And then there were eight. The World Championship has reached the quarter-final stage, and now there are just seven matches to go. After that, we will know the identity of the 2018 world champion. Four of the contenders have won it before, while three of the other four are in their first ever World Championship quarter-final. Incredibly, all of the former group meet in the evening session. That means, on the afternoon of day 13, a quartet of hopefuls go head-to-head. Two unseeded sensations take on high-quality players who will feel a semi-final berth is theirs to lose. It will be one fantastic appetiser before one mammoth main course in the evening session.
Jamie Lewis vs Darren Webster
It is incredible to think how close Jamie Lewis came to not even competing in the World Championship. Josh Payne could have denied him a place had he won the World Youth Championship. Stuart Kellett, Kevin Simm, Paul Nicholson, Mike McGowan, David Pallett and Chris Quantock could have stopped him in the PDPA qualifiers. Nicholson and McGowan were particularly close. Kenny Neyens could have defeated the Welshman in the preliminary round, had he made a better start in the deciding set. But it wasn’t to be. Lewis survived, and he thrived.
The 99 average against Jonny Clayton was good. The 107.27 against Peter Wright, the world number two, was incredible. Lewis has been sitting on a talent goldmine for a few years now. It seems as if he could finally reap the benefits. But there were chinks in his game against James Richardson, who took the first set with too much ease. Once Lewis settles, the treble 20 is regularly found, the doubles hit prolifically. The number of 140s he hits turns vital legs in his favour. But a failure to settle quickly can set him back.
If there’s one thing Darren Webster does well, it’s punishing mistakes. His 4-0 thrashing of Antonio Alcinas was similar to the victories over Devon Petersen and Simon Whitlock. The scoring was solid but not spectacular. Some of the checkouts were excellent, though mostly the Demolition Man’s success has come from hitting the doubles when his opponents falter. As the only one of the afternoon session’s group to have been in a World Championship quarter-final before, Webster has the slight edge in experience. Should the Jamie Lewis that downed Wright turn up, Webster may not have the ton-plus average game to match him. Otherwise, this will be a tight slog.
Rob Cross vs Dimitri van den Bergh
Who is the future of darts? There are plenty of names in the hat. Even Daryl Gurney, if you don’t subscribe to Phil Taylor’s water-based ramblings. Few darting prodigies inspire as much excitement as Rob Cross and Dimitri van den Bergh. One of them will reach the first of many World Championship semi-finals. The other will have to bide their time. It’s unlikely that this fixture will be the only one played in the latter stages of this tournament.
Rob Cross was an amateur this time 12 months ago, most likely watching Michael van Gerwen romp to victory on TV. After a remarkable 2017, a semi-final against the reigning world champ is in his sights. Raymond van Barneveld, another potential semi-final opponent, has labelled Cross as the next Phil Taylor. He has all the necessary attributes: power-scoring, composure on his doubles and a cocksure demeanour that belies his rookie status. Michael Smith had two darts to end Voltage’s dream, but every championship contender has to ride their luck at times. Cross was named as a dark horse before the tournament. That’s ridiculous. His talent and ability to win were never secrets.
Dimitri van den Bergh, though in his third World Championship, has enjoyed a similarly meteoric rise. 2017 was a breakthrough year for the Belgian, who became the World Youth champion. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee success – Aaron Monk and James Hubbard beat Michael van Gerwen but haven’t made an impact since, while Keegan Brown and Max Hopp are yet to live up to their potential.
There’s something about van den Bergh, though, that makes you think he will never be a flash in the pan. On the biggest stage of all, averaging 104 against Stephen Bunting, out-finishing one of the PDC’s best finishers in Jan Dekker and whitewashing fifth seed Mensur Suljovic is remarkable. To efficiently do away with a good friend in Suljovic shows the Dream Maker’s nerves of steel. Smith vs Cross was a classic. Van den Bergh vs Cross, if they both find their feet early on, could be even better. Years from now, this match could be seen as the start of something big.
Author: Ed McCosh