World Darts Championship: Wayne Mardle names men to watch
Wayne Mardle picks out the players to watch at this year's World Darts Championship.
By Wayne Mardle
Last Updated: 12/12/13 6:33pm
When talking about ones to watch you have to start with Phil Taylor because he knows how to win it. Phil knows he is the best player on the planet and he reminds everybody about that quite a lot - but in very subtle ways. He won't brag about winning the title again; instead he will say 'I'd like to get number 17 if I can'. The other players must be sat at home thinking '17? This guy has won 16 and I haven't won one!' He's very clever at putting the others down.
The thing with Phil is that leg-in, leg-out there's nobody who can match him. Michael van Gerwen has succeeded a couple of times, but last year's World Final summed Taylor up. He wasn't at his best, but still beat Van Gerwen playing great. It's hard to think of a time when he's been playing better. The great thing about the sport of darts is that the statistics are simple to follow and they show his averages are higher than ever. He had never averaged above 106 for a tournament before this year's World Matchplay for example. I'm not going to say he's getting better than ever but he's definitely not on the decline.
Michael van Gerwen
I think there is a very small window to become a World Champion and you need to get it won early. You don't see many players who play well for a long period and then win the world title. Adrian Lewis, Phil Taylor, Dennis Priestley, Eric Bristow, John Lowe and many more won it fairly early in their careers. I think this year or next is Van Gerwen's window. He will be around for a long time, but to get over the line he needs to do it sooner rather than later.
This guy will give you excitement and moments of nonchalance. He makes the game look ridiculously easy and from ability to temperament he's got it all. If he gets beaten it will only be by one or two players; that's Taylor in the final or Lewis in the semi-final. I cannot see anybody else giving him a game.
Adrian Lewis is twice a World Champion and when he is on form he is one of the best in the world. However, when he's off form he is capable of being beaten by anybody. That's why anybody who has a punt on him will always be worried until that winning double has gone in!
When he is playing well he is an absolute joy to watch. You will see him coast into leads and then throw them away - but equally you can see him come back from almost impossible positions. Two years ago he came back from 5-1 down to win the World Championship semi-final against James Wade, a match he never should have won. It's hard to see the winner of this World Championship coming from beyond him, Taylor and Van Gerwen because those three have dominated the majors this year.
This Belgian player has got the game to trouble anybody. He can average 100 easily and literally produces that for a living, but the question is whether he can cross that line? He was won Tour events in the past and has got to the final of majors - last year's Players Championship and this year's World Cup alongside his brother - so he has proved he can get there, but winning the big one is a little bit different. Some people say you can treat this tournament like any other event, but I don't believe that, even when Phil Taylor says it.
Kim Huybrechts has the game, but can he cope with the scrutiny of playing in a World Championship semi-final or final? That's the question and we will soon find out. He actually plays his brother in the opening round and I don't think that will bother him. They competed against each other for the first time on TV at this year's Grand Slam and he dealt with the situation like a pro, played well and did a number on his brother. I don't think Ronnie will trouble him in the first round.
I think Peter Wright is definitely a runner this year. He is in form and I don't often fancy people who are in a spell of form because it's very easy for them to go off as quickly as they go on - but sometimes you see people move up a level and turn into a good player. We saw Wes Newton step up four years ago and he has not really stopped and the same is happening with Peter Wright in my opinion. I've known him for 25 years and he's always been a good player, but nowadays he is world-class - and that's been the case for a whole year. He's been playing at the very highest level and hasn't waned or gone off the boil.
Whenever he gets beat it takes a brilliant performance and he will be hard to beat at this World Championship. I don't think he will win it because I think Taylor, Van Gerwen and Lewis have it sewn up between them - but I expect him to give a real good account of himself. His wife has also Tweeted that we should expect a haircut "out of the ordinary". She usually gives him "out of the ordinary" hair all the time, so I'm expecting something very different!
I have a feeling Gary Anderson might give a good account of himself this year. He's the sort of player who plays really well and looks like a potential world champion and then fails to win a match you would expect him to. However, he is playing some real decent darts at the moment and was great at the Grand Slam where he was unlucky to come up against a superb Phil Taylor.
People know that if they can stick with him then they will get chances. How many times have we spoken about his missed doubles on commentary? If he can get his finishing sorted then he has got every chance of going all the way. On the down side, he is on the wrong side of the draw in my opinion but he has the ability to annihilate anyone if he plays to the best of his ability. If he does that then he is a threat to anyone.
Raymond van Barneveld
Barney is a proven winner and is more than capable of winning this tournament. He knows that, but he sometimes forgets how to win and beats himself up too much. Sometimes you see him dominate a match and then get on a bit of a downer with himself, which results in him losing games that he shouldn't lose.
His ability is not in question and he always seems to play well, but he's always worried about things. If you look back at this year's Grand Slam he was in total control after winning his first two group matches, but then got really frustrated because he wasn't through after two games. He played Meryvn King in his final match and he almost acted as if it was one step too far for him. He wasn't playing badly, but the mental side of his game is definitely lacking. For that reason I don't think he will win the World Championship, despite his ability. He will be asked tougher and tougher questions in every round and he won't always be able to provide the answers.
Every session of the World Darts Championship 2014 is live on Sky Sports, starting on Friday December 13 at 7pm on Sky Sports 1.