Today I assess the World Championship chances of Two-Time World Champion and number five seed Adrian Lewis, who is vying to replicate his 2011 and 2012 successes at Alexandra Palace this year.
4. Adrian Lewis
Adrian Lewis loves the Alexandra Palace stage. He famously recorded his maiden PDC World title victory in 2011, beating Gary Anderson 7-5 in a pulsating final. He then repeated this success the following year, as he defeated his fellow Stokie Andy Hamilton 7-3 in the final.
Last year, Lewis suffered an agonising 4-3 defeat to Raymond van Barneveld in the last 16, but that result apart, his World Championship record over recent years has been exemplary.
He reached the semi-finals in 2014, where he was whitewashed by an inspired Michael van Gerwen, whilst he suffered quarter-final heartbreak against MvG a year earlier in 2013, missing two-match darts to crush his hopes of winning his third successive World Championship crown.
Lewis is the definition of a big-game player. Even when he’s not firing on all cylinders, you cannot write him off, due to his sheer natural brilliance and composure under pressure. He thrives on the big occasion and his recent upturn in form leaves him handily placed to challenge for a third World title in 2016.
Adrian began the year in sparkling form, reaching the semi-finals of the Unibet Masters in February, before following that up with some exquisite Pro-Tour performances.
Lewis finished 2nd to Michael van Gerwen on the UK Open Order of Merit, after demonstrating impressive consistency in the six qualification events. Lewis won the opening qualifier, before reaching two quarter-finals, two semi-finals and a final.
He then enjoyed a marvellous weekend in Barnsley in the Players Championship triple-header a month later. He won two out of the three events, losing in the final to van Gerwen in the other.
Nevertheless, during this period, Lewis couldn’t replicate this form in the Premier League. After flirting with relegation, Jackpot enjoyed a promising revival and appeared on the verge of a play-off place, but successive defeats to Dave Chisnall and van Barneveld vanquished his hopes and he ended the campaign in 6th position.
His UK Open defence was ended prematurely, as he was beaten in the last 64 by van Barneveld, before he was surprisingly dumped out of the World Matchplay at the last-16 stage by Welshman Gerwyn Price.
Despite this, paired alongside Phil Taylor, Lewis won the World Cup of Darts for the third time in his career, and followed this up with a tremendous World Series campaign down under.
Lewis reached the final of the Sydney Darts Masters, losing to Taylor, before going one-step further and winning the Auckland Darts Masters, beating van Barneveld 11-10 in a pulsating finale.
Since then, the 30-year-old has enjoyed far greater consistency in major ranking TV tournaments. He reached the semi-finals of the European Championships in early November, losing to Gary Anderson in the last four, whilst he followed this up with a Grand-Slam quarter-final appearance.
Lewis reached the semi-finals of the World Series of Darts Finals, beating Keegan Brown and Terry Jenkins to set up a last-four clash against van Gerwen. Nevertheless, the Dutchman was too strong, winning 11-5.
Lewis and van Gerwen clashed just seven days later, this time in the final of the Players Championship Finals, in Minehead. Lewis defeated John Henderson, Alan Norris, Simon Whitlock and Mensur Suljovic to reach the final, but MvG again triumphed, beating Jackpot 11-6.
Lewis appears very confident in his game at present and he will be desperate to add another World Championship crown to his collection. He begins his pursuit of a third World title with a tricky opening-round tie against former BDO man Jan Dekker.
The Dutchman failed to acquire a tour-card at Q-School in January, although Dekker, a former two-time Lakeside semi-finalist, certainly has the pedigree and big-stage experience to test Jackpot.
Having said that, Lewis’s ability, coupled with Dekker’s lack of recent competitive action should see the Stoke star progress. If Lewis overcomes the Dutchman, he will face either Andrew Gilding, or Gerwyn Price, which could see a repeat of their last 16 clash at this year’s World Matchplay.
Gilding, who reached the UK Open semi-finals in March, is the seeded player, although Price is the favourite with many, as Goldfinger has suffered a slight dip in form of late. Despite this, Lewis would still remain confident of progressing to the third-round irrespective of his opponent.
Kim Huybrechts could potentially lie in wait for Lewis in the last 16, although Huybrechts has a difficult route himself. He faces talented youngster David Pallett in round-one, before possibly taking on Mensur Suljovic in the last 32.
Lewis could meet Peter Wright in the quarter-finals. Snakebite is defending a sizeable sum of prize money on the rolling two-year Order of Merit, having reached the final in 2014. Lewis could reclaim his World Number four spot in the rankings by reaching the last four, which is a considerable incentive.
If Lewis is to win the Sid Waddell trophy in 2016, he may have to overcome the obstacle of Michael van Gerwen in the semi-finals. In fairness, van Gerwen has a number of potential challenges to contend with himself, although in current form, you’d be a brave man to predict an early exit for the ‘Green Machine’.
Lewis’ consistency since the World Series suggests that he will be a major contender for the title. In the last four major tournaments, he has reached a final, two semi-finals, and a quarter-final, so he’ll be hoping he can go one step further at Ally Pally.
He is 16/1 with title sponsor William Hill to win his third World Championship crown. Can Lewis hit the Jackpot in 2016?