Taking on Taylor
Sky Bet say plenty of punters are looking to oppose Phil Taylor ahead of the World Championship.
By Nigel Askham
Last Updated: 10/12/13 4:59pm
Phil Taylor will again start firm favourite as he seeks his 17th World Championship title but Sky Bet have still seen plenty of punters ready to take on 'The Power'.
The 53-year-old remains adamant he will retire in four years' time and has shown his age by admitting he is increasingly worried that late-night finishes at Alexandra Palace could hamper his chances of retaining his title.
His desire to remain at the top is in no doubt though and he is unquestionably the man to beat in the tournament which begins on Friday and climaxes on New Year's Day.
But Taylor knows only his best will do to head off the challenge of Michael van Gerwen who is being well backed after fighting back from 6-3 down to beat Taylor 11-7 in the Players Championship final at the start of the month.
The Dutch ace, who was 9/4 co-favourite with Taylor when the market opened in January, could be backed at 6/1 following his defeat by Adrian Lewis in the second round of the World Grand Slam in Wolverhampton last month but, worryingly for his rivals, was back to his brilliant best in Minehead.
The 24-year-old might be said to have the psychological advantage over Taylor having also beaten him in the final of the Premier League in May and has been slashed to 7/2 - now boosted to 4/1 by Sky Bet - to make amends for last year's 7-4 World Championship final defeat by the world number one.
While around 80 per cent of Sky Bet's stakes have been for Taylor and van Gerwen a case could certainly be made for Adrian Lewis at an attractive price.
Lewis chasing hat-trick
The 2011 and 2012 world title winner certainly has the big tournament experience and, at his best, is a serious danger to the top two.
His form has been the usual mix of highs and lows and he drifted out to 14/1 mid-year, but success in the European Championship in July - seeing off van Gerwen in a high-quality semi-final - and being runner-up to Taylor at the World Matchplay in Blackpool have underlined his credentials ahead of the biggest event of the campaign.
Beyond the top three in the market it appears a pretty hopeless cause with James Wade next in the market at 20/1 and 2007 winner Raymond van Barneveld out at 33/1.
But it's certainly Taylor, with seven televised tournament wins in 2013 under his belt, who is the man they all have to beat - provided he gets his sleep!
Sky Bet's darts trader Craig Ibbotson said: "The standard of play in general is certainly getting better and better and the strength of the top 32 is there for all to see.
"However Taylor, Lewis and MVG are in a league of their own and I would be hugely surprised if they don't take up 3 of the 4 semi-final positions.
"MVG played exceptionally well last week in defeating both Lewis and Taylor, but Taylor dipped considerably at the end of the night having played 3 games in one day and there is no such schedule at the Ally Pally.
"Taylor has won it 16 times and even though 'leg format' suits him better, it will take an extraordinary effort from Lewis or MVG to dethrone him. My shout is an all Stoke final, with MVG v Lewis the game of the year in the semi-final," he added.