eliminated first round.
Though Scholten didn't qualify 2009 we had five Dutch participants among the participants as van Barneveld, van Gerwen and van der Voort were joined by Jelle Klaasen and Co Stompe. While van Barneveld again stood in the quarterfinals - he defeated van Gerwen first round - Stompe and Klaasen lost first round. Van der Voort reached the quarterfinals as well.
From this time the number of Dutch participants in the event sways between two and five.
2010 and 2011 Michael van Gerwen failed to qualify. Instead Simon Whitlock and Paul Nicholson were the first Australians - both qualified in 2010. In 2011 beside van Gerwen Klaasen and Stompe missed out too. Stompe never returned while Klaasen was back in 2015 and 2017 but lost again first round. His best placing were the quarterfinals 2010.
Van Gerwen returned in 2012 and since then qualified every year. 2012 he reached the quarterfinals, 2013 for the first time the semi-finaks. 2014 he reached the final where he lost that year to Phil Taylor, who topped van Gerwens 101.49 average with an own 107.19 average. 2015 van Gerwen again stood in the final and this time he won it against James Wade, who didn't play his best game. 2016 the Dutchman defended the title and got his revenge as he defeated an in all parts of the match inferior Phil Taylor. One year later van Gerwen lost in the quarterfinals to Taylor, who ended his career in this year after he had crowned it with his 16. World Matchplay title. It didn't went to plan for van Gerwen in the following years either. 2018 he lost first round against his fellow country man Jeffrey der Zwaan. 2019 he lost second round against Glen Durrant. 2020 he was eliminated in the second round by Simon Whitlock and 2021 he lost in the semi-finals to Peter Wright. Finally in 2022 van Gerwen managed his third win - he defeated in the final Gerwyn Price. He was the favourite to win this year again - but suffered a shock defeat by Brendan Dolan in the first round.
Raymond van Barneveld never won the title but often reached the quarterfinals, before in he in 2000 for the only time reached the final where he lost to - Phil Taylor. It didn't get better the following years and from 2019 - 2022 he not even managed to qualify for the event - he either didn't play good enough or had taken a break from darts. But van Barneveld surprised everybody with coming back and qualify by the Pro Tour Order of Merit for the World Matchplay 2023. He is playing quite okay but to be sure was not among the favourites and in fact lost first round to Ryan Searle.
Vincent van der Voort appeared sevral times but in other years failed to qualify. For the last time he qualified in 2020 and reached the quarterfinals as he had done in 2009 - his so far best results.
Other Dutch players like Benito van de Pas, Jeffrey de Zwaan or Jermaine Waittimena qualified one or two times but with the exception of de Zwaan, who stood in the semifinals 2018, never survived the first rounds.
2019 Danny Noppert for the first time qualified, 2021 Dirk van Duijvenbode gave his debut - both players who could go far in the tournament. 2022 they met in the quarterfinals. Noppert prevailed but lost to Gerwyn Price in the semi-finals. Both are here in 2023 again - and at least survived the first round.
Australian Kyle Anderson followed 2015 on Paul Nicholason and stayed together with Whitlock in it till 2018 . Whitlock was 2019 and 2020 - when he took part for the last time - the only Australian at the World Matchplay. On Whitlock followed 2021 Damon Heta.
Whitlock in 2010 and 2014 reached the semi-finals where he lost once to Phil Taylor and once to Michael van Gerwen. Beside he four times reached the quarterfinals - not a bad record. The other Australians so far were less successfull.
From 2012 Belgian Kim Huybrechts was a regular in the World Matchplay for some years till 2018, but he only survied the first round once. Much more sucessfull was his fellow country man Dimitri van den Bergh who gave his debut in 2020 and won the event. One year later he stood in the final but lost to Peter Wright. 2022 Kim Huybrechts returned - and again lost first round while van den Bergh reached the semi-finals. 2023 for the first time three Belgians are in the World Matchplay field - Dimitri van den Bergh, Kim Huybrechts and Mike de Decker who gives his debut. For Huybrechts and de Decker the tournament ended after the first round.
2013 Austrian Mensur Suljovic qualified as the first German speaking player for the event and he came back every year till 2020. His biggest success came 2018 when he lost a close final 19:21 to Gary Anderson. Beside Suljovic Rowby-John Rodriguez was the only other player from Austria in the World Matchplay - he qualified 2022 but lost second round to Dimitri van den Bergh.
2018 with Max Hopp the first ever German player stood at the oche of the Empress Ballroom. He lost first round to Ian White. 2019 he returned and reached the second round. 2020 Gabriel Clemens followed on Hopp. This year is already Clemens' fourth appearance in the tournament but so far he stayed without success. 2022 Martin Schindler joined him. Both qualified again this year but both lost first round.
Only one appearance in the tournament had Spaniard Cristo Reyes in 2017 who was elimnated second round by a strong playing Peter Wright. As well only one appearance made South African Devon Petersen (2021) and Latvian Madars Razma (2022). Both didn't survive the first round.
Since 2017 Poland's Krzysztof Ratajski is among the participants and he is so far the only Polish player who qualified. Once he so far reached the semi-finals and twice the quarterfinals.
Portugal's Jose de Sousa is a regular since 2020 - the first and so far only Portuguese. 2022 he reached the quarterfinals.
Though the tournament got more and more international over the years beside Larry Butler so far only two other players not from the UK could win it - Dutchman Michael van Gerwen - who won three times so far - and Dimitri van den Bergh who won once.
One of the reasons probably was Phil Taylor who dominated the tournament for many years and won it 16 times. Beside there never existed qualifiers in other countries as for the PDC World Championship . So all players have to qualify by the PDC Order of Merit and the Pro Tour Order of Merit and in both for many years players from Great Britain predominated. It takes some time to change this and this year again with the exception of Mchael van Gerwen the top favourites are all from Grear Britain.
Nevertheless what Phil Taylor achieved was outstanding and so in the third part of the World Matchplay history the topic will be Taylor and the other tournament winners from Great Britain.