Darts World Championship Preview

Michael van Gerwen begins the defence of his World crown this week and he is firm favourite claim his third title.

‘Mighty Mike’ has never won back-to-back and he will be determined to take the title and maintain his place at the top of pecking order and he knows he will be the one everyone want to beat.

“There will be a dartboard on my back with a big bullseye everyone wants to hit,” says the 28-year-old Dutchman.“I am the defending champion, the World No 1 and I have to be ready for my opponents to try and find something extra. It’s normal that they will raise their game against me.

“I don’t care about the pressure because most of the time I play my best when I am under pressure.”

The tournament will also go down in history as the big farewell to darts royalty as Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, the greatest player of all time and 16-time world champion, takes part for the last time.

And Van Gerwen is quick to praise Taylor ahead of the tournament: “Phil Taylor made darts. Everyone who plays now, and competes for huge prize money, owes their career to Phil.

“That’s not just being realistic, it’s the truth.

“At this moment we don’t need him any more because darts won’t go down without him but he built the empire. He did really good for everyone.“I don’t feel any responsibility to carry that on because darts is so big now it is bigger than one person.

“I don’t think his records will be broken because I won’t be playing as long as him!”Taylor has re-written the record books during his illustrious career and he has not ruled out going out on the biggest high possible by reclaiming the title he last won in 2013.

“It will be a big challenge for me,” Taylor said.

“I can go up there relaxed because I’ve nothing to lose. It’s my final World Championship and I want to enjoy it.”

Aside from van Gerwen and it is the Scottish contingent of two-time world champion Gary Anderson and Peter Wright, who are expected to make the challenge – and they are the next two seeds after the Dutch maestro.

Fourth seed is Northern Ireland Daryl Gurney, who is expected to go deep – as is Englishman Rob Cross, who has enjoyed a stellar campaign leading into what will be his debut at the Alexandra Palace.

Looking at the draw, van Gerwen was handed an all-Dutch first round tie with Christian Kist – whilst Taylor’s final championship begins against youngster Chris Dobey.

Number two seed Wright has drawn debutant Diogo Portela, who will become the first Brazilian to compete in the World Championship next month after making his breakthrough in 2017.

Anderson, whose bid to claim a third successive title was ended by Van Gerwen in last year’s final, will take on the winner of the preliminary round meeting between Canada’s Jeff Smith and young Englishman Luke Humphries, the 2017 PDC Unicorn Development Tour Order of Merit winner.

Gurney, October’s World Grand Prix champion, drew Belgian ace Ronny Huybrechts, whose younger brother Kim will meet James Richardson in the first round.

Cross has drawn either Japan’s Seigo Asada or Australia’s Gordon Mathers.

Champions League of Darts winner Mensur Suljovic, seeded fifth, plays 2004 World Championship finalist Kevin Painter in a tasty fixture, while five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld meets emerging star Richard North and Dave Chisnall drew Dutchman Vincent van der Voort.

Adrian Lewis, the 2011 and 2012 World Champion, will play either Russia’s Aleksandr Oreshkin or Germany’s Kevin Munch, with 2010 finalist Simon Whitlock set to face German newcomer Martin Schindler.

Three-time semi-finalist James Wade takes on former World Youth Champion Keegan Brown, Jelle Klaasen faces an all-Dutch tie with Jan Dekker, Michael Smith drew Irish debutant Steve Lennon and Benito van de Pas plays Steve West.

The Gambling Times prediction

It is going to take some to beat van Gerwen here and the chances are he is going to win, no getting away from that.

Taking him out the draw, and we really believe Peter Wright could be set to step-up and make a real impact – he will be seeing our money, along with debutant Rob Cross, who needs to be respected after some great results so far this year.

First Round Draw:

(1) Michael van Gerwen v Christian Kist
(32) James Wilson v Krzystof Ratajski
(16) Gerwyn Price v Ted Evetts
(17) Ian White v Willard Bruguier/Cody Harris
(8) Dave Chisnall v Vincent van der Voort
(25) Steve Beaton v William O’Connor
(9) Raymond van Barneveld v Richard North
(24) Kyle Anderson v Peter Jacques
(5) Mensur Suljovic v Kevin Painter
(28) Robert Thornton v Alan Ljubic/Brendan Dolan
(12) Jelle Klaasen v Jan Dekker
(21) Stephen Bunting v Dimitri Van den Bergh
(4) Daryl Gurney v Ronny Huybrechts
(29) John Henderson v Marko Kantele
(13) Michael Smith v Steve Lennon
(20) Rob Cross v Seigo Asada/Gordon Mathers
(2) Peter Wright v Diogo Portela
(31) Jonny Clayton v Kenny Neyens/Jamie Lewis
(15) Alan Norris v Kim Viljane
(18) Kim Huybrechts v James Richardson
(7) Adrian Lewis v Aleksandr Oreshkin/Kevin Munch
(26) Cristo Reyes v Antonio Alcinas
(10) Simon Whitlock v Martin Schindler
(23) Darren Webster v Devon Petersen
(6) Phil Taylor v Chris Dobey
(27) Justin Pipe v Xiao Chen Zong/Bernie Smith
(11) James Wade v Keegan Brown
(22) Mervyn King v Zoran Lerchbacher
(3) Gary Anderson v Jeff Smith/Luke Humphries
(30) Mark Webster v Kai Fan Leung/Paul Lim
(14) Benito van de Pas v Steve West
(19) Joe Cullen v Jermaine Wattimena

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