World Matchplay qualification race set for thrilling conclusion at PDC Super Series 5

This week’s PDC Super Series in Coventry represents the last chance for players to seal World Matchplay qualification, and there are a host of big names still vying to book their place in this summer’s darting showpiece.

The Matchplay will return to its spiritual Winter Gardens home after being staged behind closed doors in Milton Keynes in 2020, with 32 of the world’s best battling it out for the Phil Taylor Trophy from July 17-25, live on Sky Sports.

Former world champions Adrian Lewis, Raymond van Barneveld, Stephen Bunting, Steve Beaton and two-time world finalist Simon Whitlock are among those currently outside the provisional qualification places, with four events remaining before the cut-off.

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Bunting – a semi-finalist at Alexandra Palace in January – reached the semi-finals of Players Championship 14 at Super Series 4 last month, and ‘The Bullet’ trails Madars Razma – who occupies the final qualification spot – by just £500.

Van Barneveld, who marked his return to the sport with a first Pro Tour title in eight years back in March, is eyeing a first Blackpool appearance since 2018, but the legendary Dutchman is currently £5,000 off.

Former semi-finalist Simon Whitlock and 2013 runner-up Lewis are further adrift, while Steve Beaton is faced with the prospect of missing out on Matchplay qualification for the first time in 21 years, unless he enjoys a sensational four days at the Ricoh Arena.

“It is a case of who is going to handle the pressure,” said Colin Lloyd – who produced a spectacular 170 checkout to clinch World Matchplay glory in 2005.

“Will they approach the oche thinking: ‘If I just do this? If I just do that?’ If is the biggest word on the planet. You cannot ‘if’,” he told the Darts Show podcast.

“You just have to go up there and do it. That is easy for me to say now because I am not up there competing anymore, but when you start analysing and thinking about it – just go up and play.

“If you go up and have a really good run – say get to the semi-finals – you’re going to think to yourself: ‘That has done me the world of good, another push tomorrow’.

“The main thing I’ve said so many times before – you can only control what you are doing. You cannot control what players are doing around you. It’s not worth sitting there thinking: ‘If I go one more round I will only be £50 behind him’.

“Don’t think like that, just go up and play. If you get in, fantastic. You are going to have a great summer.

“If you don’t get in, think to yourself: ‘I will take some positives from that, I have done alright, I’ve just missed out, but hopefully I’m in a good position to get in next year’.

There could be as many as eight debutants among the list of Pro Tour qualifiers, with UK Open finalist Luke Humphries, World Grand Prix runner-up Dirk van Duijvenbode and PDC title winners Devon Petersen and Damon Heta all virtually assured of qualification.

“I think the players that are in that 16 non-seeds are probably going to be of the highest standard we have had at the Matchplay,” added Sky Sports Darts commentator Rod Studd.

“They are all really good players. Some are tournament winners, or certainly tournament finalists.”

The jostling for position among the seeded players will also be fascinating. There are 12 PDC major winners among the provisional 16 seeds, which throws up the possibility of some enthralling second-round showdowns.

As it stands, world No 1 Gerwyn Price would be set to take on his compatriot and Premier League champion Jonny Clayton in the last 16 – an eventuality both will be keen to avoid.

“This tournament is going to have really high-quality games all the way through,” Studd continued.

“The last 16 could feature, on the current rankings – Michael Smith against De Sousa, Aspinall against Anderson, Van Gerwen against Gurney, Cullen against Wright, and Price against Jonny Clayton. What’s not to like?”

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

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