Sports writer, Bradley West, previews the 2017 PDC World Darts Championship and predicts his 5 players to watch out for
Nothing says Christmas like turkey, mince pies, presents and darts on the television. That’s right, the annual World Darts Championship extravaganza is back! Beginning on December 15 and running until January 2 2017, hosted at the iconic Alexandra Palace, the 2017 edition of the PDC World Darts Championship looks set to be the competitions biggest yet with a record £1.65 million prize fund on offer.
As well as swarming across our TV screens and providing us with its usual festivities of electric atmospheres and dancing Darth Vader’s in the crowd, this year’s World Championship will undoubtedly supply tension and suspense by the bucketload if the past few years are anything to go by.
Gary Anderson goes into this year’s event as the double reigning champion but there can be no doubt about who has been the best player on tour this year, that honour is certainly ‘Mighty’ Michael van Gerwen’s.
The Dutchman has had a year like no other, winning 25 tournaments on the tour and earning over £1.5 million in less than twelve months. He goes into the ‘Worlds’ as the undisputed favourite but form, and the world rankings, do not automatically mean the Dutch world number one will be lifting the famous Sid Waddell trophy in the New Year.
Competition for places behind van Gerwen in the rankings is as fierce as ever and, as such, there will be a number of names confident of ending MVG’s tour dominance in its tracks and going on to become World Champion.
Listed below are the players to look out for during this year’s championship:
Michael van Gerwen
Of course we have to start with the ‘Green Machine’. The rapid Dutch thrower has been the dominant force on the PDC circuit for the past four to five years but has only won one World Title. More than any other, this is the tournament that van Gerwen wants to stamp his authority over and win again so it’s clear it’s going to take something special to stop him.
This isn’t impossible though, you need to look no further than at Raymond van Barneveld’s brilliant third round victory in the World Championship over the world number one last year for the blueprint in how to achieve such a feat.
Nevertheless, van Gerwen has won every single PDC ‘major’, official and unofficial, this year, a remarkable achievement especially for a player so young who could get even better, a scary thought for his closest rivals. It will be the Dutchman that starts off the tournament as the odds on favourite and, on the form of this year, who would bet against him becoming a two-time World Champion in the New Year.
The biggest threat to MVG comes, as throughout tournaments this year, from the world number two ‘Flying Scotsman’ Gary Anderson, who is the double defending Champion and will be a major obstacle in the ‘Green Machine’s’ way. The fact that Anderson is over 710,000 points behind van Gerwen in the PDC Order of Merit, and the Scotsman sits way ahead of third with 830,000 points of his own, shows the gap between the two over the course of the year.
Despite this, with two world titles and numerous majors behind him, Anderson has proved he has the pedigree to win the biggest of them all. Form-wise Anderson comes into this year’s World Championship having won several Masters events and Players Championships however the Scotsman lost in the semi-final of the Grand Slam of Darts and World Matchplay whilst losing in the final of the World Grand Prix.
Anderson will certainly be there or thereabouts this year but whether he has enough to win the whole thing is debatable. The Scot appears to have lost some of his power scoring ability over the last few months but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Anderson regain it on the biggest stage of them all.
Fellow Scotsman Peter Wright has had one of his best years on the PDC circuit so far, going above Phil Taylor to third in the PDC Order of Merit.
In the floor tournaments and lesser ranking tournaments especially Wright has had success winning the Players Championship Barnsley whilst also getting to a major final at the UK Open and getting to the semi final stage at the Grand Slam of Darts and European Championship.
What remains to be seen is whether he can hold his nerve on the biggest stages and finally get over the line by winning a big TV major. Until he does doubts will always remain about his ability to win the big one but, with the power scoring he’s showed recently at the Grand Slam of Darts, he’ll be a threat to anyone.
Potential quarter-final and semi-final matchups against James Wade and Gary Anderson respectively look mouth-watering on paper and, should he manage to hold his nerve on the doubles, it seems likely Wright will be in the mix come the final few days of the tournament. Expect Wright to squeeze past Wade in the quarter finals thanks to a ton plus average before a narrow defeat in a heavyweight clash against Anderson.
Speaking of James Wade, the world number six comes into this year’s event on the back of reaching the final at the Grand Slam of Darts for only the second time in his career.
Despite falling 16-8 to van Gerwen, Wade defeated Gary Anderson in the semi finals through utilising his typical ability to hit big scores and doubles in the crucial moments whilst also living up to his billing of being the best finisher of check-outs between 100 and 120 in the world.
Expect James to grind out consistent victories in the early rounds before narrowly losing in the latter stages to an opponent, such as Peter Wright, whose average is 10 points higher. Nevertheless, Wade is always a danger and, if he can average between 5 and 10 points higher, he will be right in the mix for the title.
Finally, an outside bet. ‘The Gentle’ Mensur Suljovic has risen inside the world’s top 10 for the first time this year with strong performances at floor tournaments alongside a final appearance at the European Championship.
With his unorthodox slow throwing style, the Austrian has been known to annoy and even throw other players off of their game and as such expect him to cause trouble for any opponent his faces.
Looking at the draw, a potential quarter-final match up against MVG looks fascinating and it is likely that the Austrian would cause ‘Mighty Mike’ quite a few problems given the clash in styles that match would throw up.
Prediction: Quarter Finals
Regardless of who does manage to lift the Sid Waddell trophy come the New Year though, this year’s tournament is sure to be a spectacular few weeks of darting action and I, for one, cannot wait. Game on!