Upon the commencement of the World Matchplay, it seemed Michael Van Gerwen may have been the favourite to claim the trophy, as he boasted the number one seeding, alongside possessing the necessary credentials to attain victory due to previous victories. Yet, with motivation perhaps at a peak high, predominantly due to the record prize pot available, there may have been multiple players capable of concluding the week the victor. Ultimately, it was indeed another player who emerged victorious, with Phil Taylor’s triumph versus Peter Wright enabling him to record his 16th Matchplay title. With this season his final before his forthcoming retirement, it seemed his swansong at Blackpool may have cemented his position in the record books, as with the tournament a prime opportunity to challenge himself versus the most accomplished opposition, becoming champion may solely serve to elevate his credentials.
With a wide array of other competitions established prior, it seems poignant the World Matchplay seems to have established itself in rapid fashion, with perhaps the overarching reason for this the host location. With a large majority of players on the tour English, the tournament may naturally have a large English following, thus hosting it in Blackpool may have increased support levels. With tickets for the event completely sold within three days, this suggestion may be reiterated and, with the tournament also broadcast on Sky, it seems the contest may have been broadcast to the masses, extending the reach. With a record £500,000 prize pot available, it seems there may be multiple incentives for players to continue to aspire to win the trophy, ultimately extending the tournament’s tenure.
The top 16 players in the world qualified automatically, also rewarded for their status with a seeding. Yet, the other sixteen positions were earned by qualifiers, who seemed to require consistent performances in tournaments prior to attain the necessary ranking to compete. As such, a smorgasbord of players of varying capabilities may have been on show, suggesting the sport possesses vast depth, whilst simultaneously suggesting motivation to qualify, and ultimately succeed, may be at its peak, as players seek to place among the most proficient players on the tour. With multiple qualifiers triumphing versus superiorly ranked players, most notably previous champion James Wade, this suggestion seemed to be emphasised.
Yet, Taylor ultimately claimed the crown, with his overall performance throughout the tournament perhaps claiming the plaudits rather than his final victory itself. In the quarter-finals, he emerged victorious versus top seed Michael Van Gerwen, proving he still possesses the capabilities to perform at the pinnacle, and it may be this trait which has held him in good stead across the entirety of his career. His recent victory was his 16th since the tournament’s inception, giving him a 66% win rate, adding to his 216 career titles, amongst which include a record 16 World Championships. Yet, his crowning glory may be his four World Cup victories for England as, with his personal aptitudes already highlighted, he seemed to showcase his ability to function as part of a team. His consistent dominance across multiple competitions with varying formats seem to have left a legacy which future players may aim to replicate, and ultimately surpass, productively impacting the sport further as an influx of players strive for top performances.
With 37 tournaments yet to play prior to the conclusion of the season, it seems Taylor may have ample opportunity to attain further accolades. Yet, his priority may be the final tournament of the year; the World Championship. With this tournament the most prestigious in the calendar, it seems Taylor may be placing the majority of his focus on this, and may be seeking to utilise his performance in Blackpool to productively impact his quest for glory. Considering the tournament may also be Taylor’s swansong, he may aim to add to his ever-expanding repertoire, perhaps ultimately enabling him to be recognised similarly to Jocky Wilson, with a tournament named in his honour. This accolade may surpass other records he holds, as it may prove to him he may have productively impacted the sport, and increased darts’ pedigree across the globe.
How may Taylor’s consistency across the tournament’s duration motivate others to surpass his achievements?