How do we even sum up the first quarter-finals night at the Betfred World Matchplay? It was extraordinary. The crowd inside Blackpool’s Winter Gardens were treated to one of the finest games in the tournament’s history as 2020 champion Dimitri Van den Bergh defeated World number one and reigning champion Peter Wright in a gripping 30-leg thriller. Meanwhile, Michael van Gerwen looked to have taken all his criticisms of the week on board as he looked a lot closer to his best as he defeated Nathan Aspinall
Peter Wright 14-16 Dimitri Van den Bergh
After a shaky first leg, Wright showed his class as he broke into a 4-1 lead at the first interval after throwing some fantastic darts, which included an outstanding 129 checkout on the bullseye. ‘Snakebite’ then claimed the sixth leg and it would have been easy for Van den Bergh to crack under the pressure, but there was a reason the world number nine had only ever lost one game on the World Matchplay stage before Thursday evening. The Belgian responded immediately to win the second session 4-1 to level the match in what was a truly remarkable start to this last eight tie.
The unfamiliarity of losing four straight legs was getting to the Scotsman as Van den Bergh broke ahead for the second time in the match having taken nine legs in a row as Wright was left baffled and couldn’t push back. After he was 11-5 down, Wright was able to end the rut that no one could have expected as he took the 17th leg with a delightful double of double 20s before then claiming the 18th shortly after.
He then dug deep to battle his way back into the contest as he pounced on Van den Bergh’s errors to make it 12 legs each before edging back in front as the Winter Gardens crowd couldn’t believe what they were witnessing. The Belgian was able to dethrone Wright at the end of what was a pulsating match to take a giant step closer to reclaiming the title.
Michael van Gerwen 16-14 Nathan Aspinall
Questions were being asked of Van Gerwen throughout the week in Blackpool, with pundits saying that he needed to offer more to justify his label as the tournament favourite, which he seemingly took on board. He looked sharp at the start of his match against Aspinall as he took a 3-2 lead in the first session. He built on his fast start quickly in the second session as he had too much for Aspinall to win four legs to one.
As the match went on, there was plenty of quality from both players and although Van Gerwen went ahead by some distance, Aspinall continued to let his Dutch opponent know that he was ready and waiting to pounce on his mistakes. He certainly rallied later in the game and ultimately what let him down was allowing Van Gerwen to get a few legs ahead earlier in the match, but he made sure that the Dutchman had to work hard to secure the decisive leg as he reduced the deficit down to one. Van Gerwen was able to get the job done to bring an end to an incredible day six at the World Matchplay for a second 16-14 thriller of the night - leaving the second night of quarter-final ties with a lot to live up to.
And after all this exciting action, a semi-final between Van den Bergh and Van Gerwen has just gotten that little bit more appetising.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change
Featured image credit: Taylor Lanning - PDC