Can Price retain his title or will a new King or Queen of the Palace be crowned?
One year ago, Gerwyn Price made history by becoming the first Welsh man to win the PDC Darts World Championship, since its’ introduction in 1994. This time round Price finds himself the World Number 1 and favourite for the tournament. But what are his chances in a tournament that hasn’t produced a successful title defence since Gary Anderson defended his crown in 2016 and has only ever produced five, two or more-time Champions?
Price has landed in the first quarter of the draw, the same section as his fellow countryman, Jonny Clayton. Clayton (who is third favourite at 7/1) has enjoyed an astonishing year on the PDC circuit, picking up the Ladbrokes Masters, Premier League, Grand Prix and the World Series and is undoubtedly the form player this year heading into the Championship. The two met during the final of the Grand Prix with Clayton winning 5-1, however, Price would later get his revenge in the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam, a tournament he would go on to win. As well as the threat of Clayton, Price has Michael Smith, Steven Bunting, Dirk Van Duijvenbode and Fallon Sherrock to potentially contend with. The latter, Sherrock, will face Price if she can overcome both Steve Beaton (making a record 31st consecutive World Championship appearance) and Kim Huybrechts, who has made at least the 3rd round in the last three iterations of the tournament. Sherrock will be looking to capitalise on the form she showed during the Grand Slam in November, where she managed to get to the quarter-finals, narrowly losing out to Peter Wright 16-14. Anyone who finds themselves playing Sherrock will also have to contend with the crowd, however, it is unlikely that this will faze Price, who has hardly been able to complete a game without a few boos ringing out. Price has found himself in arguably the hardest quarter of the Championships and will have to play at his very best if he is to retain his crown.
Another interesting name to keep an eye out for in the first quarter is Glenn Durrant. Durrant had a fantastic 2020 and while he hasn’t quite lived up to that form in 2021, he is still a serious threat when on form. Astonishingly Durrant finds himself at 750/1 for the title, one of the biggest outsiders in the tournament. Durrant has shown in previous years that he is more than capable of competing with the big boys in the sport, winning the Premier League in 2020. He is worth considering if you are looking for an outside bet.
Amongst the names in the second quarter to keep an eye on, is Dimitri Van den Bergh (18/1). In yet another difficult quarter consisting of James Wade, Joe Cullen and Krzysztof Ratajski, it is the Belgian who for me stands out. Van den Bergh has long promised to be one of the best in the world, since his days as a junior when he won the World Youth Championships in both 2017 and 2018. This experience on the major stage, even at the junior level, will no doubt stand him in good stead. A loss in the final of the PDC World Series Final to an inform Jonny Clayton was Van den Bergh’s best result this season but despite this, it is important to note that he has always performed well at Ally Pally, normally losing narrowly in the later knock out stages. It is time for Van den Bergh to capitalise on his consistency and this could well be the tournament for it.
The third quarter is somewhat of a conundrum. The favourite for the quarter will undoubtedly be the World number 2 and 2020 Champion, Peter Wright (fresh off the back of a victory in the Players Championships Finals), but there are a few very hit and miss names in the quarter, the obvious one being Jose De Sousa. De Sousa is renowned for his erratic playing style and the frequency of his miscounts (recently hitting 3 bullseyes in one visit to leave 15). Despite this, there is no denying De Sousa’s talent, having reached the final of the Premier League this season, losing to Jonny Clayton. If De Sousa can improve his board management, then he could be a real force to be reckoned with. Equally as talented but just as inconsistent, Ryan Searle promises to be a potential giant-killer. Searle recently lost to Wright in the final of the Player’s Championship, playing some of the best darts of his career. If he can continue the form showed in the Player’s Championship then he could prove a handful for Wright and the other top seeds in the third quarter.
Despite all of this, a name that could really thrive in this section of the draw and the Championships in general is Nathan Aspinall. Despite a quiet year by Aspinall’s standards his records at the Worlds have generally been very good, reaching the semi-finals in both 2019 and 2020. Aspinall seems to save his best darts for the Ally Pally stage and at 28/1, could be a good outside bet for the tournament.
Amazingly the fourth and final quarter of the draw contains five former World Champions, in the shape of Michal van Gerwen (MVG), Rob Cross, Gary Anderson, Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld, with Gary Anderson and Adrian Lewis potentially meeting in the second-round, which promises to be one of the best early matches of the tournament. Cross and Barney will also hopefully meet in the second-round, in another clash of the former World Champions. In spite of an incredibly poor year, van Gerwen has found himself as the second favourite at 9/2 for the Championships. MVG will be looking to get his campaign to be viewed as the greatest darts player in history back on track when he takes to the Ally Pally stage but may have to overcome his conqueror from 2021 Dave Chisnall in the third-round.
Overall, we have an exhilarating tournament in prospect this Christmas, with a whole host of names having the potential to be crowned Champion. Could this be the tournament that we see a new name, like Dimitri Van den Bergh, Nathan Aspinall or Jonny Clayton be crowned Champion of the World and join an elite roster of names to have one the Sid Waddell Trophy? Or will a former Champion take all the glory and reign supreme? It promises to be a truly spectacular Christmas.