The young guns are running things at the PDC World Darts Championship.
Of the five players to have made the quarter-finals, Darius Labanauskas (who outclassed Steve Beaton on Saturday afternoon) is the elder statesman at 43. Michael van Gerwen (30), Nathan Aspinall (28), Dimitri van den Bergh (25) and Luke Humphries (24) join the Lithuanian. If the pattern follows, we’ll see Jeffrey de Zwaan, Chris Dobey and Gerwyn Price completing the last eight. But the World Darts Championship is never that predictable.
Snakes, snakes everywhere! It’s Snakebite against the Black Cobra in the serpent derby (Nathan Aspinall and Jelle Klaasen get a shout out here as well). Jeffrey de Zwaan is on the same hot streak that saw him reach the World Matchplay semi-finals. He beat Dave Chisnall during that Blackpool rampage, and he’s done the same again here. De Zwaan was spectacular, posting easily the best average of this year’s World Darts Championship to date. The Dutchman can often go right off the boil, but if he doesn’t, he’s a genuine dark horse for the title.
How Peter Wright would love to get his hands on this trophy. It’s not always the most talented player who wins out, but the one who manages tough situations the best – and that’s where the former UK Open champion often stutters. In fairness, it’s often in the early stages in tournaments, which can be pot luck, or at the back end with a Michael van Gerwen type breathing down his neck. Actually, it’s mostly just MVG. During the middle stages of majors, he’s good. Look back at Wright’s last three years – bar a smattering of events, he’s either going out in his first day or so of play, or the last.
He’ll be more settled after mixed bags against Noel Malicdem and Seigo Asada. Yet De Zwaan’s heavy scoring will test his nerve, and we haven’t yet seen a version of Wright who can deal with it. We know he can, of course. What can be guaranteed is that a quarter-final meeting with Luke Humphries depends on the Scot finding that A-game.
North East awaits its Local Hero
Like Aspinall-Anderson last night, the second tie of the session feels like the one that’s going to astound and amaze. Chris Dobey and Glen Durrant, the Geordie (well, Bedlington, but let’s not split hairs) and the Smoggie, scrapping it out for regional dominance. Oh, and a World Darts Championship quarter-final slot.
Dobey knew he’d not be the focus in his last match, but let’s put the spotlight on him here. In front of a crowd desperate to see him lose, Hollywood averaged 101 and took the last two sets of the match by the scruff of the neck. Fallon Sherrock took sets one and three against the darts; undeterred, Dobey claimed sets two and four. He’s a cool customer alright, and will have earned fans even when dispatching the people’s favourite.
Durrant has a fair following himself, and has convinced the watching world that he’s one of the best players in the PDC. He didn’t need a World Darts Championship run to do that really; but why not, eh? Sixth seed Daryl Gurney was a little sloppy, but that doesn’t detract from Durrant claiming three of the last four sets in the game by taking a deciding leg. Like Dobey, that shows true bottle. Whoever wins this game will have thoroughly earned a quarter-final place.
Price purring at the Palace
Gerwyn Price has already embarked on his best World Darts Championship run ever. A third-round thumping of John Henderson came in the form of a whitewash, 3-1 in all sets, with a 104 average in the bag. Overall, it’s a very positive time for the Welshman. He’s put to bed the suggestion that he can’t find his best stuff on the biggest stage, and is starting to look very ominous indeed. It’s true that Henderson gave Price a few belated Christmas gifts with missed doubles, but the consistency with which the Iceman’s first dart found the big treble tells of someone bound to create chances for himself in most legs, even if he meets a more ruthless opponent.
Simon Whitlock is next in Price’s firing line, having comfortably negotiated the English duo of Harry Ward and Mervyn King. The 50-year-old has suffered a bit of a slide in the rankings over recent months, but stressed after his win over King that he feels far from finished. Whitlock’s performances so far back that up; the Wizard has been in fine fettle across the two games, even if King dominated the opening stages of that third round encounter.
There’s no doubting that Price is the clear favourite. If he scores as he did against Henderson, he’ll be giving himself chances to win every set, which heaps on the pressure. But Whitlock’s been clear on this – don’t write him off yet.
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
Saturday December 28
Evening session (1900 GMT start)
19:15 Peter Wright vs Jeffrey de Zwaan
20:30 Chris Dobey vs Glen Durrant
21:45 Gerwyn Price vs Simon Whitlock
Author: Ed McCosh