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SPORTS STORY

The king is dead. Long live the king

Darts expert Jaymes Monte looks ahead to the impeding PDC World Darts Championship, before turning his attention to the less glitzy but equally enjoyable BDO equivalent

To write off Phil Taylor in any darts event is as foolish as it is disrespectful to a man who has almost single-handedly changed the landscape of the sport over the past decade. However, going into this year’s PDC World Championships there is genuine reason to oppose ‘The Power’ in the betting.

Defeat to Steve Beaton at the quarter-final stage of the recent Grand Slam of Darts came after a shock defeat to Adrian Lewis at the semi-final stages of the World Grand Prix a month earlier. It was the first time that Taylor had failed in consecutive major tournaments for the best part of three years.

Prior to the World Grand Prix defeat Taylor had won 11 of the previous 12 televised tournaments, including hitting two nine-darters in the Premier League final, and looked unstoppable in his pursuit of a 16th World Championship title. Now the vultures are circling and there is a great deal of belief among the other players that ‘The Power’ can be beaten.

So, who can take up the mantle? On current form the answer is simple. James Wade won the World Grand Prix in Dublin, then beat Taylor in the Championship of Darts final the following week and was a beaten finalist at the recent Grand Slam of Darts.

However, it is that last performance at the Grand Slam that will be of the most concern to those considering backing ‘The Machine’ at 8/1. Having led eventual winner Scott Waites 8-0 early on he conspired to self implode and lose the match 16-12. In his post match interview Wade admitted to feeling “absolutely horrific” in regards to the manner of his defeat and whether he can quickly forget about the loss and move on will be a huge factor at ‘Ally Pally’ this winter.

Of the other main contenders for the PDC World Championships Raymond van Barneveld (14/1), Simon Whitlock (14/1) and Gary Anderson (16/1) all have much more significant reasons to be opposed.

‘Barney’ has endured a torturous 12 months away from the oche which began with being diagnosed with diabetes and ended with a man being jailed for blackmailing and threatening the Dutchman’s family. Darts fans collectively hope that one day we will see Barney back to his brilliant best, but unfortunately, and for obvious reasons, that seems a long way off at present.

Whitlock has also had a tough year for very different reasons. After bursting onto the PDC scene at last year’s World Championships he was then invited to play in the Premier League and eventually decided to relocate from Australia to the UK. Although it may not be a direct consequence of this his form has certainly dipped in the latter part of the year. On top form he can contend at this year’s championships but he will need to improve considerably on the way that he has played over the previous three or four months.

Scotsman Anderson has no similar excuses to the aforementioned contenders. Instead it is his inconsistency that makes his chances of winning a long tournament such as the World Championships unlikely. His talent is unquestionable and is often considered to be akin to even Taylor, but he crumbles under the pressure all too regularly to be considered a serious contender. The darts adage “trebles for show, doubles for dough” has never been more applicable than in reference to Anderson’s game.

So, while Taylor’s form has been questionable of late so has that of the majority of his main contenders and it is Wade who stands out as the obvious bet. If he can put that Grand Slam defeat behind him then we could very well see a changing of the guard at Alexandra Palace come 3 January.

WALKING IN A WAITES WONDERLAND

Prior to this year’s Grand Slam of Darts there was a commonly held belief that the BDO was the much poorer (in terms of talent) sibling to the PDC organisation.

Tony O’Shea beat James Wade, Ted Hankey beat Phil Taylor and Dave Chisnal beat Simon Whitlock in the group stages of the event before Scott Waites became the Grand Slam champion to completely dispel that myth.

Although the BDO may not have any of the glitz and glamour that the PDC has there is now no doubt that its players are up there with the best in the world.

Following his Grand Slam victory Waites was trimmed into 4/1 to go on and win the BDO World Championship for the first time. However, he has never made it past the quarter-finals at Lakeside and to ask him to reach those Grand Slam heights again just over a month later may be pushing things a little too far.

Defending champion Martin Adams won the World Masters back in October of this year and is the deserved 3/1 favourite to win a third world title, but offers little value in a high-quality field.

At bigger prices Chisnall (6/1), O’Shea (7/1) and Hankey (12/1) all deserve respect but it is Martin Phillips at 25/1 who offers the greatest each-way value. At the spritely age of 50 the Welshman is throwing the best darts of his life. He was a semi-finalist at this event last year, made it to the same stage of the recent World Masters and was unlucky to be knocked out of the group stages at the Grand Slam.

The winter’s darting entertainment doesn’t end with the conclusion of the PDC World Championships.

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