The PDC World Darts Championship is taking a three-day Christmas break returning on Monday 27th so now is as good a time as ever to take a look back at highlights from the past eight days as well as what we can expect going forward.
While there have been a few shock exits, none of the big hitters have come unstuck as of yet so there is every reason to continue to believe that, with the possible exception of Jonny Clayton, there will be no new name on the Sid Waddell Trophy this year.
Former holders Rob Cross, Peter Wright, Michael van Gerwen and current reigning champ Gerwyn Price all sailed safely through to the post-Christmas period, and there is every chance that the winner will be one those once again.
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What happened during Week One?
The undeniable high point of the first week was Willie Borland’s history-making nine-darter in his game against Bam Bam Bradley Brooks.
Never before have we seen one hit to win a match. To see it happen to decide what had been a fantastic match between two of the game’s upcoming stars was nothing short of sensational.
This is especially true for Borland, who was making his Ally Pally debut. What a way to do it.
It was also the first time a nine-dart finish has been landed in front of an audience at the Alexandra Palace since Borland’s fellow Scot Gary Anderson pulled the feat off six years ago.
Borland has since lost to Ryan Searle but leaves having created a piece of darting history that will live long in the memory.
Amazingly, the following day another nine-darter was struck, this time by Lithuania’s Darius Labanauskas.
Labanauskas’ perfect leg was not, however, enough to keep him in the tournament as he lost his match to Belgium’s Mike De Decker.
Speaking of Belgium, Dimitri Van Den Bergh was the highest numbered seed to crash out in round one.
The Dream Maker was shot down 1-3 by Germany’s newest darting star Florian Hempel.
Mensur Suljovic, Krzysztof Ratajski and Fallon Sherrock have all also failed to make it past the first round.
Heavy Hitters still in the fight
The big three – Gerwyn Price, Peter Wright and Michael van Gerwen – are all safely through to the next round and all of them looked impressive while achieving it.
World number eight Jonny Clayton also put in a good performance against young Irishman Keane Barry in what was a very good match which included ten ton plus finishes.
Barry is another future star of the game and gave the Ferret, one of the best players in the world right now, a real scare.
Elsewhere, momentum is building for a rejuvenated Rob Cross, who dismissed crowd favourite Raymond van Barneveld on Thursday night.
True, his average wasn’t as high as many other performances, but he was up against the crowd. The way he responded to going one set down against Barney will do wonders for his confidence when he reflects on his achievements over the Christmas break.
Voltage did very well to get rid of Raymond van Barneveld, but things won’t get any softer against Daryl Gurney, which could make the tie of the third round.
If Cross can raise up his average closer to the 100 mark then he has a real chance of winning a second world title.
Speaking of averages, the best statistical performance of the tournament so far goes to Michael Smith, who produced an average of 106 against Ron Meulenkamp.
Unfortunately for Bully Boy, who is a former finalist here, he is chucking in the same quarter as tournament favourite and world number one Gerwyn Price.
Another Welsh winner
Our top darts betting tips? Nothing has changed my mind that the most likely winner will be whichever Welshman – Price or Clayton – comes through their likely quarter-final clash on New Year’s Day. Price is available on Bet365 for 4/1 while Clayton can be snagged for 13/2 to win the event outright.
Before then, on Monday, December 27, both have prior matches to take care of.
Price will need to see off Kim Huybrechts, which he very much should do, while Clayton is required to overcome Gabriel Clemens, and then possibly Bully Boy Smith, if they are to meet in the last eight.
Now that Dimitri Van den Bergh and Ratajski have crashed out, the final quarter of the draw has bust wide open.
This should provide world number four James Wade, and maybe even Joe Cullen, with an opportunity to go on a deep run.
Peter Wright has a bumpy-looking potential run to the final but it’s nothing that should faze him.
As good as they all are, Ryan Searle, Jose de Sousa and Nathan Aspinall can all give Snakebite a scare, but the quality he can produce when he is on form coupled with the experience he has makes him a real threat to recover the crown he won in 2020.
Finally, Michael van Gerwen has a tricky clash with Chris Dobey and, while he still doesn’t look like the force he once was, is never out of contention.
MONDAY DECEMBER 27
Third Round (Best of 7 sets)
- Ross Smith v Dirk Van Duijvenbode
- Michael Smith v William O’Connor
- Florian Hempel v Raymond Smith
- James Wade v Vincent Van der Voort
- Gerwyn Price v Kim Huybrechts
- Jonny Clayton v Gabriel Clemens
TUESDAY DECEMBER 28
Third Round (Best of 7 sets)
- Steve Lennon v Mervyn King
- Ryan Searle v Danny Noppert
- Joe Cullen v Martijn Kleermaker
- Rob Cross v Daryl Gurney
- Peter Wright v Damon Heta
- Michael van Gerwen v Chris Dobey
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 29
Third/Fourth Round (Best of 7 sets)
- Jose De Sousa v Alan Soutar
- Dave Chisnall v Luke Humphries
- Nathan Aspinall v Callan Rydz
- Gary Anderson v Ian White
- 2x Fourth Round
THURSDAY DECEMBER 30
Fourth Round (Best of 7 sets)
- 6x matches
Quarter-Finals (Best of 9 sets)
- 4x matches
SUNDAY JANUARY 2
Semi-Finals (Best of 11 sets)
- 2x matches
MONDAY JANUARY 3
Final (Best of 13 sets)
- Winner Semi Final 1 v Winner Semi Final 2
QUICK GLANCE AT THE WORLD DARTS CHAMPIONSHIPS 2022
Venue: The Alexandra Palace, London
Dates: 15 December 2021 – 3rd January 2022
Format: Best of 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 sets
Current Champion: Gerwyn Price
Where To Watch: Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Darts & Sky Sports Arena
When To Watch: 12:30, 19:00 (UK)