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 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.
The second round is split across the evenings of Tuesday and Wednesday, with the players from the top half of the draw playing on Tuesday and those in the bottom half returning to the stage on Wednesday.
The quarter-finals are then split across Thursday and Friday, with the semi-finals on Saturday before the winner will be crowned following Sunday's final.
While Van Gerwen is the pre-tournament favourite, world number two Cross is 15/2 to claim his maiden World Matchplay title, while in-form Wright and reigning champion Anderson are 10/1 with Betfred to take glory next Sunday.
Tickets: A limited number of tickets for the 2019 Betfred World Matchplay are still available. Tickets are available via SeeTickets or by calling 0844 871 8807. Tickets are also available through the Winter Gardens Box Office via Ticketmaster. Official Hospitality packages are available via Sport and Music.
Schedule of Play
Saturday July 20 (1900 BST)
Nathan Aspinall v Mervyn King
Gerwyn Price v Stephen Bunting
Gary Anderson v Danny Noppert
Rob Cross v Chris Dobey
Sunday July 21 (1300 BST)
Darren Webster v Krzysztof Ratajski
Dave Chisnall v Max Hopp
Ian White v Joe Cullen
Michael Smith v Jamie Hughes
Evening Session (1930 BST)
James Wade v Jeffrey de Zwaan
Mensur Suljovic v Jermaine Wattimena
Michael van Gerwen v Steve Beaton
Adrian Lewis v Glen Durrant
Monday July 22 (1900 BST)
Jonny Clayton v Keegan Brown
Simon Whitlock v John Henderson
Daryl Gurney v Ricky Evans
Peter Wright v Vincent van der Voort
Tuesday July 23 (1900 BST)
Smith/Hughes v Chisnall/Hopp
Wade/De Zwaan v Suljovic/Wattimena
Anderson/Noppert v Aspinall/King
Van Gerwen/Beaton v Lewis/Durrant
Wednesday July 24 (1900 BST)
Gurney/Evans v Clayton/Brown
Price/Bunting v White/Cullen
Cross/Dobey v Webster/Ratajski
Wright/Van der Voort v Whitlock/Henderson
Thursday July 25 (1900 BST)
Friday July 26 (1900 BST)
Saturday July 27 (1900 BST)
Sunday July 28 (1900 BST)
Winner - £150,000
Runner-Up - £70,000
Semi-Finalists - £50,000
Quarter-Finalists - £25,000
Second Round Losers - £15,000
First Round Losers - £10,000
Total - £700,000
First round - Best of 19 legs
Second round - Best of 21 legs
Quarter-Finals - Best of 31 legs
Semi-Finals - Best of 33 legs
Final - Best of 35 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 First Round game reach 12-12, then the 25th leg would be the final and deciding leg.
7/4 Michael van Gerwen
15/2 Rob Cross
10/1 Peter Wright, Gary Anderson
14/1 Gerwyn Price
25/1 Michael Smith, Daryl Gurney, James Wade, Nathan Aspinall
33/1 Ian White
40/1 Glen Durrant, Mensur Suljovic, Dave Chisnall
66/1 Krzysztof Ratajski, Adrian Lewis, Jamie Hughes
80/1 Jeffrey de Zwaan
125/1 Chris Dobey, Joe Cullen, Stephen Bunting, Simon Whitlock, Jonny Clayton
150/1 Keegan Brown, Ricky Evans
200/1 Max Hopp, John Henderson, Danny Noppert, Vincent van der Voort, Darren Webster
250/1 Jermaine Wattimena, Mervyn King
300/1 Steve Beaton
Each-Way Odds 1/2 1, 2
Saturday July 20
2/5 Nathan Aspinall v 2/1 Mervyn King
1/3 Gerwyn Price v 12/5 Stephen Bunting
1/3 Gary Anderson v 12/5 Danny Noppert
2/7 Rob Cross v 11/4 Chris Dobey
Sunday July 21
2/1 Darren Webster v 2/5 Krzysztof Ratajski
4/9 Dave Chisnall v 7/4 Max Hopp
1/2 Ian White v 13/8 Joe Cullen
8/13 Michael Smith v 5/4 Jamie Hughes
4/7 James Wade v 11/8 Jeffrey de Zwaan
2/5 Mensur Suljovic v 2/1 Jermaine Wattimena
1/8 Michael van Gerwen v 5/1 Steve Beaton
11/8 Adrian Lewis v 4/7 Glen Durrant
Monday July 22
8/11 Jonny Clayton v 11/10 Keegan Brown
4/5 Simon Whitlock v Evens John Henderson
1/2 Daryl Gurney v 13/8 Ricky Evans
2/7 Peter Wright v 11/4 Vincent van der Voort
Odds correct at time of writing and courtesy of Betfred. Subject to fluctuation.