Wayne Mardle's World Darts Championship predictions
From title favourite to dark horse. Who does 'Hawaii 501' think will come out on top on New Year's Day?
Last Updated: 14/12/18 4:16pm
Wayne Mardle gives us his predictions ahead of this year's World Darts Championship. Who is 'Hawaii 501' tipping to win this year's tournament?
Mardle gives us the lowdown on the biggest tournament in the PDC calendar, while discussing the big talking points ahead of this year's event, which is held at the iconic Alexandra Palace.
Wayne runs the rule over 16 days of coverage, live on Sky Sports Darts from December 13.
Who is your favourite to win the World Championship?
I'm quietly confident in Michael van Gerwen for some reason. He's the best player on the planet when everyone just plays their game and I think he's probably the only player in the tournament who doesn't have to be at this best to win. I've convinced myself there is no other outcome.
He's not been great in majors, let's be honest, but when he's played decent no one has got near him and there are just patches of brilliance that he does that only Gary Anderson can match. They will meet in the semi-final and for me, Michael wins and he then goes on and wins it.
I like Van Gerwen over the elongated format. I think he needs to relax though because we haven't seen him relaxed for a long while and that's including the finals that he has won. Over the long format I think he will relax, but it's so difficult to feel at your very best in that event. The likes of Rob Cross doing it last year are rare because it's such a tough event but I'm still backing the favourite Van Gerwen to win his third World Championship title.
Who else is in the mix to win the title?
Gary Anderson is sure to meet Michael van Gerwen in the semi-finals and I think the winner of that match wins it. That's my thought process and it's been like that for the past 18 months to be fair.
Is the bottom half wide open?
Even the real outsiders will be thinking 'Peter Wright is in my half and he's not playing particularly well. Rob Cross is not playing with the confidence he had this time last year', so the likes of Michael Smith, Gerwyn Price, Mensur Suljovic, Joe Cullen, Kyle Anderson, Jeffrey de Zwaan and even Ian White have got to be thinking 'this is my chance'.
The bottom half is an absolute disaster zone. Michael Smith must be thinking 'if I can just play my game' then I think he's got a real chance, I really do.
Who is your dark horse?
My dark horse is actually Gerwyn Price because I've seen him a couple of times in exhibitions since the Grand Slam of Darts and he has clearly gone up a level. The way he is throwing, it's the best he's ever thrown. He's got that belief, he knows that he's got the game to win now and just importantly people know he has got the game to win. It's not just a matter of opinion, it's an absolute fact.
If he carries on just playing with the swagger and quality then he's going to be tough to beat. He's got a way better rhythm than he's ever had now because he used to throw quite swiftly, but now he can kind of speed it up and slow it down. He's put a real horrible patch behind him with the Premier League and his Achilles injury so he's got to be happy with that he's achieving now. I'm just thinking that now might be his time.
Will any of the young guns produce a good run this year?
I think Dimitri van den Bergh is the one. The fact that he's absolutely world class obviously helps, but he's in that bottom half of the draw and he's drawn to play Jonny Clayton if he can dismiss Chuck Puleo.
I also wouldn't rule out Ricky Evans for a run. He's playing some fantastic darts, but for me Jeffrey de Zwaan is the one player who could make a run despite a horrendous draw against Rob Cross, should he beat Nitin Kumar. We go on about Cross not playing the darts he was playing this time last year, but this time last year he was making the semi-finals and finals of almost every event.
What could be the upset of the first round?
I wouldn't be surprised if Adrian Lewis comes unstuck against Ted Evetts if he can come through against Simon Stevenson.
I so want Adrian to start succeeding again because I'm a great believer in you've got to have the talent to get there in the first place. Yes, you've got to have the right mindset, but I just believe that Adrian has been in the doldrums long enough now. He has got to stop panicking. I'd love to see Adrian and Raymond van Barneveld go at it in the last 32.
How will the women get on?
I'm so glad that Lisa Ashton and Anastasia Dobromyslova have qualified because to give them an opportunity to qualify, you're hoping the qualifying tournament is doing the world of women's darts justice. You didn't want two inexperienced types getting through, which could have happened. Lisa and Anastasia are two of the three most successful players on the planet, apart from Trina Gulliver, who we're going to see in the studio.
Look, Jan Dekker will not fancy playing Lisa Ashton because the pressure is on him and he knows that.
Ryan Joyce will be a massive odds-on favourite to beat Anastasia but the pressure is on him.
These ladies have got to believe in what they're doing and make sure that they relax, because that is the key. Easier said than done! Good luck to Ryan and Jan because let's face it, the crowd are not going to be on their side.
Wayne Mardle was speaking to Sky Sports' Raz Mirza. You can stay up to date with the action behind the scenes by following us @SkySportsDarts and get all the latest news previews and interviews at www.skysports.com/darts