Competitive darts returns with the launch of the PDC Summer Series next Wednesday, as the race for World Matchplay qualification reaches an exciting climax.
Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena will host five successive Players Championship events from July 8-12 – the first ranking competitions since Ian White claimed Players Championship 8 glory on March 15.
- World Matchplay set for Milton Keynes
- Darts returns – all you need to know
The Summer Series also presents players with their final opportunity to secure their spot at the World Matchplay, which will be held from July 18-26 as originally scheduled.
However, for the first time since its inception, the prestigious event will not be held at the iconic Winter Gardens in Blackpool, and it will instead go ahead behind closed doors in Milton Keynes.
The original cut-off date for qualification prior to the enforced break was July 5, although that has been amended to July 12 to give players the chance to impact their destiny.
The PDC also announced that prize money due to drop off between March 15 and July 8 has been removed from both the PDC and Pro Tour Order of Merits, which has resulted in some alterations to the provisional 32-player Matchplay line-up.
The world’s top five remains unchanged, but recently crowned Home Tour champion Nathan Aspinall has leapfrogged Daryl Gurney to reach a career-high of sixth in the world.
Gary Anderson has reclaimed his spot in the world’s top eight at the expense of James Wade, whilst Dave Chisnall has climbed above Ian White to regain his top-10 status.
However, the biggest developments have seen former World Master Krzysztof Ratajski and current Premier League leader Glen Durrant enter the world’s top 16 for the first time, in 15th and 16th place respectively.
If the rankings remain the same, Durrant could take on Van Gerwen in the last 16 of the Matchplay for the second successive year, 12 months on from dethroning ‘Mighty Mike’ in a Winter Gardens epic.
Joe Cullen and Jonny Clayton are the two players to relinquish their places in the top 16, although it should prove immaterial in terms of their Matchplay spots, with the pair virtually assured of qualification via the Pro Tour Order of Merit.
In terms of the 16 Pro Tour qualifiers, four players are provisionally set to make their Matchplay debuts, including enigmatic Portuguese star Jose De Sousa and two-time World Youth champion Dimitri Van den Bergh.
Provisional PDC Order of Merit Qualifiers
Provisional Pro Tour Order of Merit Qualifiers
Germany’s Gabriel Clemens and recent Pro Tour winner Ryan Searle are also in line to make their debuts, with Brendan Dolan, Justin Pipe, Vincent van der Voort and Kim Huybrechts all expected to make their returns.
Despite this, there are several established names struggling to make the cut, including world No 17 Stephen Bunting.
The former BDO world champion is the highest-ranked player set to miss out, as he sits £3,250 adrift of Pro Tour qualification and £14,000 behind Durrant on the Order of Merit.
Former Matchplay semi-finalist Mervyn King could also fail to qualify for the first time since joining the PDC. King has been an ever-present in the event since 2007, but sits £3,750 off the pace in the Pro Tour race.
Premier League challengers John Henderson, Luke Humphries and Chris Dobey are also facing a tough task to qualify, along with German No 1 Max Hopp.
However, Steve Beaton is bidding to make a remarkable 20th consecutive Matchplay appearance, as ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ currently occupies 13th spot on the Pro Tour Order of Merit.
With £75,000 on offer per Pro Tour event, including £10,000 to the winner, it promises to be a fascinating five days in the race for World Matchplay qualification.
Nevertheless, there is an added incentive for all Tour Card holders, with the winner of the PDC Summer Series Order of Merit guaranteed a spot at this year’s Grand Slam of Darts.
Players will be relishing the opportunity to return to some sort of normality in Milton Keynes, with 120 Tour Card holders expected to be in attendance throughout the five days.
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