World Matchplay 2021: Gerwyn Price, Dimitri Van den Bergh and Jonny Clayton in action on opening night

Defending champion Dimitri Van den Bergh, world champion Gerwyn Price and Premier League winner Jonny Clayton will headline a bumper opening night at the World Matchplay as the tournament makes its return to Blackpool.

After a year away from its home at the Winter Gardens on the Lancashire coast, the PDC’s second-biggest ranking event will get underway with a blockbuster night that features no shortage of mouthwatering matches.

  • World Matchplay 2021: Champion Dimi handed Petersen opener
  • World Grand Prix heading to Leicester

Saturday July 17 (7pm)

The first round will take place across four sessions over three days, and Van den Bergh’s clash with South African debutant Devon Petersen will close the first Saturday of the tournament as the Belgian begins the defence of the tournament title he won in thrilling fashion last year in Milton Keynes.

Getting the action underway will be Dave Chisnall and Vincent van der Voort in a quickfire contest that will have the crowd enthralled from the start. That is followed by Premier League champion Clayton, who has been riding the crest of a wave since winning the World Cup with Price last November.

The Ferret kicks off against World Grand Prix runner-up Dirk van Duijvenbode, who is making his first appearance in the event.

World Matchplay – Roll of Honour

World No 1 and world champion Price makes his return to the televised stage after missing the Premier League following his positive test for coronavirus on the eve of the tournament. He starts his bid for another major title against Jermaine Wattimena, who replaces Mensur Suljovic who has withdrawn from the event.

The first round continues on Sunday with a bumper eight first-round matches across two sessions. 2007 champion James Wade headlines the afternoon action when he takes on in-form Luke Humphries. The two-time world youth champion has three finals to his name this season, including the UK Open where he was beaten by The Machine.

Another former champion is also in action in the afternoon, Rob Cross – a winner in 2019 on the Blackpool stage – meets debutant Ross Smith.

Sunday evening will feature former runners-up Peter Wright and Michael Smith, whose bid to win the Phil Taylor Trophy for the first time will start against Ryan Searle and Danny Noppert respectively, while Grand Slam of Darts champion Jose De Sousa meets Germany’s Gabriel Clemens.

Sunday July 18

Two-time champion Michael van Gerwen, who is remarkably chasing his first title since November, will be the star turn on the final night of first-round action when he faces Australia’s Damon Heta – another of the debutants.

2018 champion Gary Anderson faces Stephen Bunting also on Monday, while a pair of former major champions Nathan Aspinall and Daryl Gurney are in action.

Monday July 19

The PDC hopes to be able to welcome a full crowd from Monday July 19 should the government continue with plans to continue with the next stage of the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Fans can attend the opening two days of action but a reduced capacity, and a number of measures will remain in place, before Monday’s announcement will clarify the way forward for the rest of the tournament.

Darts is back on your Sky Sports screens this month, with nine days of coverage from the iconic Winter Gardens and the World Matchplay – the action gets under way on Saturday July 17.

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