Our darts expert James Hubbard has picked out four players of interest for this year's PDC World Darts Championship.
The PDC World Darts Championship is one of the sporting highlights of the year. With much anticipation for fans all over the world, it has become a huge spectacle not just for the fans but also for the players themselves. This is the event each and every player wants to win, with high-pressure matches from the very start. The big difference in this year's event is the reintroduction of the full crowds.
Although players have been fortunate enough to perform in front of full crowds once again this season, there's nothing quite like a full ally pally cauldron of an atmosphere. This will almost certainly affect some players, negatively and positively, but what I like about crowds being back is that it will always produce some shock results and memorable moments.
How will ‘The Iceman’ Gerwyn Price handle defending his World Championship crown? Will he be one of a select few to win back to back? Will a previous champion rubber stamp his name once again in history? Or will there be a new name on the famous Sid Waddell trophy? Here is my personal preview of this fantastic event.
The Machine is one of the game's elite and has been for over 20 years. He's been consistently inside the top 16 in the world for the majority of his career within the PDC. Although I feel he has certainly underachieved results wise in the World Championships I firmly believe he will win the big one soon, certainly before he retires. He's going into this event in reasonable form, he's looked pretty solid all year in the Players Championship floor events and in the TV Majors. The format of set play without a doubt plays into Wade's hands. He can certainly sometimes be perceived as losing concentration or look as though he's throwing away darts at times but that's simply because he always looks towards the next leg if he can see a leg getting away from him.
This is why set play is perfect for his mindset towards the game because in leg play he can sometimes find himself a few legs back doing that, whereas in set play the legs are reset again after each set. He's very efficient at taking away a game extremely quickly from his opponent with outstanding levels of 2 and 3 dart checkouts, which is why I feel as though he will win his Quarter at this year's World Championship. He has been handed a very favourable draw in the 2nd quarter. It's certainly in my opinion the ‘easier’ quarter out of the four in the tournament. He still has fantastic players to negotiate his way past, like Dimitri Van Den Bergh and Krzystof Ratajski but with his seeding of 4 going into this event he finds himself on the opposite half of the draw to Michael Van Gerwen and Peter Wright and will not play Gerwyn Price until the semi-final, should they both make it that far.
The Ferret has had a magnificent last 2 years on tour where he has now firmly established himself as one of the games elite competitors. He is going into this year's World Championship on the back of an extraordinary year. He has won two Players Championship floor events and an amazing four major TV titles including a huge win at this year’s Premier League which undoubtedly is his biggest career win to date.
He is seeded 8 in this year’s World Championships which sees him drawn in the same quarter as his welsh compatriot and World Cup winning partner Gerwyn Price. However, I don't think that will bother Jonny one bit. He's playing some wonderful stuff right now and just lately has beaten Price on a number of occasions in high profile TV tournaments. Michael Smith could be a danger in his quarter also, he's been playing some very tidy darts both on the floor and on TV in the last few months so Jonny will have to negotiate his way past ‘Bully Boy’ before he looks ahead to the possibility of a big showdown with the defending World Champion Gerwyn Price. He's also in the opposite half to big names in Michael Van Gerwen and Peter Wright, so wouldn't have to worry about playing those until the final.
Although Clayton doesn't have the best track record at the world championships, failing to make it past the last 32 stage on his previous three attempts and will no doubt be a little concerned with the potential of playing a rising star Keane Barry in his first game. Overall however I think he's a much better player now and will be without a doubt looking to make better progress in this year's campaign. With certainly being in the favourable half of the draw I firmly believe that Jonny Clayton will have a big say in this year's World Championship and has all the tools to potentially go all the way and win the big one for the first time in his career.
Heavy Metal may not be someone who you’d expect me to talk about, especially as he seems to be in a tough quarter and an especially tough half of the draw. After saying that however, Searle is coming into this year's World Championship in cracking form. Coming off the back of a runners up place in the Players Championship finals, narrowly losing out 11-10 to Peter Wright. He's consistently been a huge problem for the top players to overcome, which is a credit to the way he plays. Gritty, determined and continually seems to go under the radar at not only televised majors but also on the floor events where he notched up another Players Championship floor event title this season, the second of his career.
All in all, this has meant that Searle has risen to a career high ranking of 15 on the PDC order of merit. He faces a tough task however to win his quarter of the draw with big names ahead of him but his relaxed approach to the game will almost certainly give him a big chance of progressing forward. I'm almost certain that a lot of players don't particularly want to be playing Heavy Metal right now, which will definitely work in his favour.
Mighty Mike needs no introduction, a multiple winner of events all over the world, a world-class operator who still consistently takes darts to a new level. He's coming into this year's world championship on the back of a dry spell, for the first time in 9 years he doesn't hold a major televised title. But don't let that statistic fool you in the way he's been playing. He's still had a magnificent year, average wise, in the games he loses, he very rarely averages under a 100 and it takes a mammoth effort to defeat him. He's really starting to reproduce his best form and if he takes the positives out of this season I really feel he can go all the way and win a magnificent fourth World Title. Michael has been drawn in the 4th quarter of the draw where there are huge names galore, Adrian Lewis, Gary Anderson, Rob Cross and his great dutch rival Raymond Van Barneveld just to name a few.
All eyes will be on Mighty Mike as they are in every tournament he plays in. The crowd are back also which will only benefit him as he always thrives off the atmosphere of big-time darts, especially at ally pally. I think the world is ready for another Van Gerwen masterclass and I feel he's ready also. For that reason, I think he will win this year's World Championship, especially if he negotiates through such a tough quarter and half of the draw.
Michael Van Gerwen to win the World Championships: 9/2 (Betfair)
Steven is an experienced iGaming content writer who has been working in the industry since 2018. He is passionate about sports betting and enjoys writing about all aspects of the industry, including bookmaker reviews, betting tips and strategies, and news and analysis. If you have any questions about online gambling in the UK, please don't hesitate to contact him.