Cross reaping the rewards following "hardest year"

Rob Cross (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Rob Cross believes he is regaining the form which earned him Betfred World Matchplay glory in 2019 as he prepares to continue his Winter Gardens challenge on Tuesday night.

Cross soared to victory in the Blackpool event two years ago, having previously enjoyed a meteoric rise by becoming World Champion in 2018 at the end of his debut season.

However, he has since dropped out of the world's top four, and was a first round casualty in last year's World Matchplay as well as being eliminated from the 2020 and 2021 Premier Leagues.

Cross, though, impressed in his first round defeat of Ross Smith on Sunday, and now plays youngster Callan Rydz at the Winter Gardens in Tuesday's opening second round ties.

"Last year I probably had the hardest year I've ever had," said Cross. "I haven't been really competing, and when you're not in a game it's soul-destroying.

"Now, all of a sudden I know I can compete at the highest class. I just needed a little bit of structure in my life, and something to build from. 

"I've got that now. My game's changed a lot - I've worked really hard since January and now I'm starting to reap some benefits.

"I'm enjoying it again. Now I feel that I've got a game that I can go out and win with.

"I definitely feel I can compete - there's a lot more there. I know I can hit doubles under pressure and win games."

Cross will take to the Winter Gardens stage in front of 2,000 fans tonight, having played on Sunday before just 800 due to the coronavirus restrictions.

However, he backed the chorus of players who have welcomed the return of fans to events after over a year with the sport's biggest tournaments being staged largely behind closed doors.

"Everything that I've missed for the last 16 months was here on Sunday so I'm very grateful," he added. "It's amazing to be back - the last time I walked out here I won it."

Tuesday's second round ties also include the all-Welsh contest between World Champion Gerwyn Price and Premier League winner Jonny Clayton in a mouth-watering contest.

Reigning champion Dimitri Van den Bergh plays Morecambe-based Dave Chisnall, while debutant Luke Humphries - who impressed in a first round win over 2007 champion James Wade - takes on Poland's Krzysztof Ratajski.

The action will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK, through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and RTL7, and on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers.

Click here for all the ways to watch the 2021 Betfred World Matchplay around the world.

2021 Betfred World Matchplay
Tuesday July 20 (1900 BST)
4x Second Round

Rob Cross v Callan Rydz
Luke Humphries v Krzysztof Ratajski
Gerwyn Price v Jonny Clayton
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Dave Chisnall
Wednesday July 21 (1900 BST)
4x Second Round

Michael Smith v Jose de Sousa
Gary Anderson v Nathan Aspinall
Michael van Gerwen v Ian White
Peter Wright v Joe Cullen

Second Round: best of 21 legs.
Each game must be won by two clear legs, with up to a maximum of five additional legs being played before the sixth additional leg is sudden-death. For example, should a Second Round game (best of 21 legs) reach 13-13, then the 27th leg would be the final and deciding leg.