Lewis can reclaim title
Adrian Lewis can reclaim the PDC World Darts title over the coming weeks, according to Carl Longhawn.
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It wouldn't be Christmas without the darts taking centre stage in the sporting world and this Friday will see the start of the Ladbrokes PDC World Darts Championship.
It is the biggest stage in the sport and all 72 players entering the event will be dreaming of lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy on New Year's Day; some will be pipe dreams, others less so.
A record first prize of £250,000 awaits the winner, staggering when you consider the humble beginnings of the sport on TV and the legal battles of the early 1990s that threatened its future.
At the age of 53, Phil Taylor is in the twilight of his career in regard to the time he has left in the game but he enters this tournament in arguably his best-ever form. It is no surprise that he is a hot 10/11 favourite to win his 17th World Championship having won all bar three of the major events this year.
Michael Van Gerwen and Adrian Lewis are next best in the market at 7/2 and 11/2 respectively and look a daunting prospect for those in the bottom half of the draw; they are the only players other than Taylor to pick up TV titles this year.
In value terms, I favour Lewis. He showed at Blackpool (World Match Play) and Wolverhampton (Grand Slam of Darts) that he has the edge over MVG in the longer formats and arguably should have beaten him last year in this event.
If he is to win his third world title then he likely will have to beat Taylor in a TV final for the first time but I feel it is his time.
Twice a winner of this tournament, Lewis won't be fazed by the Ally Pally atmosphere and his price looks more than fair.
Aside from the 'Big Three', the likes of Simon Whitlock, James Wade and Raymond van Barneveld will have their fair share of supporters but I personally find it hard to see either contending beyond the quarter-finals for various reasons.
Whitlock has been in poor form for much of 2013, bar the odd flash, and is easily opposable despite being a proven set-play performer. Wade is hard to properly assess and on his day is a match to anyone in the game.
However, a combination of questionable form and mentality makes it tough to mount a case for him getting out of a tough half with MVG and Lewis. Van Barneveld is doing the right thing in looking to lose weight; the problem is that, as a result, he looked short of energy in Minehead and longer matches here will test his energy levels further. This looks likely to be fatal for his chances.
In all probability, Taylor will progress both from his half of the draw, but there could be two players who will make him work for that progression at the least.
Robert Thornton has continued his good play from 2012 this year. He has won three tour events and despite a couple of poor TV performances, he has looked in good nick in recent weeks. He looks Taylor's biggest danger in quarter one.
Like 'The Thorn', Kim Huybrechts has won three tour events, including the Dutch Masters, and his drawing brother Ronnie in round one could work to his benefit. Clearly, from an emotional and competitive stand point it is a tough draw but he showed in Wolverhampton that he can rise to the challenge, making the last eight before losing to Lewis.
He is in weakest of the four quarters with Hamilton and Whitlock in poor form and should take advantage of this.
- The action gets under way at 1900 GMT on Friday and is being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports.