Phil Taylor leads the hunt for World Darts Championship glory at Alexandra Palace
Last Updated: 17/12/14 3:27pm
Phil Taylor is still the most feared man at the World Darts Championship as he attempts to land a 17th title at Alexandra Palace.
There were murmurs about the 54-year-old’s decline after a shock defeat to Michael Smith last year, but his ominous recent form has shown that ‘The Power’ is ready to conquer the sport’s top players once again.
Taylor, the pre-tournament favourite, sent out a warning to his rivals last month when he took the Grand Slam title with an average of over 100.
He faces little-known German Jyhan Artut in the first round and has been handed a helpful draw to the quarter-final stages.
But waiting for the Stoke thrower in the semis could be the winner of the 'quarter of death', a duel between the likes of James Wade, Stephen Bunting, Raymond van Barneveld and former conqueror Smith.
The biggest threat to Taylor’s title hopes could be defending champion Michael van Gerwen, who ripped the crown from him in January.
‘Mighty Mike’ completed a 7-4 triumph over Peter Wright to become the youngest winner at the age of 24, taking the world No 1 spot in the process.
But the Dutchman has shown vulnerability in the last few months, suffering televised defeats to Mervyn King, Kim Huybrechts and Terry Jenkins.
Van Gerwen opens his defence against Joe Cullen and will need to rediscover his blistering best scoring if he runs into Gary Anderson in the semi-finals.
He was pushed to the brink by Anderson in last year’s tournament, finally winning 4-3, and the red-hot Scot remains a dangerous opponent.
A runner-up in 2011, the ‘Flying Scotsman’ should head to the capital with plenty of confidence after demolishing Adrian Lewis in this month’s Players Championship finals.
The revitalised Wade is another contender hoping to cast off his tag as one of the tournament’s 'nearly men'.
Wade, a two-time semi-finalist, has overcome a troubled spell in his career and dispatched Taylor on the way to winning last month’s Masters in Edinburgh.
He received a precarious draw, with a possible second-round clash against Stephen Bunting, but ‘The Machine’ can reach the latter stages if he maintains his high-scoring form.
Bunting is targeting consecutive world titles after winning this year’s BDO trophy and has made an impressive transition to the PDC circuit.
Dave Chisnall, the beaten Grand Slam finalist, is another player capable of maintaining a genuine challenge for silverware, while seasoned campaigners Mervyn King and Terry Jenkins should also be in contention.
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