The 2018 PDC World Darts Championship gets underway at the Alexandra Palace on Thursday evening. Michael van Gerwen is bidding to retain his crown and win a third world title, whilst Phil Taylor prepares to say farewell to the professional game. Josh’s Dartistry examines four potential outsiders for the title!
The inclusion of Rob Cross may raise some eyebrows considering he’s the fifth favourite to lift the title on New Years Day, but given that this will be his first World Championship appearance, combined with his tough draw, the 20th seed could be classed as an outsider.
Cross’ incredible rise up the PDC ranks has been one of the stories of the darting year. The former electrician has enjoyed an astonishing debut year on the PDC; winning four Players Championship titles; making two European Tour finals whilst also reaching a major TV final in October’s European Championship.
There was a certain sense of scepticism as to whether Cross would be able to transfer his stunning floor form to the television stage, but he unceremoniously quashed those concerns by reaching the European Championship final, the semi-finals of the Players Championship Finals and the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam and World Series.
He faces a preliminary winner in his first-round tie, but could then have to overcome Michael Smith, Daryl Gurney and Mensur Suljovic to set up a potential semi-final showdown against Michael van Gerwen. He’s yet to get the better of the world number one on TV, but this would be the perfect place to start!
Tournament Odds: 14/1
This is one of the most important World Championships Adrian Lewis has ever faced. The two-time world champion, who began the year ranked fourth in the world, faces the prospect of dropping out of the world’s top 16 if he fails to reach the quarter-finals of this year’s tournament.
It’s been an extremely difficult period for the Stoke-on-Trent star, who has been plagued by injury and illness throughout 2017. Since reaching the World Matchplay semi-finals in July, Lewis hadn’t won a televised game until last month’s Players Championship Finals, where he produced some impressive displays.
Lewis is one of the most naturally gifted players to have ever thrown a dart and he’s a confidence player- so if he hits his straps early he could be a dangerous proposition. He also has a relatively favourable draw. He faces the winner of a preliminary clash in round-one and is seeded to meet a struggling Cristo Reyes in round-two.
The 32-year-old could then face Simon Whitlock in the last 16, with ‘The Wizard’ struggling for form since reaching October’s World Grand Prix final. Lewis is then scheduled to meet second seed Peter Wright in the last eight, but with Snakebite’s recent health issues, ‘Jackpot’ could sense a real opportunity to salvage his season.
Tournament Odds: 28/1
Raymond van Barneveld
Raymond van Barneveld lives for the World Championship. Some players thrive on the occasion, whilst others crumble under the scrutiny. However, Van Barneveld falls firmly in the first category, as his five World Championship titles clearly underline.
The legendary Dutchman has produced some magical World Championship moments down the years and boasts remarkable consistency in this event- having reached the semi-finals at the Alexandra Palace in each of the last three years. As a result, his odds of 66/1 with tournament sponsors William Hill look particularly enticing.
Nevertheless, that’s largely down to his potential route to glory this year. Barney begins his campaign with a tough tie against Richard North and could face Kyle Anderson in round-two. RvB could then play Dave Chisnall in the last 16, before the prospect of a showdown with Michael van Gerwen looms large in the quarter-finals.
It’s fair to say that Van Barneveld has not been at his scintillating best in recent events, but he arguably represents the biggest threat to Van Gerwen in the top half of the draw. He relishes the big occasion, as evidenced when he stunned MvG in the last 16 of the 2016 World Championship. Can he repeat the feat this time around?
Tournament Odds: 66/1
Stephen Bunting made an immediate impression when he joined the PDC in January 2015, following on from his maiden Lakeside triumph earlier that month. ‘The Bullet’ was edged out by Raymond van Barneveld in a quarter-final thriller in his maiden PDC World Championship appearance, which sealed him a Premier League wildcard.
Nevertheless, it’s been far from plain-sailing for the St Helen’s star since then, and he revealed that he considered quitting the game earlier this year. However, the 2014 Lakeside world champion has enjoyed a resurgence over recent months, sparked by reaching the final of a Players Championship event at the end of September.
He impressed at the World Grand Prix and Grand Slam; losing out to Peter Wright on both occasions, whilst he also defeated Benito van de Pas & Mensur Suljovic in Minehead last month; losing out to eventual finalist Jonny Clayton in the last 16.
Bunting faces a tough opener against World-Youth champion Dimitri van den Bergh, but if he were to progress, he may fancy his chances. The 21st seed could face Jelle Klaasen in round-two and in the last 16, Mensur Suljovic- who has never reached the quarter-finals of this event. With his World Championship pedigree, he could be worth a punt.
Tournament Odds: 250/1