The waiting is finally over. The biggest darting show on earth gets underway at Alexandra Palace tonight, with 96 players battling it out for World Championship glory in the capital.
Defending champion Peter Wright will begin the defence of his Sid Waddell Trophy against either Steve West or Amit Gilitwala, and speaking to Sky Sports ahead of the event, ‘Snakebite’ vowed that he’d win at least three world titles before hanging up his arrows.
However, the interesting sub-plot surrounding this year’s showpiece is the battle for the world No 1 spot, with Michael van Gerwen in danger of relinquishing his coveted status for the first time since his maiden World Championship triumph seven years ago.
Prior to his New Year’s Day triumph over MvG, Wright had lost his previous ten finals against the Dutchman, although he made amends with a majestic display to prevail 7-3 and scoop the £500,000 top prize – becoming the oldest first-time winner in PDC history.
Despite being the current title holder, Wright refutes the suggestion that there’s more pressure on his shoulders this year. “I’ve already accomplished my dream. It’s the other guys who have never won it so the pressure is on them,” Wright explained.
“I’ve done it, so it doesn’t matter what happens now. That moment will never be taken away from me. That said, I’ll be going out all guns blazing to try and take the Sid Waddell Trophy home with me again. It is every darts player’s dream to be World Champion.
“I achieved it last year and it made me cry like a baby on stage, but that’s just what it means to fulfil your dream. The other players need to watch out, because give me a chance and I’ll take it. Honestly, I think I can defend this title.”
Michael van Gerwen has endured arguably the most tumultuous year of his reign as world No 1, although he returned to winning ways at last month’s Players Championship Finals – his first major title since his UK Open success in March.
The three-time world champion has only claimed five PDC titles in 2020, but he’s fired a warning to his rivals, by claiming ‘the old Michael is coming out on the dartboard’.
“Of course, this year has not been an easy one for me, as it hasn’t been for a lot of people,” Van Gerwen admitted. “There have been some difficult moments both on and off the oche but it’s about how you come through those moments.
“In the last few weeks I have been feeling good again and I can definitely feel the old Michael coming out on the dartboard. I have to thank my family, friends and management for helping me through this year.
“I couldn’t have done it without their support. Now I’m feeling ready to go at the World Championship and the other players need to watch out.”
Another man highly-fancied to challenge for the Sid Waddell Trophy over the coming weeks is world No 3 Gerwyn Price – arguably the form player of 2020. The Welshman has lifted eight individual titles this season, including maiden triumphs at the World Grand Prix and World Series Finals.
‘The Iceman’ initially struggled with the sterile behind-closed-doors environment, which saw him suffer an opening round defeat in July’s World Matchplay and miss out on a Premier League play-off spot just weeks later.
Nevertheless, the newly crowned World Cup champion has enjoyed a prolific period since then, and makes the annual pilgrimage to Alexandra Palace with plenty of confidence.
“A few months ago I thought 2020 was going to be a write-off for me, but it hasn’t turned out that way. It’s turned out to be one of my best years on tour in terms of my results,” Price reflected.
“I have found it difficult at times without a crowd, but it’s the same for all of us and we’ve just had to get on with it. The few weeks rest I’ve had has come at a great time for me because I was just starting to have a little lull in my performances.
“But the break has allowed me to recharge the batteries and give me my competitive edge back heading into the big one which I would love to get my hands on.”
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