It has been an incredible year in the world of darts and Paul Higham looks ahead to the PDC World Darts Championship, a festive staple.
Nothing says Christmas like the World Darts Championship, and with the fans back at Alexandra Palace and a wide-open tournament ahead then this could be one of the most dramatic and exciting renewals in years.
Defending champion Gerwyn Price and three-time winner Michael van Gerwen are the 4/1 joint-favourites to win the Sid Waddell Trophy and pocket the £500,000 first prize in the blue riband event in the world of darts.
Along with 2020 champion Peter Wright and this season’s in-form player Jonny Clayton, the current ‘big four’ in darts are set apart from the rest of the field with most believing only one of these big guns can win it.
However, as always, there are a host of players who will fancy their chances of springing an upset and all of the favourites have some negatives acting against them.
That’s what makes this tournament so exciting!
Who are the main contenders?
Gerwyn Price – 4/1
There are not many who will argue against ‘The Iceman’ is the best player in the world, as he showed when coming through two deciding leg shootouts last year to eventually lift the trophy.
Winning the Grand Slam last month showed he’s still in great form and he’ll fear nobody, but he’s got a tough enough quarter and a big question mark will be how the fans react to him as he’s regularly booed at the big events and hasn’t been shy at hitting back at the punters either.
He won behind closed doors last year but if the crowd gets on his back early it’ll make it tough even for someone with a mentality as strong as his.
Michael van Gerwen – 4/1
The three-time winner looked to be the new Phil Taylor at one point but he’s not quite managed to keep up that dominant streak. He’s not won a big title this year but made four semi-finals and a final so the scoring and consistency is there.
The worry is he gets caught cold in the early rounds, but over the longer matches, it’s tough to beat a man who has recorded a 100+ average in 33 matches at Ally Pally including the record average at the event of just over 114.
He may not reach those heights but it won’t take much for Mighty Mike to get on a roll and bring that fear factor back
Peter Wright – 6/1
Despite getting older, ‘Snakebite’ shows no signs of slowing down and although he’s had some mixed results he’s still one of the best big-game players on the circuit.
He won the prestigious World Matchplay in the summer, then after a slight slump made the Grand Slam final and won the Players Championship – the two most recent big events – to show he’s peaking at the right time. That spells danger.
Jonny Clayton – 7/1
He’s ranked eighth in the world but in the top four of the betting as one of darts’ big four after a stellar year that saw him win six tournaments – with four of them big events including the Premier League.
Some of his biggest wins were in non-ranking events though and he’s been unlucky enough to be dropped into Price’s quarter. ‘The Ferret’ beat his fellow Welshman 5-1 in the Grand Prix final though so he’ll not be fazed if the two do make it to their expected massive last-eight showdown.
Can anyone outside the big four win it?
It’s easy to write off James Wade (40/1) due to his relatively poor record in this but ‘The Machine’ has won everything else in the game – and claimed his 10th PDC major by winning the UK Open this year.
His experience in the sets format could be key, he set his career-best average only last month at the Grand Slam, plus he’s in an open quarter of the draw as the top seed in that section. 40/1 is a big price.
Dimitri van den Bergh (14/1) is the ‘best of the rest’ in the betting and may represent some value as he’s got the pedigree, having won the World Matchplay, and the form, with two quarter-finals in four years here. He also loves the big stage and can dance his way deep into the tournament.
Rob Cross (28/1) has to be respected as a former world champion who is heading back to form, while Nathan Aspinall (28/1) has reached the semis in two of the last three years and tournament form is more important here than in any other event on the circuit. He’s 5/1 to win his quarter, which will involve beating Wright.
At bigger prices, Chris Dobey isn’t the worst 80/1 shot you’ll ever back – he’s that price as he’ll play MVG in the third round but over seven sets he’ll be a real danger and could catch the Dutchman cold.
66/1 shot Joe Cullen finally had a decent run at the world’s last year after a decade of underachievement when beating Jonny Clayton and almost beating Van Gerwen, he’s had a decent year and is at least worth a look at winning his quarter at 7/1.
Will we see a nine-darter?
It’s the Holy Grail for a darts player, and the perfect legs have been becoming more regular over the last decade or so since Raymond van Barneveld hit the first two in competition history in 2009 and 2010.
Adrian Lewis famously produced the first of his two nine-darters in the 2011 final – which remains the only perfect leg to have been hit in the world final.
We had two being hit in both 2013 and 2014 before one more in 2015 and 2016 made it four years running and seven tournaments in eight years with a nine-darter.
A five-year gap without a nine-darter was ended last year by James Wade and this year we had 39 nine-darters on the PDC Tour, which represents the second-most behind the record 47 hit in 2019.
It’s 4/5 for a nine-darter to be hit in the tournament and given the amount that have been bagged this season, by a lot of the contenders here, plus the extra boost of having the fans back in attendance, then it feels like the perfect conditions for more history to be made.
Reeling in the Big Fish
The 170 checkout is the biggest finish you can do, and it’s a regular occurrence these days as all these players are now just so good.
It’s now not such a big thing as players regularly check out on the biggest finish possible, and we had seven last year including two from Dirk van Duijvenbode.
Incredibly, Michael van Gerwen hit a 170 checkout in six straight years until his run ended last season, but if he goes deep again this year you can almost bank on him landing yet another ‘Big Fish’.