Cross starts Matchplay defence against Clemens

All four previous champions in the field are in the top half of the draw, nine days of live coverage from Milton Keynes get underway on Sky Sports on Saturday, July 18

By Paul Prenderville

Last Updated: 12/07/20 8:45pm

Rob Cross beat Michael Smith in last year's final

Rob Cross beat Michael Smith in last year's final

Rob Cross beat Michael Smith in last year’s final

Rob Cross will begin the defence of his World Matchplay title against Germany’s Gabriel Clemens while world champion Peter Wright starts his bid for the Phil Taylor Trophy against Jose De Sousa.

Voltage beat Michael Smith in Blackpool last year, and for the first time in its history the Matchplay will not be at the iconic Winter Gardens.

The coronavirus pandemic means the event will be held behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, where Cross will hope to become only the fourth man to retain the title.

Rod Harrington, Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen are the only men to have claimed the prestigious title in consecutive years, The Power memorably winning seven in a role.

Wright was beaten by Daryl Gurney in last year's quarter-finals Wright was beaten by Daryl Gurney in last year's quarter-finals

Wright was beaten by Daryl Gurney in last year’s quarter-finals

Cross may face a repeat of his final with Smith this year, but in the last eight, after the pair were drawn in the top half alongside world No 1 Van Gerwen.

MVG reached three consecutive finals between 2014 and 2016 but has crashed out in the first and second round in each of the last two years.

The Dutchman has been handed a favourable draw with Brendan Dolan his first-round opponent before a second-round match against either Simon Whitlock or Justin Pipe.

Former champions Gary Anderson and James Wade are also in a stacked top half of the draw and could meet in the second round if they overcome Justin Pipe and Keegan Brown respectively.

Van Gerwen was eliminated by Glen Durrant in round two of last year's Matchplay Van Gerwen was eliminated by Glen Durrant in round two of last year's Matchplay

Van Gerwen was eliminated by Glen Durrant in round two of last year’s Matchplay

Snakebite memorably claimed his first world title at Alexandra Palace on New Year’s Day and he is in an open looking bottom half.

De Sousa is a dangerous first-round opponent, while three-time BDO world champion Glen Durrant lurks in the second round if he can come through against 2018 semi-finalist Jeffrey de Zwaan.

Daryl Gurney and Gerwyn Price are also in the bottom half of the draw, while world no 6 and Home Tour champion Nathan Aspinall faces debutant Dimitri Van den Bergh in the first round.

2020 World Matchplay Draw – First Round

Top Half:

(1) Michael van Gerwen v Brendan Dolan
(16) Simon Whitlock v Ryan Joyce
(8) Gary Anderson v Justin Pipe
(9) James Wade v Keegan Brown
(4) Rob Cross v Gabriel Clemens
(13) Krzysztof Ratajski v Jermaine Wattimena
(5) Michael Smith v Jonny Clayton
(12) Mensur Suljovic v Jamie Hughes

Bottom half:

(2) Peter Wright v Jose De Sousa
(15) Glen Durrant v Jeffrey de Zwaan
(7) Daryl Gurney v Ricky Evans
(10) Dave Chisnall v Vincent van der Voort
(3) Gerwyn Price v Danny Noppert
(14) Adrian Lewis v Steve Beaton
(6) Nathan Aspinall v Dimitri Van den Bergh
(11) Ian White v Joe Cullen

Darts is back on Sky Sports in July, with nine days of coverage from the World Matchplay getting underway on Saturday, July 18, and every day until the final on Sunday, July 26.

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