BELIEVE IT OR not, the first world championship of 2011 gets underway today as the Alexandra Palace in London gears up for the 18th PDC World Darts Championship.
Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor will be looking to win his 14th PDC world championship and 16th world title in all.
Indeed, such is Taylor’s dominance in the sport over the past two decades; it is difficult to look beyond him when it comes to picking a winner on January 3.
However, after an exceptional 18 months, which saw Taylor win every major TV tournament and become the first player to throw two perfect nine-darters in one televised game (the Premier League final against James Wade), Taylor hasn’t looked on top form in recent months.
Whether Taylor’s challengers can take advantage of this mini-slump is a different matter. World number 2 James Wade will be hoping he can overcome a difficult first round draw against the dangerous Spaniard Antonio Alcinas.
Should he get past Alcinas, Wade knows that being on his side of the draw means he avoids playing Taylor until the final.
Should all go to plan, he would meet Australia’s Simon Whitlock in the semi-final. Whitlock, of course, emerged from relative obscurity last year to reach the final, where he lost to Taylor, throwing some magnificent arrows along the way.
His good form has continued throughout the year and Whitlock is very much one to watch.
Five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld has undoubted ability on the oche but is as likely to crash out to an underdog as he is to throw another nine-darter. Barney, as he is known to his fans, faces a potential banana skin in the first round against Steve ‘The Muffin Man’ Hines.
Other contenders include Merv King, Adrian Lewis and Gary Anderson. However, you’d have to be very brave to bet against Taylor’s name being on the trophy again in January.
The PDC World Darts Championship format
The 72-player event features the PDC’s top 32 players alongside 40 qualifiers who have won their place through a variety of tournaments held throughout the year.
The first round begins this evening, December 16th and continues until December 23.
The last 32 players remaining will return after a Christmas break and the final takes place on January 3rd.