Here Darts commentator Stuart Pyke takes his own look back at one of the best tournaments in the history of the prestigious World Matchplay

And breathe!

I write this piece sat with World Matchplay Champion Gary Anderson and another Team Unicorn star Michael Smith. We are at Manchester Airport ahead of a marathon journey for the latest adventure on the World Series of Darts.

The journey with these two will be entertaining! The journey that Anderson made at Blackpool was nothing short of sensational.

It is incredible to think he is now 47-years-old but he really does get better with age. Darts’ ‘Triple Crown’ is an exclusive club and not many will get to be members. The Scot joining Michael van Gerwen and Phil Taylor as the only players to win the World Championship, Premier League and World Matchplay.

Year after year, Gary had fallen short at Blackpool. He desperately wanted to add the Matchplay crown to his haul of PDC ‘Major’ titles.....those two World Championships, two Premier League, the Players Championship and of course in March, the UK Open.

But for me, there was always the feeling that this would be Anderson’s year in Blackpool. I said to Wayne Mardle before his 1st Round clash with Stephen Bunting that if he won that match, he would win the event.

Yes, he had some scrapes along the way but he showed courage and determination to battle through. His comeback wins against Bunting and Van Barneveld set the tone.

Then came the epic all Unicorn quarter-final against Joe Cullen. The magical 9 darter, the two Cullen match darts at D18 and D9 and the thrilling tie-break victory. Anderson was at his best as he finally ended the run of rising star and Unicorn stablemate Jeffrey de Zwaan in the semi-finals.

And what more can be said about THE greatest final in the history of the World Matchplay. 40 legs of epic darts against Mensur Suljovic......the punch and counter-punch, the missed doubles, the match looked to be won but it wasn’t, the bounce out of the bull and the cool-as-you-like D10 to claim one of the biggest prizes in the sport.

Suljovic hit him with everything and even outscored Anderson! It didn’t matter. The last two legs of the final was typical Anderson....180s + 140s until his opponent finally wilted.

He was exceptional all week. He deserved his title. For me, he is quite simply one of the greatest darts stars of this or any generation.

And there is a lot more to come. Gary has this laid back persona and he is, but make no mistake when he steps up to the oche it is business. He is a winner and will strive to win more.

It was a special week in many ways for Team Unicorn.

Jeffrey de Zwaan, just 22-yeas-old and emerging as a special talent. He won’t be a one-hit wonder. This kid is the real deal and he will prove that in the coming years. He didn’t even have a tour card until January but his second brilliant win over Van Gerwen in a TV ‘Major’ this year had all the experts purring.

Now already in the world’s top 50, expect ‘The Black Cobra’ to bite hard in the world of darts.

Joe Cullen has been a secret for too long. It was great to see him finally show the world what he is capable of on a big TV stage. He was millimetres away from beating Gary Anderson in that wonderful quarter-final. A case of what might have been but he will be all the better for the experience as he starts life as a top 16 player for the first time.

Michael Smith should have done so much better. He knows and we all know it. After his Shanghai Masters triumph, the Matchplay was his chance to shine but surrendering that 7-1 lead to lose to Dave Chisnall hurt. He will learn and he will come back stronger. I truly believe it won’t be too long before Smith will win his title.

Nine fantastic days + bring on Auckland, Melbourne and Brisbane as the World Series heads Down Under. 

Posted in Unicorn Darts