By Aiden McLaughlin
The first sporting event of 2019 is already well underway. The PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) World Darts Championship started at London’s Alexandra Palace last week and will last until the morning of 2nd January (NZ time).
Year on year, its following here has grown; there’s no doubt the time of year helps. Plenty of people are off work and can get up at their leisure and have a relaxing start to the day while having the arrows on.
Apart from the convenience factor though, there’s plenty to enjoy. A packed, noisy venue full of people having a good time. The nicknames, the music, the celebrity spotting in the crowd. The walk-on’s are a bit different this year but people have got over that. Most importantly though, the overall standard of play is higher than ever. It’s not that long ago, Phil Taylor was dominating, but as the game has grown in size, so has the number of top level performers. Yes, Michael van Gerwen is the man to beat, but there isn’t the same air of invincibility that Taylor had in his pomp.
New Zealand interest has ended prior to Christmas with Craig Ross well beaten in the first round and Cody Harris being defeated in round two; he actually had a higher average than his opponent, 28th seed Jamie Lewis, but the finishing wasn’t good enough, with Harris losing three sets to two.
Five time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld and third seed Peter Wright have made early exits, and there is scope for more upsets, especially in the first couple of rounds, where the shorter format (best of five sets) can provide opportunities to catch the big names cold.
The tournament pauses for three days next week so everyone can enjoy Christmas (returns Friday 28th NZ time) and by this stage we are into the last sixteen. Assuming there are no more big name casualties, Michael van Gerwen v Adrian Lewis is the standout proposition in that round, with the next best likely to be Daryl Gurney v Dave Chisnall.
If things go to script, MvG is scheduled to meet two time winner Gary Anderson in one semi final, with last year’s surprise winner Rob Cross taking a last four spot in the bottom half of the draw; Peter Wright’s defeat has left that last slot more open though. I’m taking Welshman Gerwyn Price to take it though; a former professional rugby player, he won his first major televised tournament last month, beating Gary Anderson at the Grand Slam of Darts.
I see Cross in the final, but van Gerwen v Anderson would be tighter to call. I’ll go with MvG though, and then for him to beat Cross in the best of thirteen set conclusion in just under a fortnight. Cross, despite being World No 2, has not won a major televised tournament since last year’s World title, and top seed van Gerwen has had another stellar year – he will also be desperate to avenge last year’s semi final defeat to Cross which was a huge shock.
If you haven’t watched it before, give the darts a crack. If you have, you know what to expect, so enjoy it.
Finally, Happy Christmas everyone, thanks for your support during the year.
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