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5 Biggest World Matchplay UPSETS

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The World Matchplay is one of the most loved darts tournaments by players and fans alike. 

Set across several days at The Winter Gardens in Blackpool, the World Matchplay is one of the Triple Crown tournaments in darts so over the years we’ve seen some of the greatest darts moments take place. 

Phil Taylor has won the tournament an astonishing 16 times. For perspective, there have only been 30 tournaments meaning Phil Taylor has won 53.3% of them. 

There are only 4 other players who have APPEARED in as many World Matchplays as Taylor has WON and the next closest winner is Michael Van Gerwen, on 3 wins…

As you can see, over the years it was a strange scenario, flip a coin and either Taylor wins or someone else does. 

Therefore, we want to take a look back on some of the biggest upsets that have taken place at the World Matchplay. 

With Taylor winning so often it got a bit monotonous, so, let’s look at the moments when the unexpected happened in an otherwise predictable tournament:

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The Biggest Upsets in World Matchplay History

5. Gerwyn Price vs. Adrian Lewis (2015 World Matchplay Second Round)

In his second year as a professional player, Gerwyn Price started the year ranked 59 in the PDC Order of Merit.

Some quarter-final runs on the ProTour earned Price qualification to the World Matchplay for the first time. 

He defeated Michael Smith 10-4 in the first round but this was not the upset. 

In the second round, Price beat fourth seed Adrian Lewis (who was still a force in darts at that time) 13-10 to secure him a position in his first Major quarter-final. 

He would lose this match 16-7 to Peter Wright but as an unseeded player, the win against Lewis was big for him. 

In one of darts biggest tournaments, we can look back on this moment as one of the first signs of Price going on to become one of the best players of the modern era. 

4. Brendan Dolan vs. Michael van Gerwen (2023 World Matchplay First Round)

Brendan Dolan is a very solid darts player so it might be hard to see this matchup as a ‘shock’ or ‘upset’ but it definitely is with some context. 

Michael van Gerwen was the defending Matchplay champion and coming into this tournament he’d won the Premier League and several televised championships. 

To say MVG was a heavy favourite for this matchup would be an understatement. Dolan was second least likely to win the tournament out of the 32 participants.

When Dolan raced off to a 3-0 lead though, you could sense it wasn’t looking good for the Dutchman. 

Despite registering a higher average of 98.98, MVG couldn’t get ahead of Dolan and would lose 10-7 in what was one of the biggest upsets at the World Matchplay that we’ve seen in years. 

3. Larry Butler vs. Dennis Priestley (1994 World Matchplay Final)

Larry Butler was the first ever winner of the World Matchplay in 1994 as he defeated Dennis Priestley 16-12 in the final. 

If you’re not familiar with the 90’s era of darts, Dennis ‘The Menace’ Priestley was an elite player.

He beat Eric Bristow to win the 1991 BDO World Championship and beat Phil Taylor to win the 1994 PDC World Championship. 

Were it not for Phil Taylor becoming a dominant player in the game, Priestley could have added even more accolades to his respectable trophy cabinet. 

For the eagle eyed among you, Priestley was the reigning World Champion coming into the World Matchplay and reaching the final against Larry Butler (an unknown newcomer from the USA at the time) seemed like a sure thing. 

Evidently not though as Butler went on to create one of the biggest upsets the World Matchplay has ever witnessed. 

This was the only Major title of Larry Butler’s career and no one saw this victory coming as Butler also beat Jocky Wilson on route to the final.

2. Peter Evison vs. Phil Taylor (1996 World Matchplay Second Round)

Yes, as we’ve covered Phil Taylor has absolutely dominated this tournament like no other. 

When you were drawn against Taylor in the bracket, you knew your odds of winning had immediately gone down with bookmakers. 

Therefore, anytime Taylor lost it was an upset. In 1996, however, this was a genuine upset. 

Taylor was the defending champion and top seed. 

Peter Evison was a solid player but unseeded going into the tournament so a second round draw (after beating 1994 winner Larry Butler) against Taylor was not looking promising. 

Evison more than rose to the occasion though completely annihilating Taylor 8-1 and registering a 103.77 average which was unusually high for that time. 

We don’t have time to go through Taylors 2,104 recorded matches to see his heaviest career defeats but as a defending champion and tournament favourite, this has to be close to the top!

Evison went on to win the tournament beating Dennis Priestley 16-14 in the final with another impressive 100.51 average. 

Side note – this is the second time we’ve mentioned Priestley finishing runner-up in this tournament. We mentioned how solid he was in the 90’s but my word he was unfortunate.

Just look at his PDC tournament run during that decade. 

Dennis Priestley PDC Finals
Image: Wikipedia

1. Jeffrey de Zwaan vs. Michael Van Gerwen (2018 World Matchplay First Round)

Michael Van Gerwen was the World No 1 and top seed coming into the 2018 World Matchplay, Jeffrey de Zwaan was into his 3rd year as a pro and had never been past the second round in a Major tournament. 

The script was written, an easy MVG win to kick off the tournament. 

Well, that’s what was SUPPOSED to happen…

Jeffrey de Zwaan stunned everyone, including MVG, by winning 10-6 and progressing instead of the favourite. 

This was a stunning upset but it didn’t end there.

De Zwaan went on to beat Adrian Lewis 11-9 and Dave Chisnall 16-8 (registering an impressive 103.22) to set up a semi-final tie against Gary Anderson. 

Unfortunately he would lose 17-12 to the Scotsman but this was one upset after another from the Dutchman and this tournament was the highest placing of his professional career. 

MVG was shocking enough but to then also eliminate Lewis and Chisnall is the biggest upset we’ve seen in the tournament and also one of the best runs from an underdog we’ve seen in darts!

There we have it, one of the best tournaments on the darting calendar and there have for sure been some upsets during that time. 

We thought it would be hard to find the upsets with Taylor just hoovering up the trophy most years, not really leaving much room for the underdog story. 

Fortunately though there have been some great upsets and hopefully many more to come! 

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Did we miss any from the list? Let us know what you thought of the list in the comments below 👇

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