St Helens darts star faces tough first round at World Matchplay

Michael Smith
Michael Smith

Michael Smith will face a stern first round test as he bids to lift the prestigious World Matchplay darts title for the first time at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, next weekend.

The St Helens ace, who was runner-up in the 2018-2019 world championship, will lock horns with Tipton's Jamie Hughes in the opening round of the 32-strong competition which carries £7000,000 in prize money.

Hughes, twice a runners-up in the BDC world championship, hasn't pulled up too many trees since switched to the PDC but is capable matching any opponent and Smith, quoted by Betfred at 20-1 to claim the prestigious title, will need to find his A-game to progress.

Bully Boy's fellow St Helens born and bred darts pro Dave Chisnall enters the tournament on the back of a morale-boosting win over Chris Dobey in the final of the Danish Open a few weeks ago.

Chizzy is a 40-1 outsider but is one of the most experienced on the circuit and cannot be treated lightly as his opponent, Germany's Max Hopp is likely to find out.

A third locally-based player, Liverpudlian Stephen Bunting, who is quoted at 125-1 to win the crown, faces former Welsh Rugby Union and Rugby League star Gerwyn Price whose switch from the oval ball to the oche in the last few years has been nothing short of remarkable.

Opening round draw:

(1) Michael van Gerwen v Steve Beaton.

(16) Adrian Lewis v Glen Durrant

(8) James Wade v Jeffrey de Zwaan

(9) Mensur Suljovic v Jermaine Wattimena

(5) Michael Smith v Jamie Hughes

(12) Dave Chisnall v Max Hopp

(4) Gary Anderson v Danny Noppert

(13) Nathan Aspinall v Mervyn King

(2) Rob Cross v Chris Dobey

(15) Darren Webster v Krzysztof Ratajski

(7) Gerwyn Price v Stephen Bunting

(10) Ian White v Joe Cullen

(6) Peter Wright v Vincent van der Voort

(11) Simon Whitlock v John Henderson

(3) Daryl Gurney v Ricky Evans