As the countdown to the 2021 Betfred World Matchplay continues, darts stats supremo Richard Ashdown takes a look at four historical trends of the summer's biggest tournament...
Aside from Larry Butler winning the inaugural staging of the event, Dimitri Van den Bergh is the only player to claim the World Matchplay title on debut.
Van den Bergh will be making his Winter Gardens debut this year, having won the 2020 event at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes on his first attempt.
There, the Belgian became the first debutant to win the World Matchplay since USA's Butler defeated Dennis Priestley in 1994.
Since then, only three other players had ever reached the final on debut prior to Van den Bergh.
Debutants reaching the final:
1994 - Larry Butler 16-12 Dennis Priestley
1998 - Rod Harrington 19-17 Ronnie Baxter
2003 - Phil Taylor 18-12 Wayne Mardle
2006 - Phil Taylor 18-11 James Wade
2020 - Dimitri Van den Bergh 18-10 Gary Anderson
Seven players hoping to join that roll of honour are making their World Matchplay debuts in 2021: Dirk van Duijvenbode, Damon Heta, Luke Humphries, Devon Petersen, Callan Rydz, Ryan Searle & Ross Smith.
In 2020, Glen Durrant became only the third player to reach the World Matchplay semi-finals in each of his first two years, joining Dennis Priestley and James Wade who both reached the final in each of their first three years.
Debutants reaching consecutive semi-finals:
Dennis Priestley - 1994 Runner Up, 1995 Runner Up, 1996 Runner Up
James Wade - 2006 Runner Up, 2007 Champion, 2008 Runner up
Glen Durrant - 2019 Semi Final, 2020 Semi Final
2. REIGNING CHAMPIONS
Dimitri Van den Bergh begins his World Matchplay defence against South Africa's Devon Petersen on Saturday evening.
The reigning champion has only ever lost in the first round twice before - Colin Lloyd fell at the first hurdle in 2006 and Rob Cross lost in the round one last year.
Matchplay champions to lose in the first round:
2006 - Steve Maish 10-6 Colin Lloyd
2020 - Gabriel Clemens 10-8 Rob Cross
Dimitri Van den Bergh hopes to become the fourth player to successfully retain the World Matchplay title. Rod Harrington was the first to do so in 1999 and Michael van Gerwen the last in 2016. 16-time World Matchplay champion Phil Taylor remarkably defended his crown on 10 occasions.
Successful World Matchplay defences:
Rod Harrington (1998-1999)
Phil Taylor (2000-2001-2002-2003-2004)
Phil Taylor (2008-2009-2010-2011-2012-2013-2014)
Michael van Gerwen (2015-2016)
3. WORLD CHAMPIONS
In the 27 years that the PDC World Championship and World Matchplay have been played since 1994, Phil Taylor is the only player to have won both titles in the same calendar year and did so on ten occasions.
Both World Champion and World Matchplay Champion:
Phil Taylor (1995/1997/2000/2001/2002/2004/2006/2009/2010/2013)
As reigning World Champions, only Dennis Priestley (1994) and Michael van Gerwen (2014) have also reached the World Matchplay final in the same year.
In each of the last three years, the reigning World Champion has lost in the second round of the World Matchplay.
World Champion's early exits at the World Matchplay:
1996 (R2) - Peter Evison 8-1 Phil Taylor
2003 (R2) - Wayne Mardle 16-14 John Part
2008 (R2) - Alan Tabern 13-7 John Part
2015 (R2) - Mensur Suljovic 13-9 Gary Anderson
2018 (R2) - Darren Webster 11-8 Rob Cross
2019 (R2) - Glen Durrant 13-11 Michael van Gerwen
2020 (R2) - Glen Durrant 11-8 Peter Wright
The closest a reigning World Champion has been to a first round exit was in 2011. Adrian Lewis trailed 9-6 in the first round to Kevin Painter and survived six match darts before winning 14-12.
Gerwyn Price will be hoping the trend continues in that the reigning World Champion has never lost in the first round of the World Matchplay!
4. NUMBER ONE SEED
The opening night of the 2021 World Matchplay sees the World Champion and world number one Gerwyn Price take to the Blackpool stage.
The number one seed has previously lifted the trophy 16 times in 27 years, but not since Michael van Gerwen in 2016.
No.1 Seeds to win the World Matchplay:
Phil Taylor (1997/2000/2002/2003/2006/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013)
Rod Harrington (1998/1999)
Colin Lloyd (2005)
Michael van Gerwen (2015/2016)
Price becomes the eighth player to arrive in Blackpool as the world number one, with Dennis Priestley (1994), Peter Manley (2001) and John Part (2004) having also been top seeds.
Price ended Van Gerwen's seven-year run at the head of the rankings (2014-2020). Since winning the title in 2016, Van Gerwen has failed to go beyond the quarter-finals, losing out to: Phil Taylor (2017 QF 16-6), Jeffrey de Zwaan (2018 R1 10-6), Glen Durrant (2019 R2 13-11) and Simon Whitlock (2020 R2 11-4).
Van Gerwen is one of three players to have lost their opening match at the Winter Gardens as world number one.
No.1 seeds to lose in the first round:
1995 - Jocky Wilson 8-4 Rod Harrington
2001 - Steve Beaton 10-8 Peter Manley
2018 - Jeffrey de Zwaan 10-6 Michael van Gerwen
The 2021 Betfred World Matchplay will see 32 of the world's best players competing across nine days from July 17-25 for £700,000 in prize money and the Phil Taylor Trophy.
A limited number of tickets remain available for some sessions of the Betfred World Matchplay - click here for full ticket information.
The tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK, on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers and through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and RTL7.