DW Diary: Matchplay Double Whammy

Red Dragon Darts

REPORTING and writing on a fabulous subject, such as Darts, and on one of it most celebrated occasions may sound like an opportunity more than a burden.

However double sessions are certainly no cakewalk as our man on the scene at the 2023 PDC World Matchplay, Thomas Barlty, outlines here:

9am: After catching some much needed forty winks, it is time to get ready for my second day in Blackpool with a quick cup of coffee, shower and preparation for the day ahead..

11am: Stop for food and some snacks for what will be a long day of darts with two sessions to look forward to. I also record a quick preview to the session.

12pm: Back in the building, after a quick chat with an official on the doors who informed me that he once went to Beckenham in Kent to collect a copy of our very own magazine. Another chance to glimpse the ‘calm before the storm’ that is the arena before the crowd filter in.

1pm: Time for our first match, which sees Danny Noppert face Martin Schindler. A strong performance from Noppie sends him heading through to the second round. And he only has nice things to say about the crowd and place after the match. I think he likes this tournament!

2pm: A quick turnaround and then it is Dirk van Duijvenbode and Kim Huybrechts. There was quite a lot of anticipation coming into this one, given the tensions between their respective nations at the recent World Cup. In the end, it proved interesting for other reasons, a real topsy turvy performance from both. And Dirk had some interesting words for Damon Heta and his crowd interactions afterwards which you can find on Darts World’s socials…

3pm: Dirk’s press conference hadn’t even finished before the gathered press had caught a glimpse of a ready and raring Damon Heta, bat in hand and ready for the unconventional crease of the Winter Gardens crowd. In reality though, he knows it is all about taking Josh Rock’s wicket, and that he does with veritable ease. He is keen to stress his credentials after the match and clearly fancies a run. He has yet to do it at the big TV events yet, but given his Pro Tour prodigy, you wouldn’t put it past him. Could we see an Ashes-Heta double in Britain this summer?

4pm: Final match-up is another interesting clash of styles in Chris Dobey versus James Wade. Dobey showed a lot of determination to see it through in the end despite an avalanche of double 10s from Wade. It is easy to make hypothetical judgements like this but one really wonders if Dobey would have won a match like this a year ago without all the Premier League experience and Masters victory. He did, after all, fall to Cross in close circumstances last year here.

5.30pm: After the Dobey press conference finishes, I complete my final afternoon report before heading out to grab some food and unwind for a little bit. I even find a little bit of time to listen to the closing stages of the Wimbledon men’s singles final, a sporting tussle of a very different kind to that by the sea in Blackpool this weekend. (P.S. I couldn’t help but laugh when I dipped out of the Winter Gardens to greet a small gathering of fans, who were no doubt disappointed when I wasn’t one of the top tier PDC players here this week. Apologies, Blackpool. I’ll do an autograph if you’re desperate but I won’t be holding my breath.)

6.30pm: Time to head back, record another preview and sneak into the arena again to see the bustling atmosphere. It is such a gorgeous venue, very ornate and architecturally attractive. The sport is lucky to have characterful places like this to come to.

7.30pm: Nathan Aspinall and Krzysztof Ratajski are up first. Frustratingly for the Asp, he can never quite cut away from Ratajski, who remained just one twist in the tale from turning things around. But a 151 to go 7-4 up helped edge him a little closer to victory. A great sport post-match, the Matchplay is Nathan’s local tournament and he’d love to win it.

9pm: It felt as if I had barely sat down before Luke Humphries had eased to victory over Jose de Sousa. After a brief stop to chat with former Leeds, Tottenham and England footballer Paul Robinson, he comes into the press conference. Humphries was generous to De Sousa, but this was as much of a rout as we have seen. His target, he told me, is the final.

10pm: So many players have come close but not far enough against Michael van Gerwen through the years that it often requires a suspension of disbelief to see a defeat on the cards. Brendan Dolan however was not about to drop his guard, and produced an excellent performance to send the defending champion packing. Bravo, Brendan. We now have a second round match we weren’t expecting: Dolan v. Damon, Northern Ireland v. Australia. It should be fun.

11pm: With MvG out of the draw, a triumvirate of favourites has given way to a duo. Gerwyn Price has already got through, but now it was time for Michael Smith to take to the stage. There was no messing about, and despite the later start (by 30 minutes) we were done even earlier than yesterday. Michael was a little harsh on himself after the match, both to Sky’s Abigail Davies and to the press, but you have a feeling he can switch it on in the next round. Let’s see.

11.40pm: Things have almost wrapped up, so I get to work on finishing my copy before heading off the night. A busy but enjoyable day and one which you feel has opened up this World Matchplay. Now for bed before my final few hours in Blackpool tomorrow.

Editors note: Over opening weekend in Blackpool the three sessions are usually long, often incredibly hot and very intense indeed. It seem Thomas has had a familar experience, except the heat not being as bad, but he still managed to produce written and video pieces as well as previews and pics that illustrate the effort required to operate as a darts journalist.


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