PDC World Darts Championship, 2020/21: Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright and Gerwyn Price chase title and No 1 ranking
Watch live coverage from Alexandra Palace on Sunday with two sessions of action; afternoon session starts at 12pm; Van Gerwen and Wright resume titles bids in evening session from 6pm on Sky Sports Darts
By Paul Prenderville at Alexandra Palace
Last Updated: 27/12/20 11:41am
At this time of year, the race to be Christmas No 1 is always a talking point. In darts, the challenge to become world No 1 currently goes hand in hand with the battle to be crowned PDC world champion when the tournament resumes on Sunday.
"Over a two-year period, you are throwing it out there: 'I'm doing some damage here. If you want to get past me, you have not only got to beat me, you have got to better me," two-time PDC world No 1 Colin Lloyd told The Darts Show podcast.
We may be a week away from a changing of the guard at the top of the darts world rankings. However, it may be that there is no change at all. More importantly, over the next seven days, a world champion will be crowned.
But the race to be world No 1 is an intriguing sub-story as this year's PDC World Darts Championship resumes with the third round from 12pm on Sky Sports Darts on Sunday.
Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright and Gerwyn Price head the betting in the race to be crowned world champion after this most truncated of darting, and sporting, years.
On Sunday, January 3, the winner will lift the Sid Waddell Trophy, take home the £500,000 winners' cheque and, uniquely for recent World Championships, the sport's world No 1 ranking.
"You have proven to yourself that you can not only compete, but you can beat the best, because if you are very consistent, you keep building up the points as it was back then for me," Lloyd told The Darts Show podcast.
"It is a money list now but it shows your game is going in the right direction because you are building up that money.
"There is now that added bit of spice, but for now the guys won't even be thinking about world No 1. All they will be worrying about is becoming the PDC world champion because that's the tournament they are in."
PDC World No 1s since 1993
Alan Warriner-Little, Dennis Priestley, Rod Harrington, Phil Taylor, Peter Manley, John Part, Colin Lloyd, Raymond van Barneveld, Michael van Gerwen
Only nine players in 27 years have held the No 1 ranking - it has been Van Gerwen's since January 2014 when he usurped the all-conquering Phil 'The Power' Taylor after victory at Ally Pally over Peter Wright.
Were the tournament to finish with all three eliminated over the next two days it would be Wright that starts 2021 at the top of the world rankings, so the schedule makes for interesting reading.
World Darts Championship Third Round - Monday's Order of Play
|Afternoon||Krzysztof Ratajski vs Simon Whitlock|
|Kim Huybrechts vs Ryan Searle|
|Dimitri Van den Bergh vs Jermaine Wattimena|
|Evening||Joe Cullen vs Jonny Clayton|
|Peter Wright vs Gabriel Clemens|
|Michael van Gerwen vs Ricky Evans|
Van Gerwen will be first to return to the oche when he faces 'Rapid' Ricky Evans on Sunday with Wright up against Germany's Gabriel Clemens immediately afterwards. Price faces Brendan Dolan on Monday night.
Given the rankings are measured by a two-year rolling money list, Van Gerwen's position at the top of the rankings has not come under threat until now. He is defending the £500,000 he won two years ago and it is that which has opened the door for Wright and Price.
"I've made no secret about the fact I want to be world No 1 and I believe I can do that within the next year or two."
Gerwyn Price, October 2020
Both have made no secret of the fact the No 1 ranking is on their list. In fact, in his press conference after beating Van Gerwen to win the title last year Wright said he would be back in north London in 12 months to retain the title and take MVG's position at the top of the game.
Wright is on course to do it after making a winning start to his title defence, memorably dressed as the Grinch on the opening night of the tournament. After a 12-day hiatus, he will return on Sunday night, while Price will have to wait another 24 hours having laboured past Jamie Lewis in the second round.
However, after a year in which he has won more titles than anyone else, the Iceman - the only one of the trio yet to be crowned world champion - could end 2020 as world No 1.
A winner of eight tournaments including the World Grand Prix, the World Cup and the World Series of Darts Finals, he arrived as the man to be feared.
World Darts Championship Third Round - Monday's Order of Play
|Afternoon||Jose de Sousa vs Mervyn King|
|Dirk van Duijvenbode vs Adam Hunt|
|Nathan Aspinall vs Vincent van der Voort|
|Evening||Gary Anderson vs Mensur Suljovic|
|Gerwyn Price vs Brendan Dolan|
|Glen Durrant vs Danny Baggish|
If Price were to beat Wright in the final in a week's time, Van Gerwen would find himself down at third in the rankings.
The Dutchman is the favourite to win the tournament and be world champion for a fourth time. After a hugely impressive victory over Ryan Murray, he brushed off questions about the ranking but there is no doubt Van Gerwen loves to be the sport's playground bully.
As world No 1, he has also been a brilliant ambassador for the sport.
The added incentive for Price and Wright may or may not add to the pressure. For the time being there is a tournament to be won, as Lloyd explains.
"When I went to world No 1, I had to win an event too. It was the last event before going to the World Grand Prix. I had Phil Taylor three points in front of me.
"Phil didn't go, and I had Peter Manley two points in front of me. Peter got beaten early and all of a sudden I felt a bit of pressure. I thought: 'If I win this, I'm going to be ranked No 1 in the world.'
"I didn't physically slap myself around the face but I thought: 'Just do the job in hand, Colin. You're here to win an event, just win an event. Whatever comes with it, lovely."
Mighty Mike's reign
Michael van Gerwen has been PDC world no 1 since January 2014.
In October 2019 MvG passed Phil Taylor's record of 67 consecutive months at the top of the rankings.
While rankings and lists will continue to be the basis for debate shows and articles, the battle for the world No 1 ranking will ultimately be a minor storyline as the players focus on the challenge to become 2021's first world champion.
There's still the small matter of five more victories before the trophy can be collected, and the No 1 spot will be decided however the tournament plays out - even if Van Gerwen, Wright and Price all miss out on lifting the title.
On his day MVG is the sport's dominant force, but those days have been slightly less frequent across the darting year, despite two major televised titles and four more floor successes this season.
If his six-year reign at the top of the rankings were to end it would add to the 'relative' disappointments of the year. It would also underline the standard of those rising up beneath the Dutchman.
Van Gerwen has started many years without a world title before, but it has been nearly eight years since he was not the No 1 ranked player. That might hurt a little more if come The Masters in 2021, the year's traditional curtain-raiser, were he not at the top of the seedings for the first event of the year.
And we already know taking top spot would mean a lot to Wright and Price.
You won't miss a dart thanks to the dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel all the way until January 4 with every session from the World Darts Championship, including the final on Sunday, January 3. Check out daily Darts news on skysports.com/darts, our app for mobile devices and our Twitter account @skysportsdarts