The second round of the World Matchplay begins inside the Winter Gardens in Blackpool on Tuesday night when the top half of the draw plays down to the quarter final stage on a tasty looking evening of action.
It is a night where we have the current world champion and two others who have scaled the biggest event in the sport on show in a session where all eight players taking to the stage have won a TV title in their career.
Daryl Gurney vs Gary Anderson
The opening match of the night is the only one with two unseeded players battling against each other when Daryl Gurney takes on the former winner here in Blackpool in Gary Anderson for a shot at the quarter finals.
Gurney has never won this tournament but he has been to the semi-final twice in the past so this is a stage where he is comfortable performing on. He came through a cliffhanger against Rob Cross in the opening round which should have battle hardened him as he bids to have the sort of week which could resurrect his career. Anderson has come out of his slump already this year having won Players Championship 8 this term and reaching the final of event 5 and 13 of that series. You would imagine it is only a matter of time before that form is translated onto the big stage. His win over Dave Chisnall in the first round was a good one but neither man was at his best and you would think the Scot would need more to win here. This could be a competitive match should both be just below their best but the problem with getting involved is if just one of them finds their best now that they are out of the first round then this could get messy for someone. There are too many doubts for me to get involved here.
Danny Noppert vs Nathan Aspinall
The second match of the evening sees two former winners of the UK Open battling it out when Danny Noppert, the semi-finalist of a year ago, takes on Nathan Aspinall who was a Premier League player earlier in the year.
Both these men had solid wins in the opening round. Noppert was very impressive in a 10-8 win over Martin Schindler with a 95 average which was a lot higher for much of the contest. Aspinall had a tougher test against Krzysztof Ratajski and needed all of the eight 180s and 98 average that he ended up with. These two have been regular foes over the last few months with them being ranked eight and nine in the world for a while which has meant that they have met in four recent European Tour events, of which they have shared those meetings, two of which went to a deciding leg which suggests this could be every bit as tight as the rankings suggest it will be. These two are very evenly matched as evidenced by 11 of their 15 meetings being settled by a leg/set or two or less. That makes me think that the over 18.5 legs is a good bet here as it would take two unanswered breaks of throw for this to lose and past battles suggest that is unlikely.
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Gerwyn Price vs Joe Cullen
The third match of the evening sees two men who are no strangers to each other meeting when the World Cup winner Gerwyn Price goes up against the former Masters champion Joe Cullen in a cracking looking contest.
Price was the beaten finalist here a year ago and he’ll be motivated to go one better here. He started his campaign with a very comfortable win against Stephen Bunting but is entitled to think he will be pushed harder by Cullen who has to fend off a barrage of scoring from Mike De Decker to get through to this second round. Cullen has made the quarter final here once but has lost at this stage of the event for the past three years which should fuel his fire to get beyond this stage. When these two meet on TV they tend to be entertaining and close affairs and I’m not expecting any different over this format. The other thing that tends to come when these two meet are a raft of 180s and I don’t see any different here. Price is a relentless 180 hitter when he gets going and Cullen knows his way around the 60 as well. These two throw at the same pace so they should get into a nice rhythm which probably explains the amount of 180s when they meet. The 180 line here is 12.5 and I like the over.
Michael Smith vs Chris Dobey
We save the best second round match of the night for the final game of the session as the world champion Michael Smith takes on a Chris Dobey who after winning The Masters earlier in the year is looking to show he can win one of the elite TV events this week.
Smith eased past Steve Beaton in the opening round but he is likely to encounter a tougher test here. Dobey is much better than Beaton these days and he has already come through a tense clash with James Wade in the first round where he ploughed in the 180s and while he fell over the line in that match, it was clear from his interview afterwards that he was fighting a lot of inner demons having coughed up an 8-2 lead here last year. Now that he has got over the line on this stage I expect to see much more from Dobey in this contest and he is more than capable of laying it down to the world champion. Smith should bring his best stuff with him because he will need it so we should be in for a cracker of a contest. These two have met four times on TV in 2023. Dobey won 11-7 at The Masters in the semi-final which had 10 180s. Dobey then won 6-4 twice in the Premier League before Smith won their most recent battle 6-1. In those matches there were five, nine and eight 180s so when these meet the 180s flow, which isn’t a surprise given that these are two of the heaviest hitters, so over 12.5 180s appeals to me in this one too.
Back D.Noppert vs N.Aspinall – Over 18.5 legs for a 3/10 stake at 1.91 with William Hill
Back it here:
Back G.Price vs J.Cullen – Over 12.5 180s for a 3/10 stake at 1.91 with Betfair
Back M.Smith vs C.Dobey – Over 12.5 180s for a 3/10 stake at 1.95 with BetVictor