5 Big Talking Points Following The 2023 World Matchplay

Published on 29 July 2023 at 13:00

As the dust finally settles on one of the greatest World Matchplay tournaments in its prestigious 30 year history, the agoning five month wait until the World Championship couldn’t feel any longer than it already does. 


Nathan Aspinall emerged the eventual victor, producing thrilling performance after thrilling performance before his masterclass in the final. Whilst the likes of Jonny Clayton, Chris Dobey and Ryan Searle were among the names who also enjoyed a career-best run in the competition. Here’s our five key talking points in the fallout of the 2023 PDC World Matchplay.


1) What’s next for Nathan Aspinall?


It was the tournament performance of a lifetime from Nathan Aspinall last week, emerging victorious against notoriously tricky opponents like Ratajski, Noppert, Dobey, Cullen and Clayton en-route to victory.


But where does the Asp strike next? Is he now a frontrunner to go to the Alexandra Palace at Christmas and win the World Championship over your more traditional favourites and past winners alike?


Like how Michael Smith had more of a presence and threat about him in 2021 and 2022, we could see Aspinall reach similar heights, being in that same stratosphere of talent that many reserve for Michael Van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price. 

2)  Do Luke Humphries and Dirk Van Duijvenbode have what it takes for major success?


Luke Humphries entered the tournament as the third favourite (and soon absolute favourite after the premature exits of Van Gerwen and Price) but once more failed to deliver on the performances that have seen him win big matches and acclaim on the European Tour circuit. 


Dirk Van Duijvenbode, another outside favourite to romp his way to the final, met Humphries in the last 16, and the Dutchman completely collapsed as the game neared its climax, with far too many low scoring, treble-less visits to even keep the Aubergenius in the tie. 


There’s no doubt about either man’s talents, or their success and form outside of televised events, but pending a situation where the two play each other in a major final, should we be asking if either Humphries or Van Duijvenbode have all the tools it takes to win a major event?


3) Anderson and Clayton remain the bridesmaids


There’s just some people in the sport of darts who you can’t help but root for no matter who they’re against. Gary Anderson and Jonny Clayton are just two of those people. 


Both men found themselves on the wrong side of the tournament’s two most ruthless performances however, Anderson’s being his last 16 exit against a superb Daryl Gurney, and Clayton against Aspinall in the aforementioned final.


On a similar note to Humphries and Van Duijvenbode, is time running out for the likes of Anderson and Clayton to reaffirm their elite status and prove to be more than just a roadblock on other players’ path to major success? 


Anderson has enjoyed a brilliant 2023 in terms of performances, most notably his carry job of the Scottish team during the recent World Cup tournament, and at the Matchplay Clayton looked to be firing on all cylinders, playing like we all know the Ferret can, but it’s a testament to just how strong the current field of players is that Anderson and Clayton will likely have to wait a long time (or have an extraordinary amount of luck) before major success comes either man’s way once more. 


4)  Will Peter Wright ever recover his form?


You can almost pinpoint the decline of Peter Wright to the exact moment Kim Huybrechts nailed the match-winning dart to knock the reigning champion out of the last World Championship.


Since then, Wright has gone into a rapid decline in form, failing to capitalise on his rather favourable draw at the World Matchplay (a first round match against Andrew Gilding before a last 16 tie against the less-favoured Ryan Searle) has left the Scotsman in the precarious position of dropping even further town the order of merit. 


Ultimately, does any of it matter however? Recent years have shown that Wright tends to alternate his form and tournament success at the World Matchplay, and if you were a betting man, you would look at his early exit last December as a potential sign that Peter Wright will be making it very far at the Alexandra Palace at the 2024 World Championship.

5) The World Championship is truly up for grabs


Michael Smith, Nathan Aspinall, Michael Van Gerwen, Andrew Gilding, Chris Dobey: of the 5 major finals to take place so far in 2023, there’s been a different winner in each of them, and Van Gerwen is the only player to appear in multiple of these finals. 


Factoring in the likes of Gerwyn Price, Jonny Clayton, Luke Humphries, Dimitri Van den Bergh and Rob Cross as well? And the playing field has never looked more balanced. Quite simply, there can be no overwhelming favourites at the World Championship as things stand purely because of how strong the current crop of darting talent is nowadays.


As Nathan Aspinall lifted the Phil Taylor trophy high last Sunday night, it was once again a reminder that the sport of darts has undergone a mini renaissance: long gone are the days where if it wasn’t Phil Taylor winning a major, then it was likely Van Barneveld or a slim chance someone like James Wade.


Nowadays, every major is truly up for grabs, including the World Championship, Players Championship Finals, and the European Championship. And it’s never been a more exciting, intriguing time to be a darts fan. 


Image Credit: Vuvar1 at the English-language Wikipedia

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