PDC World Darts Championship
The 2013 PDC World Championships get underway on Friday evening and the event promises to be one of the most exciting in years with a wide open field according to the bookmakers.
It’s a tournament Phil Taylor has won an incredible 13 times before, but he last won it back in 2010 and hasn’t reached the final since then. Coupled with the incredible recent form of Dutch youngster Michael van Gerwen and a season which has thrown up plenty of impressive performances from other hopefuls, and this year’s renewal of the biggest tournament on the calendar is filling darts fans with plenty of hope for an enjoyable Christmas and New Year period of live action.
While the draw was done last week, the Order of Merit seeding’s systems ensures that the best players won’t meet each other until the second round at the earliest
It makes sense to start at the top of the PDC Order of Merit, which unsurprisingly means top of the draw and top of the betting. Phil Taylor has been chalked up as the 2/1 favourite with Paddy Power, Coral and event sponsors Ladbrokes, and he’ll be desperately hoping he can wrestle back the title Adrian Lewis has won for the past two years.
Taylor will take little comfort from the fact that Lewis has not won another major TV tournament since last January, but does know that despite the set-format of this event, the format length of the matches at the Alexandra Palace play into his hands, with the first round played as best of three sets, and matches progressively increasing in duration up to best of seven sets in the final.
A tricky first round tie could have been seen as a potential banana-skin early on, but the draw has been kind, handing Taylor the relatively modest task of beating Michael Mansell - a feat he is best price of 1/33 to achieve.
2012 may not have been as kind to Taylor as some years, but he’s managed to bag amongst other lesser titles, the Premier League crown, the World Match Play, the Players Championship, the German Darts Championship and the Championship League title, as well as winning the World Cup of Darts alongside Adrian Lewis for England, so he’s been in decent enough nick and it’s easy to see why the bookmakers aren’t ready to let go of the Stoke chucker just yet.
Drawn into Taylor's part of the draw are Paul Nicholson, Andy Hamilton, Terry Jenkins and Robert Thornton amongst others, so while it’s not an easy section, he has avoided a couple of the really in-form players as well. Andy Hamilton has enjoyed a solid season, but has failed to really make it pay at the business end and hasn’t reached a major final since last years’ PDC World Champs, and although he’s the best player Taylor could face before the semi-finals, he’s also got a terrible record against the Power on TV - never managing to beat Taylor in front of the cameras.
Bob Thornton has of course, beaten Taylor to win the UK Open back in June, but the Scot is 17th in the PDC Order of Merit for a reason and he won’t have many backers at the 40/1 available with Paddy Power. All this leads us to believe that the 4/7 (Paddy Power, Coral & William Hill) offered about Taylor winning his quarter look pretty tasty odds, as none of the players really capable of beating him look set to meet him until at least the quarter-finals.
So moving into the second part, and Simon Whitlock is the stand-out name in a really tough section - quoted at 9/4 (Coral & William Hill) to win the quarter and 14/1 (BetVictor & Coral) to win the tournament outright. Should Taylor come through the top quarter, whoever wins through from this section is bound to give him a real match, as Whitlock competes with Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld (both 18/1 outright with Bet365) for a place in the semi-finals, while Dave Chisnall is also in the mix.
Whitlock finished runner-up to Taylor in this season's Premier League and also in the Championship League Darts. He also won the European Championships to end the season 4th in the Order of Merit and the fact that he would need to beat Chisnall to reach the quarter-finals is the reason the bookies make him favourite in this section - Chisnall is a talented player, but still has plenty more to prove than Anderson or van Barneveld.
Anderson has to be the less fancied in this section of the draw - quoted at 10/3 with BetVictor to win quarter 2 - given than he’s not reached a major final for over a year now, whereas Barney won the Grand Slam of Darts recently - beating the impressive Michael van Gerwen in the final. It’s always great to see Barney going well, but at the odds we prefer Whitlock to come out on top of this part.
In the third quarter two heavyweights are likely to clash in the quarter-finals as two time winner Adrian Lewis and in-form Dutchman Michael van Gerwen face off. It would be a huge surprise if one or other doesn’t progress to the semi-finals, with Kevin Painter and Ian White arguably the best equipped to offer a challenge, but neither will really hold out much hope.
Lewis came back last season to defend his title from 2011 of course and it could be a surprise to infrequent darts viewers to see Taylor’s former pupil chalked up at 12/1 with the sponsors given he has won the last two renewals. He’s certainly comfortable at the oche here, but has struggled to re-produce that form throughout 2012 and for that reason he’s a 2/1 outsider (Ladbrokes, Sky Bet & Coral) in the 3rd quarter betting, with van Gerwen the 5/4 favourite (Blue Square & William Hill) to reach the semi-finals.
Lewis failed to make the play-offs in the Premier League and he’s also failed to reach any major TV final this campaign since that victory back in January, and given the form of his Dutch opponent in the third part, we can’t look much past ven Gerwen.
The Dutch youngster is still just 23 years old, but has added a runner-up finish in the Grand Slam to his tournament victory in the World Grand Prix and he looks to have finally come-of-age. That Grand Slam tournament was a real key moment for van Gerwen - beating Phil Taylor in the second round 10-5 with an average of over 108 to finally end a 15 match losing streak against the World no. 1.
Ranked 7th in the Order of Merit, van Gerwen looks ready for a really big tournament this season, and odds of 9/4 to reach the final look more than fair with Paddy Power. They also offer a Taylor v van Gerwen final at 13/2 which looks a sound investment.
Finally the bottom quarter looks a wide open affair with Wes Newton, Justin Pipe, James Wade and Kim Huybrechts competing together for a place in the semis.
Wade is certainly the best player of those, although he has yet to reach a final here despite plenty of attempts. He’s currently 3rd in the Order of Merit, having finished runner-up to Taylor in the World Match Play, but other than that he’s enjoyed a relatively quiet season, so it’s hard to make a really strong case for the Somerset player at 20/1 (generally) outright.
We’d prefer Kim Huybrechts in this section who recently finished runner-up to Taylor in the final of the Players Championship finals. He’s 5/1 (BetVictor, Sky Bet & Coral) just to reach the semi-finals, and that looks a pretty fair price about a player who is improving all the time and could have enough to overcome the modest looking players in this part.
Justin Pipe attracted plenty of attention over the last couple of years, but he’s really found translating his floor form into real quality in front of the TV cameras a challenge, and for that reason he looks worth leaving this season. At 50/1 (Bet365) to win the tournament, it’s hard to see him really managing that feat after failing at other events through the season. He could be a spot of value in his matches however, so is worth looking out for.
Finally, whoever you fancy to come out on top in the New Year, its worth heading to BetVictor for your outright bets after the Gibraltar based firm offered to refund losing outright bets if Phil Taylor wins the event. Given he's just 2/1 that looks a pretty generous stance from old Victor.
The action gets underway on Friday evening and is televised throughout on Sky Sports.
2012 – Adrian Lewis beat Andy Hamilton
2011 – Adrian Lewis beat Gary Anderson
2010 – Phil Taylor beat Simon Whitlock
2009 – Phil Taylor beat Raymond van Barneveld
2008 – John Part beat Kirk Shepherd