On the eve of the 2022 Betfred World Matchplay, darts stats supremo Richard Ashdown takes a look at four historical trends of the summer's biggest tournament...
In 2020, Dimitri Van den Bergh won the World Matchplay at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes on his first attempt. The Belgian became the first debutant to win the World Matchplay since USA's Larry Butler defeated Dennis Priestley in the inaugural final in 1994. Dimitri made his first appearance at the iconic Winter Gardens venue in 2021 and reached the final once again. Only three other men had ever reached the final on their debut, prior to Dimitri doing so.
Debutants reaching the final:
1994 - Larry Butler 16-12 Dennis Priestley
1998 - Rod Harrington 19-17 Ronnie Baxter
2003 - Phil Taylor 18-12 Wayne Mardle
2006 - Phil Taylor 18-11 James Wade
2020 - Dimitri Van den Bergh 18-10 Gary Anderson
Four players will have hopes of joining that elite club, as Martin Lukeman, Madars Razma, Rowby-John Rodriguez and Martin Schindler make their World Matchplay debuts in 2022.
In 2020, Glen Durrant became the third player to reach the World Matchplay semi finals in each of his first two appearances. Van den Bergh was the fourth, reaching back to back finals and now hopes to join Dennis Priestley and James Wade in reaching the final in each of their first three years.
Debutants reaching consecutive semi finals:
Dennis Priestley - 1994 Runner Up, 1995 Runner Up, 1996 Runner Up
James Wade - 2006 Runner Up, 2007 Champion, 2008 Runner Up
Glen Durrant - 2019 Semi Final, 2020 Semi Final
Dimitri Van den Bergh - 2021 Champion, 2022 Runner Up
2. REIGNING CHAMPIONS
In 2021, Peter Wright became the 10th man to be crowned World Matchplay champion. The last 6 years have seen 6 different players lift the trophy (2016 Michael van Gerwen, 2017 Phil Taylor, 2018 Gary Anderson, 2019 Rob Cross, 2020 Dimitri Van den Bergh, 2021 Peter Wright).
'Snakebite' begins his World Matchplay defence against Latvia's Madars Razma on Saturday evening. The reigning Matchplay champion has only ever lost in the first round twice before. 2005 champion Colin Lloyd fell at the first hurdle in 2006. The 2019 Blackpool winner Rob Cross lost in the first round in Milton Keynes the following year.
Matchplay champions to lose in the first round:
2006 - Steve Maish 10-6 Colin Lloyd
2020 - Gabriel Clemens 10-8 Rob Cross
Peter Wright hopes to become the fourth player to successfully retain the World Matchplay title. Rod Harrington was the first to do so in 1999 and Michael van Gerwen the last in 2016. 16-time World Matchplay champion Phil Taylor remarkably defended his crown on 10 occasions. 2007 champion James Wade and 2020 champion Dimitri Van den Bergh both came close in finishing runner up the following year.
Successful World Matchplay defences:
Rod Harrington (1998-1999)
Phil Taylor (2000-2001-2002-2003-2004)
Phil Taylor (2008-2009-2010-2011-2012-2013-2014)
Michael van Gerwen (2015-2016)
3. NO.1 SEEDS
The opening night of the 2022 Betfred World Matchplay sees Peter Wright take to the stage as the World No.1. The number one seed has previously lifted the trophy 16 times in 28 years, but not since Michael van Gerwen did so in 2016.
No.1 Seeds to win the World Matchplay:
Phil Taylor (1997/2000/2002/2003/2006/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013)
Rod Harrington (1998/1999)
Colin Lloyd (2005)
Michael van Gerwen (2015/2016)
Peter Wright becomes the 9th player to arrive at Blackpool as the World No.1, with Dennis Priestley (1994), Peter Manley (2001), John Part (2004) and Gerwyn Price (2021) having also been top seeds.
Price ended Michael van Gerwen's 7 year run at the head of the rankings (2014-2020).
Michael van Gerwen is one of three players to have lost their opening match in Blackpool as world number one.
No.1 seeds to lose in the first round:
1995 - Jocky Wilson 8-4 Rod Harrington
2001 - Steve Beaton 10-8 Peter Manley
2018 - Jeffrey de Zwaan 10-6 Michael van Gerwen
4. WORLD CHAMPIONS
The PDC World Championship and World Matchplay began in 1994. In 28 years, Phil Taylor is the only player to have won both titles in the same calendar year, and he did so on 10 occasions. As reigning World Champions, only Dennis Priestley (1994) and Michael van Gerwen (2014) have also reached the World Matchplay final in the same year.
Both World Champion and World Matchplay Champion:
Phil Taylor (1995/1997/2000/2001/2002/2004/2006/2009/2010/2013)
In each of the last five years, the reigning World Champion has not made it beyond the quarter finals of the World Matchplay.
The closest a reigning World Champion has been to a first round exit was in 2011. Adrian Lewis trailed 9-6 in the first round to Kevin Painter and survived 6 match darts, before winning the match 14-12.
World Champion's early exits at the World Matchplay:
1996 (R2) - Peter Evison 8-1 Phil Taylor
2003 (R2) - Wayne Mardle 16-14 John Part
2008 (R2) - Alan Tabern 13-7 John Part
2015 (R2) - Mensur Suljovic 13-9 Gary Anderson
2018 (R2) - Darren Webster 11-8 Rob Cross
2019 (R2) - Glen Durrant 13-11 Michael van Gerwen
2020 (R2) - Glen Durrant 11-8 Peter Wright
Peter Wright will be announced to the Blackpool stage by John McDonald as the current World Number One, the defending World Matchplay Champion and the reigning champion of the world. Only Phil Taylor (2002/2009/2010/2013) and Michael van Gerwen (2017) have shared those honours before. Taylor won the title on all four occasions. Van Gerwen lost in the 2017 quarter finals 16-6 to Phil Taylor.
Peter Wright will be hoping the trend continues in that the reigning World Champion has never lost in the first round of the World Matchplay.