Now Christmas is done and dusted, it’s back to the Palace for the World Darts Championship.
Where were we? We’ve got some fourth round ties confirmed already. Defending World Darts Championship holder Michael van Gerwen will play Stephen Bunting. Then there’s Steve Beaton against Darius Labanauskas. Gary Anderson will face Nathan Aspinall in a tasty clash. Dimitri van den Bergh has Adrian Lewis, Peter Wright clashes with Jeffrey de Zwaan, and it’s Kim Huybrechts versus Luke Humphries. We have four spots left to fill; three will be filled on Friday afternoon.
Wizard and King seek crowning glory
Simon Whitlock and Mervyn King have decades of experience, and 23 World Darts Championship visits, between them. There’ll be no edge afforded by experience or stage legs here. It’s all down to form. Of the pair, it’s King who has been more impressive in stage events this year. He’s gained a knack for sending big names packing. And with Gerwyn Price a possible fourth round opponent, a narrative could once again be forming for him.
But Whitlock has played better up on the Alexandra Palace stage this year. King was wasteful and complacent against Ciaran Teehan. Whitlock, meanwhile, remained switched on throughout a 3-0 thrashing of Harry Ward, even keeping his focus when his young opposite number completely lost his way. The Wizard has done well here in the past, and another run could get him right back on track as he makes a late bid for the Premier League spot he feels he was robbed of 12 months ago.
Superchin faces Duzza fight
Daryl Gurney knows he’s going to have a real fight on his hands throughout this World Darts Championship bid. Yes, the sixth seed sauntered through a routine whitewash of Justin Pipe. But he’ll have had his eye on the bigger picture. In a particularly strong quarter, only one seed – Mensur Suljovic – has bowed out. He performed better than most in round two, but Chris Dobey was a shade better average-wise. Gerwyn Price, the aforementioned Whitlock and King, and the wildcards of John Henderson and Fallon Sherrock all lie like rocks in a choppy ocean, ready to wreck the good ship Superchin.
Even before thoughts of negotiating this treacherous journey, Gurney has to consider a huge third round encounter. Glen Durrant will be much higher than 27th seed this time next year. In round two, Damon Heta was a banana skin that Duzza picked up and lobbed into the bin. Both players looked unruffled and confident in their wins. Now only one of them can come through this match, one of the matches of the round. It’s incredibly hard to call, and one we can only hope goes the distance.
When Fallon Sherrock beat Ted Evetts, it was a huge moment – for the World Darts Championship, for darts, for women’s sport, for sport, for everyone. She was swept away in a tidal wave of media attention, just about having time to practice her doubling ahead of a meeting with one of the best players in the world. And she beat him anyway. Sherrock has faced two superb players, has averaged solidly, and has finished spectacularly. The 25-year-old just can’t be underestimated any more.
One thing that makes her performance so brilliant – the fact that so many legs have been won with the last dart in hand, most under severe pressure – also points to a vulnerability. Sherrock has fantastic poise, but it’s a risky business, and the right player will pounce on any errors.
Chris Dobey tends to be one of those players. Bar the odd shaky moment, Hollywood is mostly an ice-cold killer, a player who looks like he’ll grasp the opportunities he’s given. He’s also one of darts’ nice guys, a bit like Evetts and Suljovic, which makes the inevitable booing and jeering he’ll receive that bit more jarring. He’s not foolish enough to think that it’s noise which swings games Sherrock’s way – undoubtedly, it’s been through opponents leaving the door even slightly ajar for her. Dobey’s job is to do what he eventually did against Ron Meulenkamp – slam that door shut.
But if Sherrock can find a way, she’ll have Gurney or Durrant, and will be another step closer to an even greater achievement.
Click here for more information on the PDC World Darts Championship, which takes place at the Alexandra Palace between December 13 and January 1.
PDC World Darts Championship 2020 schedule
Friday December 27, afternoon session (12:30 GMT start)
12:40 Simon Whitlock vs Mervyn King
13:50 Daryl Gurney vs Glen Durrant
15:00 Fallon Sherrock vs Chris Dobey
Author: Ed McCosh