Rod Studd and Wayne Mardle break down some of their main talking points in the wake of the 2021 World Matchplay, where Peter Wright beat defending champion Dimitri Van den Bergh in the final following the tournament’s return to the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.
Expectant fans congregated in their thousands to watch the world’s best 32 players battle it out for the Phil Taylor Trophy, eventually won by a rampant Snakebite as he fulfilled half his promise of winning both the Matchplay and World Championship this year.
Though unable to retain the title he won in Milton Keynes last year Van den Bergh reaffirmed his elite potential, while all eyes were once again on the form of Michael van Gerwen as his wait for a title in 2021 continued.
MVG ‘only a world class darts player’
Studd: It’s really perplexing and there’s no answer really because nobody knows why he’s not playing at the level we’ve seen him playing at, even quite recently within the last couple of years. And he won’t know either, he’ll work really hard and practice more and more. You can make up endless numbers of narratives as to why he’s not doing it, you can throw in he’s been away from his wife and family for a long time, is that affecting him? I’ve no idea what’s going through another bloke’s head, I don’t know why he’s playing what you’d describe as poorly for him.
A week long Matchplay masterclass from @snakebitewright culminating in that brilliant display in tonight’s final. It was a superb title defence by @VandenBerghDimi All in all a fantastic week. It was lovely to be back with all my friends at @SkySportsDarts even Mardell 😄😄😄
— Rod Studd (@Rod_Studd) July 25, 2021
What he is doing, he’s now playing at a level at 95, 97, 98, which is the level of a very good darts player, it’s just not the level of the world champion and world No 1 we know he has been. He hasn’t won a tournament this year, which if he carries on for the rest of the year will be the first time since 2010 he hasn’t won a tournament, even one of the minor ones.
It really is almost unheard of, 2010 was before the reincarnation of Michael van Gerwen. Now it could come back and he could start picking up titles again, but at the moment it’s perplexing and the longer it goes on the more perplexing it is and the worst he’ll feel. He won the match against Aspinall averaging 94.72 and on the face of it he’s won and gone into a semi-final, but (Wayne) used a phrase ‘that performance will hurt him’ even though he’d won.
Mardle: This is ridiculous but he’s now only a world class darts player, he’s not the best darts player anymore, he’s one of many. But there are things this week I’ve seen that me personally I don’t like. We know that where he was practicing, it was away from everyone, it’s away from the players he used to intimidate on the practice board, now he wants to be away from that and it says to me he hasn’t got the confidence now to intimidate them on the practice board, maybe he’s feeling that little bit inferior, I don’t know. He’s on a board, away from everyone where nobody can actually influence what he’s doing, it’s all about him which I get. But he always influenced the others. Now he’s not doing that and that for me is a lack of confidence within him as a person and a darts player. My narrative is that he’s just lacking confidence.
Dimi destined for No. 1?
Mardle: I’ve kind of created one talking point in my own mind I think and that’s the potential of Dimitri Van den Bergh. We know he was World Matchplay champion. I think he can be, maybe not the next world No 1 but a No 1, I think he’s got that in him.
We know those that win the World Championship normally end up world No 1, what I’m saying is I think in the next two maybe three years he gets that No 1, I really do, I think he’s that good. And those around him when you look at the rankings and this is no disrespect to them, are there actually any on the up like him? I’m going to suggest no.
He’s world No 5 at the moment, yes there’s a giant step from five to one, I’m not suggesting it’s going to happen overnight, but the way he can deal with being behind, we’re seeing a different way of him winning a game (against Ratajski), the positives just outweigh the negatives. That for me is one that I don’t think anybody has spoken about before. It’s ‘Price is playing great, he’s a young man, he’s the world champ, he’s world No 1’, yeah but things don’t last forever. Things do change.
Duzza, Gurney and Cross
Mardle: I’m kind of worried about Glen (Durrant). He’s tried hard to get his game back and said he’s a bit happier, he thinks he’s just going to take a few months to kind of be a guide as to where his game’s at. But it was the fall off, the fall off was in weeks. He’s never blamed COVID, he’s never blamed that which again as a narrative is easy to do. The man said it wasn’t that so I believe the man.
Daryl Gurney has just been very, very average for too long and I’m one of those that I think he comes back actually, I sense a man that has so much quality and he doesn’t kind of look to me that he’s bereft of all confidence. Duzza is that little bit different. Again he’s of an age, the older you are the harder it is to get it back. He’ll work, but again time will tell, about like Van Gerwen and Beaton, Lewis, Whitlock.
Home safe with the support from the crowd still ringing in my ears, it was incredible.
It’s been a terrible and I mean terrible 8 months with dark times, but I honestly feel positive for the first time in a long time
— Glen Durrant (@Duzza180) July 19, 2021
Rob Cross, I loved him coming into this event, I loved him in the first round, that second round defeat to Rydz will hurt him. He was 4-2 up and he got quite cocky, over confident and all of a sudden things went against him and he had nothing.
Studd: He (Cross) was playing like a guy who thinks he’s already won, and when he realised he hadn’t already won and the other guy was still in there competing he had nothing, there was no second phase and it petered out which will be worrying. I think he’s still got it as well but there’s a raft of big tournaments coming up now.
Familiar faces fading?
Studd: There are quite a few that were great stalwarts of the game that we knew and loved over decades and that have been in every tournament we’ve seen over the last 10/15 years. You know Adrian Lewis, Simon Whitlock, Steve Beaton, they were here in 2019 when the tournament was last at the Winter Gardens but they aren’t here this year. And it’s to see if they can stop the decline and if they can’t, will they continue to try against ever-increasing odds to get back into the top 20 or call it quits and walk away?
Mardle: Especially Steve Beaton, sorry Steve, because he’s of that age. He’s been hanging on now for a number of years, he’ll be in the World Championship but after that we may not see him until the next World Championship and it’s difficult to take, especially when you’re at home. And I’ve done this as a player so I know, you’re in the Matchplays, finals, semi-finals left, right, centre of events and then there’s a year where you aren’t even there let alone competing at the top. It’s hard to swallow but these guys have got to deal with it.
Studd: One man will start 2022 on top of the world metaphorically and it’s very difficult to say who that is. Often in the past you would have identified a favourite and other players in the mix, now you could name probably maybe four, five or six players at this stage and when it comes down to when it matters in January have none of them in the semi-final. The World Darts Championship looks more open this year than I can remember in the last decade or so.
Mardle: I wouldn’t rule out somebody like Luke Humphries having a run at the worlds and if he was to win it I wouldn’t be surprised, that’s how far down we’re looking now. I have looked even further down.