Who will win the final? Who will be the player to watch? Which seeds are most in danger of going out in their first game? A host of darts journalists, pundits and commentators tackle these and other questions on the eve of the 2020 PDC World Championship.
Who will reach the final – and who will win it?
Chris Mason: MVG v Price and MVG to win.
Rod Studd: MVG and Rob Cross. MVG to prevail.
Dan Dawson: I think MVG can batter his way through his quarter of the draw without facing much resistance, and by the time he’s in the semis he may be looking almost unstoppable. I think his title defence will go all the way to the final, but the other half of the draw looks fascinating. There are so many players I think could make the final, and whoever does may have to win a series of really tough games to get there – but my hipster pick is going to be Daryl Gurney. It could be a nightmarish run for him to do it, but he was excellent in the Premier League, could have won the Matchplay, and I think he’s got what it takes to get there. Once he’s there, MVG probably beats him, but if someone does manage to take out the main man for him, then Gurney could be world champ.
Chris Murphy: I’m going to be boring and pick a final between the top two seeds, though it seems to be generally accepted that it isn’t the most likely final thanks to the form of Gerwyn Price. I think Rob Cross is being overlooked and underestimated, and I think he’ll make the final – where MVG will get revenge for that stinging defeat a couple of years ago and retain the title for the first time.
Christopher Kempf: MVG and Price will reach the final. MVG will win. if you’re looking for my prediction for the most likely non-MVG player to win the top half of the draw, I’ll go with Nathan Aspinall because “MVG will win” is most likely to be accurate but very boring.
Jarleth Eaton: I hate to sound boring, but I can’t see anyone touching Michael van Gerwen in the top half of the draw. You normally need to beat the Green Machine early in order to stop him winning a tournament, but I don’t think anyone in the top half has got the game to match him, especially once we get to the quarter finals and the long format kicks in. The bottom half of the draw is much more open. There’s about four or five players that I could see join MVG, however I’m going to say that Daryl Gurney makes his first World Championship final. He didn’t do well at the Grand Slam or the Players Championship Finals, but he’s made it clear this is the one he’s focused on since throwing away the World Matchplay semi-final v Rob Cross. MVG will retain the title though, and like last year, will win 7-3.
FDI: The most likely final to happen is Michael van Gerwen against Gerwyn Price. That is also the final I am going with, with the Green Machine coming out on top after a great final.
Tom Beresford: I think that Gerwyn Price and Michael van Gerwen will renew their rivalry in the World Championship final, with the Dutchman just edging it.
Listen to part one of our PDC World Championship preview podcasts with special guests Justin Pipe, James Richardson and Nitin Kumar via the player below
Who will be the player to watch?
Chris Mason: Clemens.
Rod Studd: Chris Dobey is my outside bet or a good run. I’m looking forward to watching Mikuru Suzuki and Fallon Sherrock.
Dan Dawson: The World Championship is going to give us lots of stories – not just one which ends with someone lifting the trophy. We have seen some astonishing stuff from so many different players this year – I could name loads of players to watch… so let’s do that. Jose de Sousa for his innumerate brilliance; Gabriel Clemens and Max Hopp for their teutonic efficiency; Barney for his emotional (and quite possibly brief) farewell; Fallon and Mikuru for the chance of some history being made; MVG and Price for the best darts on the planet right now; and for a hipster pick… Ryan Joyce.
Chris Murphy: Apart from the obvious names (I think the four major winners of 2019 will reach the semi-finals) keep an eye out for Germany’s Gabriel Clemens and Portugal’s Jose De Sousa. If I had to plump for one I’d say Clemens could have a deep run.
Christopher Kempf: The player to watch is Rob Cross (the honeymoon is over – 400K to defend, he effectively must reach the final to remain world #2 – can he revive his 2017 magic?)
Jarleth Eaton: There are so many stories and players to watch, as always with the World Championship. Will Gerwyn Price be able to continue his unbelievable form which has seen him reach the last three TV ranking finals? Will Rob Cross be able to regain the title he won so unbelievably in his debut year, and add to his World Matchplay and European Championship wins this year? What will the likes of Michael Smith, Nathan Aspinall and Gary Anderson do this time round, to name but a few? However, the one I’ll be watching is Raymond van Barneveld, as it is his final PDC tournament. Barney is coming into this in decent form, having made quarter finals in the World Series and the Players last month, and the Barney Army will be fully behind him at Ally Pally. He comes into this tournament without a care and with nothing to lose, which makes a player dangerous. Will he do what Phil Taylor did and reach the World Championship final in his final year? I don’t think so, but then again, fairy tales only happen in sport…
FDI: For me there are two players I really look forward to seeing play. The first one is Damon Heta. In the summer he won a World Series event in Australia but a lot of people tend to see those events as an exhibition so I’m really curious how he will do against José de Sousa. The other player is Seigo Asada. He has been the best player in Asia in 2019 in my opinion and he has shown that he can take his floor form onto the big stage. He plays Mickey Mansell in round one; so he has every chance to get to round two and play Keegan Brown.
Tom Beresford: I may be way off the mark here, but for me, I expect Glen Durrant to really shine at Alexandra Palace. After reaching three major semi-finals in his debut year despite not playing his best game, I expect Durrant to reach the latter stages.
How far will the defending champion Michael van Gerwen go?
Chris Mason: Win it.
Rod Studd: I think he’ll win the title for the fourth time.
Dan Dawson: I believe he makes the final and probably wins it. There are quite a few people in darts who believe Price is the best player on the planet right now, but van Gerwen is still the man winning major titles left, right and centre.
Chris Murphy: All the way to world title number four.
Jarleth Eaton: As stated above, I think he retains the title for the first time in his career, and becomes a four time world champion. He’s won four out of the six TV tournaments since October, including becoming the first player in a decade to retain the World Grand Prix (which is also the only other set play tournament on the calendar),and won the Champions League to complete the Green Sweep of winning every PDC television event there is. Remember when people were saying MVG was finished after being knocked out of the World Matchplay in the second round…
FDI: I think Michael van Gerwen will win the tournament and therefore his fourth world title. This fall he has been in terrific form and the only one who (kind of) can keep up with him is Gerwyn Price.
Tom Beresford: In what’s been an up and down year for the world number one, I feel that he’ll become a four-time world champion come January 1.
Listen to part two of our PDC World Championship preview podcasts with special guests Ryan Joyce, Benito van de Pas and talkSPORT’s Sam Ellard via the player below
Which first round match are you most looking forward to?
Chris Mason: Humphries v Petersen.
Rod Studd: Suzuki vs Richardson, Sherrock vs Evetts and Petersen vs Humphries.
Dan Dawson: Another question to which I could give about 10 different answers, but I’ll go for Jose de Sousa v Damon Heta. I cannot get enough of watching de Sousa – it’s often stunning quality mixed in with hilarious mistakes… I’m not sure what more you want from a darts player, to be honest.
Chris Murphy: Luke Humphries v Devon Petersen looks a belter. Really tough one to call with both players seemingly coming good towards the end of the season and both having good runs last year to draw on.
Christopher Kempf: The first round game to watch is Humphries vs Petersen. Both players with excellent 2019 performances at the Worlds, winner plays Wattimena (one of the weaker seeds) with a good chance of reaching the last 32.
Jarleth Eaton: Two caught my eye when the draw was made. Jose de Sousa v Damon Heta could be a fabulous tie, with De Sousa being one of the most prolific players on the Pro Tour this year, and Heta was victorious on the stage at the Brisbane Masters in August. However, I’m going with Luke Humphries v Devon Petersen as my tie of the round. Both managed decent runs last year, with Petersen making the last 16 and only just losing to eventual semi-finalist Nathan Aspinall, while Humphries knocked out the then world champion Rob Cross en route to a quarter final. Plus, he’s just been crowned world youth champion. Also, both were unlucky to lose in the opening round at the Players last month, and we are due an absolute classic on the opening night for a change. If they are on their game, it could be an unbelievable match.
Tom Beresford: Gabriel Clemens vs Benito van de Pas really stands out for me. Gabriel’s been in some blistering form in 2019 – reaching three finals. As for Benito, he’s not had a barren spell, but he’s really starting to regather some decent form.
Which seeds are most in danger of going out in the second round?
Chris Mason: Hopp.
Rod Studd: Max Hopp faces a tough game if Gabriel Clemens progresses. Gary Anderson could be vulnerable against Brendan Dolan. Gerwyn Price may not have things all his own way versus Willie O’Connor.
Dan Dawson: A number of the seeds look at risk, and I’m really intrigued to see if John Henderson can handle the pressure of a potential meeting with Mikuru Suzuki in the second round. But there’s a little section of the draw where we could see unseeded players prevail: the potential all-German clash between Hopp and Clemens, a possible Steve Beaton v Kyle Anderson game, and I think James Wade could have his hands full against either Ritchie Edhouse or Boris Koltsov.
Chris Murphy: I think Max Hopp, Danny Noppert and Glen Durrant will all face tricky opponents in round two and could face early exits.
Christopher Kempf: The eight most vulnerable seeds are: Webster, Whitlock, Clayton, Wattimena, de Zwaan, Henderson, Bunting, West on the basis of their potential opponents or weak 2019 averages.
Jarleth Eaton: I can make a case for at least six or seven seeds to be in trouble in the second round, but three are in huge danger for me. Firstly, Jonny Clayton better hope that Ryan Joyce doesn’t come through his first round match, because if he does, the Ferret could be going home very early. Remember as well, Joyce loves the Ally Pally, having made the quarter finals last year, and Clayton was whitewashed at the Players last month in the first round by Ryan Meikle. Next is Max Hopp. He’s not had the best year on the Euro Tour and although he’s reached a Pro Tour final, his countryman Gabriel Clemens has been playing some incredible darts this year, and could easily knock him out at the Palace. Even if Clemens doesn’t come through, Benito van de Pas could also do some damage v Hopp. Finally, Darren Webster needs a big run, and I’m not sure he will be able to. The Demolition Man has dropped dramatically in 2019 after a fantastic 2018, and is defending a quarter final on his ranking this time round. As mentioned, Ryan Meikle definitely has the game to challenge Webster after he reached the third round in Minehead, and Yuki Yamada has played well on the Asian Tour as well, beating Paul Lim this year.
FDI: My top three in this category would be: Max Hopp, Jeffrey de Zwaan and Gary Anderson. Max Hopp hasn’t quite kicked on from a good 2018 and he also has drawn a possible second round tie with Gabriel Clemens who has been playing brilliantly the last couple of months, especially during the Grand Slam. Jeffrey de Zwaan never gets lucky in draws. Last year he played brilliant against Rob Cross but Voltage was even better. This year he probably will play Raymond van Barneveld in the last 64. It being the last event for Barney doesn’t help De Zwaan at all. Not only does he play a legend in a potential last match, but also coming from the the Hague area Raymond probably is a player who he really admired growing up. I really hope Jeffrey can block those emotions and make a good run because he is a really good player who can beat anyone on his day. Gary Anderson unfortunately hasn’t really done anything besides winning the World Cup with Peter Wright. That and also the fact that he is playing the slow Brendan Dolan is the reason why I think he could well be packing after his first match.
Tom Beresford: For me, Krzysztof Ratajski and Dimitri van den Bergh. Should Jamie Hughes see off Zoran Lerchbacher, I expect Yozza to get past Ratajski. As for van den Bergh, he faces tough opposition in either Josh Payne or Diogo Portela.
Which group of players will win the most matches in the first round: the ProTour qualifiers or the International qualifiers?
Chris Mason: ProTour qualifiers for me.
Rod Studd: Pro Tour qualifiers.
Dan Dawson: The ProTour qualifiers should win the majority, but that’s not to say that they could have the biggest impact on the event. I particularly like the Asian qualifiers and cannot wait to see Ilagan, Lim, Malicdem and Asada have a real go at some of the established players on the PDC circuit again.
Chris Murphy: I think it will be about 75% ProTour qualifiers.
Christopher Kempf: My guess will be Pro Tour qualifiers will win 21 matches, International qualifiers will win 11.
Jarleth Eaton: The Pro Tour qualifiers have that experience of playing against the seeds week in week out, and in addition have a bit more stage experience than their international counterparts, with the majority of them having also played on the Euro Tour, which is a massive stepping stone. As such, I think they’ll win the most matches, but the likes of Lourence Ilagan, Seigo Asada and Noel Malicdem from the Asia Tour, Heta and Petersen as previously mentioned, and the Woman’s Rest of the World Qualifier, the current BDO world champion Mikuru Suzuki, could make it close. It should be a brilliant tournament.
FDI: My system has it 22-10 to the Pro Tour qualifiers, so I’m sticking with that.
Tom Beresford: The Pro Tour qualifiers, indefinitely. The comparison in terms of standard suggests that the Pro Tour qualifiers statistically should win more matches than the international qualifiers. But take nothing away from the international qualifiers.
Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC