The PDC World Darts Championship is about to stop for the Christmas break. Bah, humbug.
At least we have one day and six games packed with action to enjoy before then. We now know a quarter of the World Darts Championship Last 16 ties, thanks to Sunday’s play. Michael van Gerwen will take on Stephen Bunting. Steve Beaton takes on Darius Labanauskas, with the winner getting their biggest ever payday. Nathan Aspinall and Kim Huybrechts will also be back after the hiatus.
Young stars eye Last 16
Huybrechts will watch the first of Monday’s game with particular interest. The winner of Nico Kurz and Luke Humphries’ clash will play the Belgian in the Last 16. This is familiar ground for Humphries. Last year, it was Dimitri van den Bergh and Rob Cross who stood between him and the quarter-finals; if he can brush both of them aside as he did, he has nobody to fear. Humphries has been made to work hard by Devon Petersen and Jermaine Wattimena, but has battled through with well-timed bursts of quality.
Nico Kurz has done much the same. The German was great value for 3-1 wins over James Wilson and Joe Cullen, two players with heaps more stage experience. He’s now Germany’s last hope at this year’s World Darts Championship, with the more established pair of Gabriel Clemens and Max Hopp falling short. Kurz will assume the underdog role here, but this should be a tight game.
Redemption for Jackpot?
Adrian Lewis and Darren Webster were two seeds who, fairly or unfairly, were touted as vulnerable going into the World Darts Championship. Webster, for his part, dismissed such talk emphatically. The diminutive thrower towered above a misfiring Yuki Yamada in every respect, and was good value for a win wrapped up by winning nine legs on the bounce. No matter the context or opponent, any heavy Ally Pally win is a huge confidence boost.
Lewis, meanwhile, staggered through a mad match against Cristo Reyes. At one point, Lewis was spraying errant darts all over the place – notably hitting treble 1 flush in the centre when needing treble 18 to set up a finish. The next, he was millimetres away from a magnificent nine-darter. The win was a microcosm of Jackpot himself; sometimes masterful, sometimes infuriating, always entertaining. This one is extremely hard to call. Should he find a way to win, perhaps we can start getting nostalgic as Lewis looks to bring back his World Darts Championship glory days.
Luke targets another surprise
Luke Woodhouse was tipped to give Michael Smith a run for his money in the second round. He went a step further, practically shoving the Bully Boy over and stealing his lunch money. It was another scalp to add to that of Daryl Gurney in the Players Championship Finals. His World Darts Championship prospects could take a giant leap if he were to beat Dimitri van den Bergh. The winner of the Lewis-Webster tie would be all that stands between him and the quarter-finals.
Yet of that quartet, it’s van den Bergh who has comfortably been the form horse. The Belgian was simply outstanding against Josh Payne, notching up the best average of the tournament. He always seems to turn it on in the second round. It’s beyond that which proves uncertain for the Dream Maker. A Luke – Humphries, not Woodhouse – smashed him all over the board a year ago. Now Woodhouse wants to do the same. If van den Bergh produces what he did against Payne, it’s hard to see the Englishman managing it.
Click here for more information on the PDC World Darts Championship, which takes place at the Alexandra Palace between December 13 and January 1.
Monday December 23
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
Nico Kurz vs Luke Humphries (1240 GMT)
Adrian Lewis vs Darren Webster (13:50 GMT)
Luke Woodhouse vs Dimitri van den Bergh (15:00 GMT)
Author: Ed McCosh