PDC World Championship 2021: Darts experts make their predictions

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 ahead of the 2021 PDC World Championship.

Who will reach the final – and who will win it?

Rod Studd: Van Gerwen and Wade. MVG to win.

Dan Dawson: Michael Smith beats Nathan Aspinall in the final 7-4, with Smith averaging 98.63 and hitting 19 x 180s and 39.82% of his checkouts, with an awful lot on double 10. He will also hit a nine darter earlier on in the tournament, probably against Big Devon in round three – and will miss the double for a second twice more during the event, including in the second leg of the fourth set of the final.

Chris Murphy: All of a sudden Michael van Gerwen is looking like a fearsome force again and I can see him carrying on where he left off at the PC Finals. He’ll win it. And he’ll beat Gerwyn Price in the final.

Laura Turner: I’m gong for a Michael van Gerwen/Gerwyn Price final, with van Gerwen reclaiming the world title. Price has been the most consistent player of 2020, but van Gerwen is coming into the tournament off the back of victory at the Players Championship Finals. Although his game has been up and down throughout the year, he appears to be finding his form at the right time.

Jay Shaw: Based on what we’ve seen over the last few months, I think we could be set for the most open World Championship for some time, however this is the event in which I would expect the cream to rise. Michael van Gerwen has hit form at the perfect time after a considerable slump by his high standards and he appears well-poised to take control of the top half of the draw. Only once in his last eight visits to Ally Pally has he failed to reach the semi-finals, making the final on five occasions, and should he pick up from where he left off at the Players Championship Finals, that consistent record could be set to continue. Gerwyn Price finally shrugged off his Ally Pally demons last year when he reached the semis, now a serial major winner, the Welshman will be determined to go one better this time around. He appeared slightly jaded in his two most recent tournament appearances but I would expect him to be refreshed and ready to do damage again by the time the worlds comes around. Van Gerwen vs Price would be many people’s dream final and if it were to materialise, I just have a feeling The Iceman could go the distance and become the first Welsh winner of a PDC World Championship.

Josh Green: I believe that Michael van Gerwen and Jose De Sousa will make the final. We have seen MvG returning to somewhere near his best in the past two TV tournaments and with some of the other ‘big names’ going off the boil I feel that his relatively easy quarter in comparison to the other top four seeds will lead him to the final. I think Jose will join him, although he faces a possible tie with Gerwyn Price in his quarter, the long format experience and play from Jose will do him well at the palace. I think Michael van Gerwen wins.

Josh Gorton: There has not really been one dominant figure in 2020, but I keep coming back to Michael van Gerwen. It would be ironic if he capped off the most tumultuous year of his reign as world no. 1 by claiming the sport’s holy grail. MvG beats Peter Wright to gain revenge for last year’s final.

Andrew Sinclair: Making predictions for this is tricky and my thoughts have changed a fair bit over the last few weeks. Michael van Gerwen’s consistent power-scoring and impressive combination finishing at the Players Championship Finals does suggest he’s ‘back’ or at least close to his best. Gerwyn Price is incredibly tough to beat and is improving all the time, while Peter Wright has definitely got the legs in him to win it again. There are other players in form too who are capable of causing an upset or two.
However, at the moment I’m leaning towards a Michael Smith vs Gerwyn Price final, with the St Helens man falling just short once again…

Christopher Kempf: The final will be Peter Wright vs MvG, and Peter Wright will win a second world title.

Lendel Faria: I think we’ll have the same final as last year. MvG is getting into a bit of form and Wright I believe will find a way to get to his best. Price might be a big threat to Snakebite, and Michael Smith to MvG, but I think the top two will come out on top once again. I see Wright winning the final as he is my top favorite at 23%.

Kevin Barth: Dimitri Van den Bergh and Gerwyn Price will reach the final. Price will win his first world title.

Pim Huberts: I think the final will be played between the two ‘obvious’ candidates, Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price. Although both definitely have some big hurdles to overcome, the long format and presence of the audience will help both of them reach the final which Michael van Gerwen will win.

Pieter Verbeek: I think it will be a final between Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price, with van Gerwen winning his fourth world title and keeping his number one position on the PDC Order of Merit.

The Darts Referee: Winner I’m going to say MVG, can’t look past him at the moment after the Players Championships. I think he will be playing either Wade or Price in that final, if I had to choose one, I’d say Price.

Who will be the player to watch?

Rod Studd: Fascinating to see if De Sousa and van Duijvenbode can back up their brilliant runs in the Grand Slam of Darts and World Grand Prix respectively, now that it’s the biggest event of all and with a crowd back at Ally Pally. Simon Whitlock has been in good nick as well and could go well.

Dan Dawson: I could pick loads. So I will! The beefy lads – Big Dirk and Big Dev. The quick lads – Jermaine, Martijn and Luke Humphries. And the underestimated but excellent lads – Damon Heta and Ross Smith. Plus MvG, Wright, Price, Smith, yadda yadda yadda.

Chris Murphy: The player I always like to watch is Mervyn King. He is the most watchable player on the planet and I actually think he might have a long overdue run too. From the less established names, I’ve been really impressed with Callan Rydz lately. Keep an eye on him.

Laura Turner: I said Damon Heta last year and I’ll say it again. A very solid and consistent performer, he already has a Player Championship under his belt and is going from strength to strength. Despite my earlier prediction, I wouldn’t be surprised, with the form that Heta, Simon Whitlock and Devon Petersen have shown this year, if the title went south of the equator.

Jay Shaw: I’ve been championing Damon Heta’s cause for some time now and I’m not going to stop here, I think the Aussie could have a real say in his section of the draw. He has reached the quarter-finals of the last two majors, regularly registering high averages and is one of the coolest customers on the circuit. Should he overcome Danny Baggish, Adrian Lewis would await in round two before a potential meeting with Glen Durrant – who has also looked out of sorts in recent months.

Josh Green: Ryan Joyce is my ‘player to watch’, he has been terrific in the TV events this year, even scoring a win over the reigning world champion. He’s in a horrific part of the draw, but just anther name to add to the list people Peter Wright should be worrying about in his quarter!

Josh Gorton: Michael Smith is a tempting price at 16/1. He has been throwing beautifully since the Winter Series. I believe it is a matter of when, not if, he wins his first major, and there’s no better place to start! I expect him to play MvG in the semi-finals, which could be an absolute classic.

Andrew Sinclair: There are a lot of names I could put here but no one stands out more than Damon Heta. He’s been absolutely superb in his debut year in the PDC, reaching the quarter-finals in the last two televised tournaments and getting himself into the top 64. He’s got a tricky opening round assignment against Danny Baggish but he’s in a part of the draw with a number of out-of-form seeds. As things stand, I’m picking ‘The Heat’ to make it a hat-trick of televised runs to the last eight.

Christopher Kempf: Player to watch will be Michael Smith, who is simultaneously playing about as well as he ever has, located in a quarter of the draw without MvG, Price or Wright & defending 200K from the 2019 World Championship.

Lendel Faria; I would like to point out two young players who have been brilliant in the last few months. Those two are Callan Rydz and Keane Barry. Especially Callan as he has found his feet in recent weeks on the ProTour and can beat anyone on any given day.

Kevin Barth: My player to watch is Devon Petersen.

Pim Huberts: I am very interested in the level of Dimitri Van den Bergh at Ally Pally, with a possible quarter final against van Gerwen he is definitely a player to be watched. The most interesting players will appear a round earlier though. I expect a good level from quite some international players like Danny Baggish, Madars Razma, Matt Campbell and Boris Krcmar. But also the Chinese player Chengan Liu will be one to watch out for.

Pieter Verbeek: I think Dirk van Duijvenbode and Martijn Kleermaker can have a good run. They are playing well on TV and both have a draw with potential. I know van Duijvenbode could face Rob Cross in round two, he’s the number five seed, but I don’t see any reason why Aubergenius has to fear him.

The Darts Referee: I’m going to have to pick four here, but in order for me, Damon Heta, Karel Sedlacek, Matt Campbell and Keane Barry

How far will the defending champion Peter Wright go?

Rod Studd: Snakebite’s first priority is to avoid an opening night exit against West or Gilitwala. Then he can focus on his defence. It’s a tough section of the draw with Clemens, Ratajski, Whitlock and Wade all in there, so to reach the semis will be a decent effort for the champ.

Dan Dawson: I’m not sure he makes it out of his quarter, to be honest. I feel less confident about him right now than I did a month ago.

Chris Murphy: Probably the most difficult question of the set as there are as many different versions of Peter as there are sets of darts he uses. He has a tough route to retaining the title and I think he will fall in the quarter-finals, if not before.

Laura Turner: My concern for Peter is the continual changing of his set up. We are all used to seeing Peter change his darts, sometimes even mid-match, but there also seems to be a change in his stance/throw. Devon Petersen commented on how Wright was reaching during their game at the Grand Slam, and he looked totally out of sorts in his clash against Mervyn King at the Players Championships. If Peter gets off to a good start and feels comfortable, then he is more than capable of a very good run in the event.

Jay Shaw: With Peter, it all depends whether he can settle on one setup, otherwise the self-doubt will start to creep in as we saw during the Grand Slam and Players Championship Finals. You would have to think he should stick with the darts which led him to glory last time out, but it’s anyone’s guess as to what he’ll go up there with. Only three players have ever successfully defended this title and with the added pressure, it looks a big ask for Snakebite to join them and potentially become world number one in the process. I think his title defence could come to an end in the last 16 at the hands of either Krzysztof Ratajski or Simon Whitlock.

Josh Green: I think Peter Wright will breeze through the opening couple of games but come unstuck in the last 16. There are numerous players he could face (all in great form) and with Peter not hitting the heights recently I believe this is where his defence will end.

Josh Gorton: Wright was imperious at the European Championship but since then it has been a completely mixed bag, which should concern him. It is not inconceivable that Steve West dumps him out on the opening night, but the return of the crowds may galvanise him. If Peter is confident and settled with his set-up, I think it will take something special to stop him.

Andrew Sinclair: That rather depends on which Snakebite show up, doesn’t it? If it’s the Snakebite from the European Championship, he’s got to be a favourite. But if it’s the Snakebite we saw for parts of the Grand Slam or against Mervyn King at the Players Championships, he could be out early doors. His comments about walking away from the sport don’t breed confidence either. Ultimately I think we’ll get a mix of the good and the bad for the defending champion before he goes down in the quarters to James Wade.

Christopher Kempf: Wright will defend his title.

Lendel Faria: I think he’ll win the whole thing.

Kevin Barth: Peter Wright will go out in his first match against Steve West.

Pim Huberts: Although Peter Wright has shown his consistent level throughout the year, he showed weakness in the Players Championship Finals against Mervyn King. I don’t expect him to overcome the Clemens/Whitlock/Ratajski hurdle; he will lose in the last 16.

Pieter Verbeek: Wright might not have showed his best form in the recent few weeks, but I think he will reach the semi-finals quite comfortably. I expect him to face Gerwyn Price in the semi-finals and I think the reigning world champion will narrowly lose to The Iceman.

The Darts Referee: I hope I’m wrong but I actually see him going out in the last 16 to either Whitlock, Ratajski or Sedlacek.

Which first round match are you most looking forward to?

Rod Studd: I look forward to seeing if Lisa Ashton can reach round two by beating Adam Hunt. Jeff Smith v Keane Barry should be a decent tussle.

Dan Dawson: I think Heta v Baggish could be a cracker, as could Jeff Smith v Keane Barry. But I think the one that I’m excited for above all is Krcmar v Meulenkamp… it could have a bit of everything.

Chris Murphy: Luke Humphries against Paul Lim.

Laura Turner: Obviously I can’t wait to see how both Lisa Ashton and Deta Hedman fare this year. There is still a real buzz around the women’s game, which saw Fallon Sherrock turn into an international star overnight following her win over Ted Evetts. It would be great to see both Aston and Hedman go deep into the tournament and emulate Sherrock’s worlds success.

Jay Shaw: Jeff Smith versus Keane Barry is the tie which really stood out when the draw was made. We all know what a tough competitor Smith is, particularly his consistent finishing and ability to land big checkouts under pressure, as we saw during the World Cup. This one is all about whether Barry can do himself justice on the biggest stage of all, nerves probably got the better of him against Vincent van der Voort on his debut last year. He has already settled quickly on the ProTour and performed superbly on the Development Tour, but it will be interesting to see whether he can make the step up at this early stage.

Josh Green: Keane Barry vs Jeff Smith is a stand-out tie for me… Barry is just great to watch for his pace and scoring power whilst Smith is a very smooth operator, expect this match to go all five sets. Outside this; Heta vs Baggish and even Ryan Murray vs Ilagan are great first round ties.

Josh Gorton: Luke Humphries vs Paul Lim. One of the sport’s brightest talents against the timeless ‘Singapore Slinger’ – making his 25th World Championship appearance at the age of 66. What a man! Humphries is a back-to-back quarter-finalist at Alexandra Palace – he comes alive at this event, but Lim is still a formidable campaigner. It will be a joy to see him gracing the big stage again.

Andrew Sinclair: Can I say all of them? In all seriousness, there are so many intriguing draws in this year’s first round and quite a few unknown quantities among the International qualifiers. As you know, I’ve got a soft spot for John Henderson and Steve Beaton so I’m looking forward to seeing both of them, and Beaton’s game with Diogo Portela is a cracker. Deta Hedman’s game with Andy Boulton falls into can’t miss territory for me as well but there’s one game that really does catch my eye and that’s Jeff Smith vs Keane Barry on night one. Barry showed exactly what he can do in the PDC at the Winter Series, while Smith has often thrived in these longer form games. I fancy Smith to nick it at this stage but it’ll be excellent while it lasts.

Christopher Kempf: Baggish vs Heta (partially because I’m American), but also because Adrian Lewis has had a particularly rough draw regardless of who wins.

Lendel Faria: Jeff Smith vs Keane Barry. My system has Barry as a favorite (58%) because of the fact that Jeff Smith hasn’t been in the best form lately, but if he can find his form in time, we could be in for a five set thriller with two brilliant players who have different styles.

Kevin Barth: I’m most looking forward to the first round match between Jeff Smith and Keane Barry.

Pim Huberts: There are many first round games to look out for. Jeff Smith vs Keane Barry and Damon Heta vs Danny Baggish will be the games with the highest level. On the other hand, the game between Edgar and Kuivenhoven is very important for possibly losing a tour card and the games with the ‘unknown’ international qualifiers such as Amit Gilitwala, Di Zhuang and Edward Shouiji are always fun to watch.

Pieter Verbeek: I’m really looking forward to two specific matches actually. Firstly Paul Lim against Luke Humphries. Always a joy to watch Paul Lim, while Humphries always produces good stuff at the World Championship. Also looking forward to Jeff Smith against Keane Barry. I give the winner of this match a very decent chance to make the fourth round, so this could be a huge chance for both of them.

The Darts Referee: 1. Damon Heta/Danny Baggish 2. Jeff Smith/Keane Barry 3. Keegan Brown/Ryan Meikle.

Which seeds are most in danger of going out in the second round?

Rod Studd: Any seed could get into trouble over the short format. Peter Wright himself almost fell at the first hurdle last year. Could Lourence Ilagan ruffle MVG’s feathers? Dimitri vs Luke Humphries could be a round two belter.

Dan Dawson: Dobey and Adrian Lewis face potentially tough games, while not having a great deal of recent wins under their belts themselves lately. I also think Chizzy and Dimitri have very tricky starts to their campaigns. From the very top seeds, Rob Cross could face Big Dirk in his opener… and I’m not even sure Rob would start as favourite if Dirk plays well and wins in round one.

Chris Murphy: De Sousa (yes, I really think so) and Gurney.

Laura Turner: If 2020 is anything to go by, no one is safe! That said, I think Adrian Lewis, Rob Cross, Daryl Gurney and Chris Dobey have all struggled on the big stages this year. All could have potentially tough matches against players who have shown more form throughout the year.

Jay Shaw: Daryl Gurney is suffering a real crisis of confidence at the moment, as is Chris Dobey, and they both can ill-afford another off-day against either O’Connor/Zonneveld and Smith/Barry respectively. Adrian Lewis could have his hands full with Damon Heta, as could Rob Cross with Dirk van Duijvenbode. It’s anyone’s guess as to how Gary Anderson will fare given his recent injury woes and Madars Razma could potentially serve up a major test.

Josh Green: I think Daryl Gurney and Chris Dobey are the seeds most in danger, they both sit right at the bottom of the draw against potentially tough opponents. Neither has hit the heights in 2020 and could well be in for an early exit.

Josh Gorton: The potential of an in-form Dirk van Duijvenbode taking on a vulnerable Rob Cross instantly stands out. Adrian Lewis is under huge pressure, which will only be heightened by the prospect of playing Damon Heta. I think Ryan Searle beats Jeffrey de Zwaan, whilst Krzysztof Ratajski and Chris Dobey could both be in danger looking at their respective draws.

Andrew Sinclair: Given the continued improvements in standard across the PDC, there are far fewer ‘straightforward’ games as there might have been in previous years. You’d always favour the more experienced players to do well in the longer games but there are some seeds in real trouble for my money. Chris Dobey hasn’t had a great year and whether he gets Barry or Smith it’ll be one of the toughest assignments any player has in the last 64. The same goes for Adrian Lewis, who’s out of form and set to face the winner of Heta/Baggish. Rob Cross comes into the tournament without the pressure of defending the winner’s pot this time round but he’s had throw problems this year and could be really up against it if he faces Dirk van Duijvenbode given the year he’s had. The other two names I’d put out here are Glen Durrant and Krzysztof Ratajski. ‘Duzza’ is still recovering from the after-effects of COVID-19 and this tournament could be too soon for him but he’s always been a battler and you know he’ll give whatever he’s got in the tank. As for the Pole, he’s developing Ian White tendencies when it comes to TV events and both his potential round two opponents, Ryan Joyce and Karel Sedlacek, are in good form. 

Christopher Kempf: Cross, Lewis, Ratajski, de Zwaan, Gurney, Dobey, Bunting, Van den Bergh.

Lendel Faria: Jeffrey de Zwaan. He has had a very bad year because of his shoulder injury and I can see Ryan Searle beating him in round two.

Kevin Barth: Rob Cross, Adrian Lewis, Peter Wright, Krzysztof Ratajski, Stephen Bunting, Daryl Gurney and Chris Dobey are the seeded players which will be most danger to go out in the second round.

Pim Huberts: Dimitri Van den Bergh, Krzysztof Ratajski, Jose De Sousa, Chris Dobey, Nathan Aspinall, Adrian Lewis, Rob Cross.

Pieter Verbeek: Danny Noppert, Rob Cross and Krzysztof Ratajski.

The Darts Referee: Adrian Lewis for sure, he’s my favourite so I hate that he’s drawn Damon Heta/Danny Baggish! I think the bottom quarter of the draw could have a few seeds going out too! Dobey, Gurney, even Aspinall I wouldn’t be completely surprised if any of those went out in round two.

Which group of players will win the most matches in the first round: the ProTour qualifiers or the International qualifiers?

Rod Studd: Pro Tour qualifiers to win more.

Dan Dawson: I think the ProTour players. A lot of international players have been starved of action this year, and there are some noticeable absences of some of the bigger names who failed to get through qualifying.

Chris Murphy: ProTour qualifiers.

Laura Turner: For me, it’s the ProTour qualifiers. They have the form and more match practice over the majority of the International qualifiers. That said, there are always a few upsets in the earlier rounds and the likes of Boris Krcmar, Keane Barry, Matt Campbell and Haupai Puha have all put in some good performances recently.

Jay Shaw: I would have to say the ProTour qualifiers. There’s just so much experience in there which is perhaps more crucial in this event than any other.

Josh Green: Going to have to go with ProTour qualifiers for that one, purely on depth of the field. Although the International qualifiers have some top class players, when you look towards the bottom of the list there are a few players that may struggle, I see this being less of an issue with the ProTour qualifiers. There is more experience among these names and less debutants, so I’ll go with the ProTour qualifiers.

Josh Gorton: The ProTour qualifiers will have the edge. There are some exciting new faces among the International qualifiers who could make a big impression, but the list of ProTour qualifiers is superior in the depth of quality. They also possess the experience of competing against the world’s elite week-in week-out on the circuit. That should be invaluable.

Andrew Sinclair: Based on my calculations, I’m leaning towards the ProTour players. In some ties there’s not a lot in it but in others we know very little about the International qualifiers so you have to favour the known commodities. 

Christopher Kempf: The ProTour qualifiers are much stronger than the Internationals, in part because many of the qualifiers had to be hastily arranged in convenient locations and some players were picked without even having to formally qualify, while the ProTour qualifiers include a World Grand Prix runner up, Autumn Series leader and two PC winners. Also, I’ll wager that this year a nine-darter will be thrown during the tournament!

Lendel Faria: ProTour qualifiers will win 23 out of 32 matches according to my system, so I’m definitely going with that!!

Kevin Barth: The ProTour players will win more matches in the first round.

Pim Huberts: With the lack of qualifying criteria especially among the Asian qualifiers, the ProTour qualifiers will win the most games. Although Oceania and North-America has sent big talents, Asian players like Zhuang, Shouji, Suzuki, Gilitwala will not have a chance of winning. Gorbunov and Carolissen have a lack of experience as well (unfortunately).

Pieter Verbeek: ProTour qualifiers, by a distance.

The Darts Referee: ProTour qualifiers by far, I think it’s a good field for international qualifiers, I just think the ProTour field is stronger. I think the split will be around 24-8 ProTour Vs International in the first round matches.

Listen to our 2021 PDC World Championship preview podcast with special guests Steve Beaton, Keane Barry and Amit Gilitwala on the new Weekly Dartscast via the player below

Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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