Emma Paton delivers some pre-Christmas bangers as she picks her outsiders, debutants to keep an eye on, and overall winner – who will it be? We’re back for the World Darts Championship from December 15, 2023, to January 3, 2024 – live on Sky Sports Darts
By Emma Paton, Sky Sports News Reporter/Presenter @MissEmmaPaton 12:30, UK, Friday 15 December 2023
Toughest quarter? Who are the outsiders? Debutants to keep an eye on and overall winner? Emma Paton has arrived at the Palace in time to deliver her predictions ahead of the World Darts Championship. It’s Daaaaaaartmaaaas! It really is the most wonderful time of the year if you’re a darts fan! Three weeks of wall-to-wall arrows, what more could you want while you’re off work and enjoying the festive period!?
I know we say this every year but who says this can’t be the best Worlds yet? After a year that has seen new major winners, a load of different winners too, the tournament couldn’t be set up any better. Take a look at some of the Christmas outfits that Peter Wright has treated the Alexandra Palace crowd to over the years
Toughest quarter? Wayne Mardle breaks down the World Darts Championship draw and picks out the tough games for the seeded players. Let’s be real, they’re all tricky! But I have to say the second quarter is possibly the toughest with four former world champions in it in the form of Gerwyn Price, Peter Wright, Gary Anderson, and Raymond van Barneveld, plus the likes of James Wade and this year’s UK Open Champion Andrew Gilding. Ultimately I think (and hope!) this quarter will come down to a clash between Price and Anderson. Anderson has averaged more than any other player through the course of the year, he’s picked up three ranking titles and above all, he’s shown he’s still got the hunger and drive to perform at the highest level. Having made five World Championship finals, the two-time champion has definitely got our attention ahead of the biggest tournament of the year. Image: Gerwyn Price and Gary Anderson could be in line for a blockbuster clash should they both make progress at Ally Pally But can he stop the juggernaut that is Gerwyn Price? Well, the Iceman is in the top three for averages this season and despite a lack of major titles, he’s put in some show-stopping performances, and like Anderson, he’s picked up ranking titles – four ProTour wins and two on the European Tour. Who are the outsiders? I’ve just waxed lyrical about Gary Anderson, so can a two-time champion be an outsider? We’ll put him in this category seeing as he’s ranked outside the top 20 in the world these days. Aside from Anderson, a few others spring to mind… Stephen Bunting came agonizingly close to his first-ever televised nine-darter at this year’s Grand Slam of Darts Stephen Bunting is in the third quarter, along with Michael van Gerwen, but based off his form throughout the season and the run he had to the semi-finals of the Grand Slam recently, I wouldn’t be surprised to see another decent run here. Josh Rock is also in that third quarter. He hasn’t been talked about as much as he was this time last year but he’s had some top performances recently, even in defeat – averaging 101 in losing to James Wade at the Grand Slam and then 112 in an early exit at the Players Championship Finals – so he’s shown glimpses of what he can do and we know he likes to put on a show! Josh Rock stunned Michael van Gerwen with a nine-darter at last year’s Grand Slam of Darts before Van Gerwen went on to win a classic And if Anderson is an outsider, then does Rob Cross count too? The 2018 winner is maybe playing his best darts since then! Having finished runner-up in Wolverhampton, he impressed throughout those nine days with some super consistent darts and even averaged 104 in defeat to Luke Humphries in the final. Who says ‘Voltage’ can’t find his spark and upset the favorites? Debutants to keep an eye on… Image: Teenager Luke Littler has averaged over a ton on 22 occasions in 2023 On the evening of Wednesday, December 20, make sure you sit down and watch Luke Littler. Please! He is without a doubt the debutant I’m most excited to see at the Palace. The 16-year-old was crowned World Youth Champion a few weeks ago and we really got a glimpse of what he can do on a big stage. The youngster has picked up five titles on the Development Tour this season – averaging over a ton on 22 occasions – and he landed a first nine-darter at a PDC event too. He’s box office, trust me! Littler is one of 24 debutants in action. Stowe Buntz is a name that stands out after the American made it all the way to the quarter-finals at the Grand Slam. He’s a real character who has a Peter Wright-look about him with bright trousers and a colorful shirt to match. He had the crowd behind him in Wolverhampton and no doubt he’ll get the fans at Ally Pally behind him too! Simon Adams is another I’m looking forward to seeing in action, and a name we’re less familiar with. The 56-year-old South African put in some huge averages at the Modus Super Series, he seems like he’s got a great personality and will relish the opportunity to play on the sport’s biggest stage. Who wins? Watch how Wayne Mardle and Stuart Pyke reacted to the sensational leg between Van Gerwen and Michael Smith in the World Championship Final that culminated in a nine-darter for Bully Boy I change my mind every week! But with just days to go, I’m going to set my stall out and go with three-time champion Michael van Gerwen. It’s been 10 years since his first world title and to be honest it’s been a while since he won his last! This is a player who’s been in six of the last 11 finals, I’m so eager to see if he can clinch the Sid Waddell trophy for a fourth time. We know he’s desperate to beat Raymond van Barneveld’s haul of five but he needs to get to four first! Despite a lack of big ranking titles this season, he picked up a seventh Premier League title earlier this year. There have been titles on the World Series, plus the Worlds Series Finals crown, so he’s been in the winner’s circle. It hurt him losing to Michael Smith in ‘that’ final 11 months ago, and it hurt him losing to Luke Humphries in the final of the Players Championship Finals just a few weeks ago so no doubt the Dutchman will be hungrier than ever when the Palace party gets underway. Watch every nine-darter hit at the PDC World Championship When does the World Darts Championship start? The World Darts Championship starts on Friday, December 15 – live on Sky Sports! The sport’s biggest event will be held from December 15, 2023, to January 3, 2024, as 96 players compete for the Sid Waddell Trophy and £2.5m in prize money at Alexandra Palace. You can watch all the action live on our dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel. Watch the World Darts Championship from December 15, 2023, to January 3, 2024 – live on Sky Sports Darts. Stream your favorite sports and more with NOW