By Rob White
Whilst for many, Christmas starts on December 1, for darts fanatics, it all commences on the first day of the World Championships which lands on December 15 this year. Despite the limited crowd of just 1,000 at the Alexandra Palace and the banning of fancy dress and football chants because of COVID-19, it is still undoubtedly the pinnacle of the darts season and there is no exception this time around.
The remarkable depth in the standard of darts is the strength of this year’s World Championships and as a result there are many potential winners.
Of course, the favourite to take the crown is three times champion Michael van Gerwen, although not everything has been rosy for the world number 1 this year. After being defeated in last year’s World Championship Final by Peter Wright, MVG has struggled to find consistency and has found himself unable to reach his incredibly high standards of previous seasons, winning just two televised events.
However, Mighty Mike still remains the man to beat, with the bookies placing him as a hot favourite at around 5/2 and for good reason — it would be foolish to write the Dutchman off after his impressive victory at the Players Championship, the most recent ranking event.
Seeking to win his second successive World Championship is Peter Wright, but the Scotsman has been out of form in the last couple of months. After winning the European Championships in early November, Wright pulled out of the World Cup of Darts with partner Gary Anderson due to COVID-19.
He has since struggled to find form, being dumped out of the Grand Slam of Darts in the group stage and failing to impress at the Players Championship. That being said, Snakebite has both the ability and experience to reverse his recent struggles, but the second seed will need to use both to have any hope of retaining his title.
Third seed Gerwyn Price is looking to win his first World Championship and could well do so given his strong form. After a win at the Grand Prix and victory in the World Cup of Darts with Welsh partner Jonny Clayton earlier this season, the Iceman has clearly shown himself to be a competitor and is fully capable of winning the worlds.
This explains why he has snuck ahead of Peter Wright in the odds going into the event, the bookmakers highlighting his great form in a season which has been his strongest since joining the PDC. If victorious, Price will make history by becoming the first Welshman to win the PDC World Championships and with the way he is currently playing, this could definitely be on the cards.
Whilst there is a whole host of other key names to look out for this year, such as Nathan Aspinall, Michael Smith, Glen Durrant, Jose de Sousa, James Wade, and, of course two-time world champion Gary Anderson, amongst many others, my tip for the tournament is Dimitri Van den Bergh.
Currently hovering around the 20/1 mark to win the event, the former youth champion is playing some exceptional darts and having won the World Matchplay in the summer and impressing at the more recent Grand Slam of Darts, the ‘Dream Maker’ is easily capable of becoming World Champion.
His unexpected rise into the top ten of the Order of Merit underlines just how much of a threat he is going into the worlds this time around, which is why the Belgian is my tip for the tournament.
Aside from potential winners, unfortunately, Queen of the Palace Fallon Sherrock failed to qualify for the event this time around. However, this means that the two women hoping to further Sherrock’s feat from last year and break more barriers are Lisa Ashton and Deta Hedman. Both qualified from the PDC’s Women’s Series and Ashton, in particular, is hoping to emulate and improve on Sherrock’s performance from last year.
In addition, former BDO World Champion Steve Beaton will be playing in his 30th consecutive World Championship, breaking the record he currently jointly holds with Phil Taylor. Having made his debut in 1992 against Chris Johns, this year the Bronzed Adonis will face Brazilian Diogo Portela, before a potential second-round tie with Premier League champion Glen Durrant.
It’s all set to be an exciting tournament and we could easily see a maiden triumph at the Ally Pally. With a prize pot of £2,500,000, Premier League places up for grabs and a chance to create more darting history, the million-dollar question remains — who will be lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy come January 3?
Image: TWsk via Creative Commons.