PDC World Darts Championship Preview
The Professional Darts Corporation's World Championship will begin on Thursday with what could prove to be the most unpredictable tournament of recent years.
Phil Taylor is the obvious favourite, having triumphed 15 times at the biggest stage in darts. The ‘Power’ has won three major titles in 2011 but is not conquering on all platforms as he once did. He will be well aware that a strong field of players will be waiting for him to slip up.
Adrian ‘Jackpot’ Lewis, the defending champion, has struggled to maintain his form since claiming victory at the Alexandra Palace last January. Lewis has finished runner-up in three major tournaments this year, but his blistering form of early 2011 has deserted him and the number two seed will have his work cut out if he is to win back-to-back World Championships.
Third seed James Wade is in with a good chance to claim his first World Championship. ‘The Machine’ will be looking to forget about his shock second round defeat last year against Serbian-born Mensur Suljovic. Wade won the UK Open in June and although he is not setting the world alight, it would be foolish to rule out a man who has won seven major titles and is second only to Phil Taylor in the list of the most successful darts players in PDC history.
Premier League Champion Gary Anderson will continue his search for a first World Championship success as the number four seed. ‘The Flying Scotsman’ can be devastating on his day but like so many others in the field, inconsistency is his downfall. This was shown most recently in his shock first round defeat to Brendan Dolan at the World Grand Prix in Dublin. Anderson’s Premier League glory, however, has proved that he has the ability to hold his nerve in the major events.
Completing the top five is Australian, Simon Whitlock. ‘The Wizard’ is arguably the best in the business at hitting the bulls-eye, but he will need to raise his level if he is to replicate his form of 2010, when he finished as runner-up here. Whitlock is having his worst year since returning to the PDC in 2009. He surely has the talent to add his name to the list of world champions, but his current form suggests he will need to improve quickly.
There are many names away from the top five that could be dangerous. Raymond van Barneveld, champion in 2007, is currently not in the best of form. His performances at the big tournaments have produced semi-final appearances in the Premier League and the European Championships this year. Despite dropping to number 8 in the rankings, ‘Barney’ should not be overlooked.
Kevin Painter has reason to believe that he is back to the top of his game. ‘The Artist' won the first major title of his career earlier this month at the Players Championship Finals and is now just outside the top 20 in the PDC Order of Merit. The 2004 World Championship runner-up seems to be finding form at the right time.
Welshman Mark Webster finished third in last year’s event and after a shaky start to his PDC career looks set to remain at the higher end of the rankings for many years. He is yet to win a PDC major however, and if he is to break his duck he will have to call on the experience gained from winning the lesser regarded British Darts Organisation (BDO) World Championship in 2008.
Paul Nicholson can be mentioned purely for charisma alone. 'The Asset' always gives darts fans value for money, and despite his outspoken nature, has proved that he is a serious talent. Winning the 2010 Players Championship Finals proved that there was substance to his arrogance. He gives darts fans something to talk about and his antics will no doubt be a key talking point at this year’s event.
Three weeks of darting brilliance starts on the 15 December with a champion being crowned on 2 January. Inconsistency has been prevalent throughout 2011, but this is the most important event in the calendar and we should not be surprised to see the stars hitting form when it really matters.