With Christmas time fast approaching, dreams of presents and mistletoe are far from the minds of the elite of world darts. A date at ‘The Ally Pally’ in London for the final of the PDC World Championship will have been playing on their minds ever since the Adrian Lewis threw in the last double 20 of the 2012 showpiece. With Phil Taylor obligatorily the hot favourite and his apprentice Adrian Lewis returning in pursuit of a third title in a row, a Dutch revolution and renaissance in the form of Michael Van Gerwen and Raymond Van Barneveld respectively, along with a host of other household names threaten the Stoke-On-Trent dominance of the last four years.
The Power is going back to London having not won a World Championship in three whole years; a drought where this man is concerned. The 15 time champion can feel that he did not acquit himself well in last year’s event, losing 4-1 in the round of 32 to Dave Chisnall. That night, it was believed that we were witnessing the beginning of the end for the greatest of all time, who claimed afterwards “I’m going to do another two or three years and then I’m going to retire.” Whatever doubts which were read from that statement were quickly extinguished as he raced to his sixth Premier League title over the following months. The Power is back and raring to go. He is priced further out than in previous years by the bookies, but he still has the hunger and the bite, and you wouldn’t bet against him to return for an unprecedented sixteenth title. He’s warming up nicely too with a victory at The Players Championship. Underestimate him at your peril.
We have witnessed numerous false rebirths from Barney since his epic triumph in 2007, but the manner in which he swept away the field to capture the Grand Slam earlier this month suggests that the Dutch master may finally be back to his best. He faces a tricky draw however; in line to face Brendan Dolan in the second round, against whom he famously hit a 9-dart finish in the 2011 World Championship. Should he win that he will most likely to be up against Scotsman Gary Anderson. However, there is a school of thought that this could favour the Dutchman. Being up against top opponents will bring out the best in him, throwing him in the deep end straight away, forcing him to produce those ton-plus averages that we have grown to be accustomed to in London at Christmas. He showed this month that he still has what it takes to mix it with the best, and 5 time champion of the world is not here to make up the numbers. 12/1 looks an attractive price for Van Barneveld to go all the way.
Michael Van Gerwen is the talk of darts at present. The Dutch wonder-kid has flattered to deceive since he burst onto the scene when, at just 17, he became the youngest player to ever win a major televised tournament. Making the switch to the PDC in 2007, much was expected of the youngster but he has ultimately failed to live up to his billing up to last year. Cue 2012. A first major win at the Grand Prix in Dublin followed by a runner-up spot at the Grand Slam ensures that he travels to London as a close second favourite to lift the Sid Waddell Trophy. Having never progressed further than the last 16, ‘Mighty Mike’ will be up against it facing some of the more senior players at The Alexandra Palace, but the experience of playing on the big stage on finals night in 2010 and 2011, having competed in the Youth Final, will stand to him as the pressure heats up and the tournament progresses.
Going into a World Championship seeking a third consecutive title but rated at 10/1 is a strange position to find yourself in. Few fancy Adrian Lewis to go all the way again this year. With Van Gerwen in his quarter of the draw, ‘Jackpot’ will need to find and hit form quickly and start nailing those 180s, which have made him such a formidable opponent, right from the off. Since his disposal of Andy Hamilton in the 2012 showpiece, it has not been the kindest year to Lewis; a sixth place finish in the Premier League was only bettered by a victory at a minor European Tour event, the German Darts Masters, in September. A quarter-final in the World Matchplay and an exit at the group-stages of the Grand Slam sums up his year as a whole. But the Stoke-On-Trent man remains second in the world going into the tournament. He has done it before on the biggest stage, and that experience is priceless at the top table of darts.
The beauty of the Alexandra Palace is that form often goes out the window. As we witnessed last year with The Hammer marching all the way to the final. It would take a brave man to predict that this tournament will go to form, with big guns such as Gary Anderson and Simon Whitlock waiting in the wings to pounce. A final appearance still eludes third seed James Wade, who will give it another crack this year. The Machine should face former champion Steve Beaton in the second round, which again highlights that there is no such thing as a easy draw. The tournament is littered with potential dark-horses who can all mix it with the best on their day. Mark Webster is to one be wary of, among a host of others who have done it at this level in the past. Gazing through the odds at this stage, there is surely one or two who are at an excellent price for an each-way punt.
Christmas would not be Christmas without the PDC World Championship. Those competing look to ensure that they still have an interest in the competition after the Christmas break as things begin to get serious. Expect thrills while watching what promises to be the highest standard tournament ever seen, and you might not bet against seeing a 9-darter at some stage either. Enjoy.
SPORT IS EVERYTHING. Brian Barry.
Brian Barry is a University College Cork student and also writes for vavel.com. He is a key member of the SportIsEverything team and is a n extremely talented sports journalist. His sporting knowledge extends to many sports and this is reflected in his works. You can follow him on Twitter via @briangbarry or even send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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