The start of the 2016 PDC World Championships is now less than a week away and the anticipation is building. There are a host of big names capable of winning the crown this year, although there aren’t many players more adept at winning major titles than a certain James Wade.
6. James Wade
James Wade is one of the most decorated players in the history of the PDC. ‘The Machine’ has won eight major titles, including the Premier League, World Matchplay and World Grand-Prix.
However, the World Championships is the main piece of silverware that has eluded him in his career thus far. Can he rectify that at Alexandra Palace this year?
Wade has performed extremely well in 2015, nevertheless I was staggered to discover that only once in the last 9 major TV events has Wade progressed beyond the last 16 stage.
That came in this year’s World-Matchplay, where the left-hander was denied a third Blackpool crown, after he was beaten by Michael van Gerwen.
Wade has always been renowned as the ultimate match-player. Averages where ‘The Machine’ was concerned, were a complete irrelevance.
He may not have scored prolifically and posted 105+ averages, but his composure and ability to produce pressure shots in decisive moments was unparalleled, with the obvious exception of Phil Taylor.
Nevertheless, in 2015, we’ve seen a different side to Wade’s game. He has become far more prolific on the 180 count, and his averages on TV this year have been higher than ever before, yet this hasn’t necessarily translated to better results. This was epitomised at the Players Championship Finals in Minehead a fortnight ago.
Wade averaged 102 against young Dutchman Benito van de Pas, although the Aldershot ace succumbed to a 10-3 drubbing, with Benito averaging 105 and posting 66% on the doubles.
In fairness, Benito’s performance was virtually flawless, but whilst Wade scored excellently, he struggled to close out legs and he wasn’t entirely convincing whenever presented with opportunities at double.
Wade suffered similar problems against Raymond van Barneveld in the Grand Slam. Wade led 7-4 and appeared on the verge of reaching the quarter-finals, but van Barneveld rallied and reeled off six successive legs, with Wade missing 3 darts at doubles in both the sixteenth and seventeenth leg.
However, it must be said that 2015 has predominantly been a very positive season for Wade. Although his results haven’t reflected his consistent high-level of performance, I feel he is perfectly poised to pose a strong challenge for his maiden World Championship crown.
Although Wadey has struggled to make firm inroads into the latter stages of TV tournaments, he has been relatively consistent and has only suffered the solitary first-round TV exit, which came against an inspired Mensur Suljovic at the World Grand-Prix.
His Pro Tour form has also been particularly impressive. He has claimed two Players Championship victories this year, whilst he’s also appeared in a further five Pro Tour finals.
He was a consistent challenger in the European Tour events also, reaching three separate semi-finals, which ensured he ended the year fourth on the Pro Tour Order of Merit; only behind van Gerwen, Michael Smith and Peter Wright.
The 32-year-old has been handed a relatively kind draw, as he will begin his World Championship campaign against the winner of the preliminary clash between South Africa’s Warrick Scheffer or Greece’s John Michael.
Wes Newton is Wade’s potential round-two opponent, although the Warrior, who is desperately struggling for form at present, has an extremely tough opener against Spanish sensation Cristo Reyes. Incidentally, it was Reyes who dumped Newton out in the first-round of last year’s competition.
Wade, who is seeded 7th for this year’s competition, could face Simon Whitlock in the last 16. Whitlock reclaimed his top 10 spot in the Order of Merit after a run to the last eight of the Players Championship Finals. Although in truth, Wade would relish facing the Wizard at this stage.
Whilst Simon showed admirable tenacity and determination at Minehead a fortnight ago, his form is still unconvincing and he is still susceptible to missing key doubles under pressure. Considering Wade’s aptitude on D20 and D10, you would fully expect him to progress to the quarter-final stages.
If he reaches the last eight, Wade is likely to face reigning World Champion Gary Anderson. Playing Anderson is a formidable prospect, although the Scot hasn’t been setting the world alight with recent performances.
Since winning the Premier League in May, Anderson has only progressed beyond the quarters in one tournament, where he was a losing finalist to van Gerwen in November’s European Championships.
Anderson is a very heavy scorer, although he isn’t approaching this year’s tournament with the same confidence or momentum that he had going into last year’s event. It also remains to be seen how Gary copes with the pressure of being defending Champion; if he displays any kind of uncertainty, James will surely exploit this.
Phil Taylor could be the potential obstacle for Wade if he were to progress to the semi-finals; however Taylor would hold no fear for the eight-time major winner.
In the last 18 months, Wade has beaten ‘The Power’ in the World Grand-Prix quarter-finals, the Masters semi-finals, and he also ended Taylor’s incredible winning streak at this year’s World Matchplay. Taylor was vying for a ninth successive Blackpool crown, but James produced a remarkable display to topple the 16-Time World Champion 17-14.
The depth of quality within the PDC cannot be under-estimated and there are so many players capable of producing 100+ averages. Although on paper, Wade has a relatively kind draw up until the quarter-finals. Whilst overcoming Anderson and Taylor is a big task, neither player is performing at their best at present.
Wade is certainly throwing well enough to challenge for major honours and if he can maintain the scoring power he’s been demonstrating of late, whilst retaining his clinical edge on the doubles, he has a tremendous chance of claiming his maiden World Championship crown.
More importantly, Wade appears extremely contented in his home life currently. His demeanour is extremely positive and he has been putting in the hours on the practice board, which may be a surprising admission as he’s notorious for being a reluctant practiser. He’s priced at 20/1 with title sponsor William Hill; could this be the year of the Machine?