Michael Smith last night checked out 128 to smash Phil Taylor’s hope of retaining his world title. The rest of the tournament breathed a collective sigh of relief. The Power was the hot favourite with the bookies, and with all the likely suitors to the thrown remaining on the bottom half of the draw, a host of players on the top half will fancy their chances of a run to the final. Brian Barry features the main contenders to reach the decider.
Simon Whitlock: The standout candidate to win out the half. The Australian hasn’t pushed on since 2010 World Championships, the first season he joined the PDC, when he lost to Taylor 7-3. Without doubt, he is the best finisher in the game. The Wizard has had an ordinary 2013, after Raymond Van Barneveld annihilated him 5-1 in the quarter-final in last year’s tournament. Reaching the final of the European Championship, where he lost to Adrian Lewis, was the highlight of Whitlock’s year. He will be looking to put 2013 behind him emphatically on the first day of 2014.
Peter Wright: The eccentric Scotsman will fancy his chances against Smith to claim his place in the quarter-final. He has gone through the first two rounds with an average of 98. He disposed of Per Laursen impressively last night, and will be confident of going further than his World Championship personal best, when he was knocked out in the round of 16 in 2011. A win against Smith is realistic, but from there it gets more difficult.
Robert Thornton: The 2012 UK Open Champion is another who will be optimistic this year. He was delighted, presumably, to watch Beau Anderson see off Colin Lloyd, as it makes his second round task seemingly easier. Should he come over the Australian, he will face the winner of Wes Newton and John Part. His experience in the Premier League will stand to him, and the 9th seed will be confident of winning his quarter.
Wes Newton: Newton, the 8th Seed, has never got past the last 8 at the Ally Pally. He has to get past three time World Champion John Part, before more than likely meeting Thornton in the next round. Like Thornton, he will have self-belief. The winner of that tie may go far.
Andy Hamilton: He profited from Taylor’s early exit two years ago to slip into the final, before coming up short against Adrian Lewis. He can’t be ruled out, but a repeat of 2011 looks unlikely for The Hammer.
Kim Huybrechts: He overcame his brother, Ronny, in the opening round, but looked far from his best. He is fancied, but is up against it with a tough draw.
Michael Smith: The World Youth Champion shocked the world last night. Having beaten Taylor, he will fear nobody. Can he push on and beat Wright?
John Part: The fact that he is a 3 time world champion means he cannot be written off. Wes Newton would write him off at his peril.
Verdict: Whitlock to emerge from the dog-fight.
Pundit Arena, Brian Barry.
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