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 2022 WDF Men’s World Championship.
Who will reach the final – and who will win it?
Chris Murphy: The men’s event is so open, which makes it exciting but also very difficult to answer this question. At the time of writing my thoughts are that unseeded James Richardson defeats 13th seed Michael Warburton in the final. This will have changed by the time I am reading it back wondering what on earth I was thinking.
Andrew Sinclair: Trying to predict a winner for the men’s competition has been particularly tough. Connor Scutt and Cameron Menzies are among the bookies’ favourites and it’s easy to see why given recent form, although it’s notable that they a) haven’t got a Lakeside win between them going into the tournament and b) are on the same side of the draw. In my projected bracket, I’ve got Menzies beating Scutt in the last four before going down in the final to Martin Adams. I’m an unabashed Wolfie fan boy but I do genuinely think he’s got a strong chance to add a fourth world title to his collection this year. That said, he could well lose in the first game of the tournament to Jarred Cole and then I’ve got egg on my face, haven’t I?
Josh Green: I think it will be a Cameron Menzies vs Martin Adams final. Wolfie’s draw is not the greatest, but you’d give him the experience edge over Cole and Allen, but against Brian Raman is where it could become a bit sticky. In the bottom half Connor Scutt is an obvious favourite, but with Thibault Tricole in his section, I’m looking at Menzies who has a slightly more favourable draw! As for who wins it… I’ll go for Wolfie being crowned a four-time world champion.
Ben Hudd: Cameron Menzies and top seed Brian Raman, with Menzies winning possibly 6-4 or 6-3. I do feel that there will be a final between two players awaiting their maiden world titles, so that could make for a lower quality final than perhaps expected. Both Menzies and Raman landed gold-ranked WDF titles last year, and both tend to raise their games when playing on the stage.
Lendel Faria: Jim McEwan will win the final against Cameron Menzies. McEwan didn’t get his tour card but has shown over the last few months that he has a good and stable game. Menzies’ highs are very high and his lows are very low but he undoubtedly has talent and he will show that on the Lakeside stage.
Pim Huberts: Cameron Menzies will win the final over Brian Raman.
Jetze Jan Idsardi: This World Championship looks to be one of the most open World Championships I have ever followed – at least 10 players in the men’s field will feel this is their chance. Cameron Menzies is the man to beat, if you ask me. The Scot has been excellent in his first months as a PDC player and has the experience of playing at Lakeside. He could be facing an opponent with the total opposite amount of experience in the final: Luke Littler. This would be quite the sensation, but I think the 15-year old could make it out of his half.
Who will be the player to watch?
Chris Murphy: I know I didn’t predict him to win, but he could and what a story it would be to get a 15-year-old world champion. I’m talking about Luke Littler, of course, I’m excited to see him in action.
Andrew Sinclair: There are a handful of names you could put here but I’ll go for Romania’s Laszlo Kadar. He first came on to my radar in 2020 when he lost a heated Romanian Open final to Nick Kenny and following the restart last year, he kicked on. He won his first career ranking title at the Apatin Open last July and then doubled his tally last month at the Slovak Open, coming from 4-2 down to beat Scott Marsh 5-4. Laszlo has a great action and one of my favourite things about watching him are his glorious set-up shots. I vividly remembering seeing one game of his where he deliberately threw 124 with 132 left to leave himself 8 on his next visit. It’s that sort of thing that’ll go down well with fans and I could quite easily see him make the last 16 on debut.
Josh Green: Luke Littler is an obvious shout for ‘player to watch’, but I think the recent successes of Dave Prins and Neil Duff could carry them far in the tournament.
Ben Hudd: Leonard Gates. Before the draw was amended slightly after the Russian players were removed, I genuinely fancied Gates to reach the final. He’s been dealt a much tougher route following those changes, but he’s still more than capable of going deep. His consistency at Q School – as well as him hitting a nine-dart finish and 110-plus averages on the American circuit – proves that.
Lendel Faria: For me it’ll be Leonard Gates. He isn’t the most known out of the American players but he has been in fine form in the States this year winning a few very big comps. I hope he can bring that level onto the stage at Lakeside.
Pim Huberts: Jim McEwan has gained a lot of (extra) experience by playing on the PDC tour recently, I can definitely see him making a deep run in the tournament. Though, the player to watch is Cameron Menzies, always creating a show on stage and with his tour card throwing steady averages more and more.
Jetze Jan Idsardi: Most eyes will be on the youngster Luke Littler, but I’ll be keeping an eye on Leonard Gates and Andy Baetens. Gates has the potential to reach the latter stages: the American has what it takes to win titles and record big averages. Baetens has been brilliant in patches in 2021, if he can repeat that, he could spring a surprise.
How far will the ‘defending champion’ Wayne Warren go?
Chris Murphy: I fear for Wayne, I think there are many better players in the draw but he is a dogged and determined type so he may well prove me wrong but I can’t see him getting to the quarter-finals, especially if he meets Cameron Menzies in the last 16.
Andrew Sinclair: Now there’s a question. As Wayne recently revealed on my podcast (Inside The WDF), he’s been battling a bad shoulder issue over the last six months and it was that injury that cost him at the World Seniors back in February. He certainly feels like he’s got a point to prove at Lakeside and there were some green shoots for him during the Isle of Man weekend. I can see him winning his opening game against either Lee Shewan or Jordan Brooks but it’s tough, at the moment, to foresee him having enough to get past who he is likely to meet him in the last 16, namely Cameron Menzies.
Josh Green: I feel that it may be a tough week for Wayne Warren, the second round won’t be easy against Brooks or Shewan, and Menzies superior match practice may be his undoing.
Ben Hudd: Neither Lee Shewan nor Jordan Brooks are walkovers for Warren, with both having reached the England Open quarter-finals last year, although I’d expect him to come through that before bowing out at the hands of Cameron Menzies. His form hasn’t been convincing at all since that elusive triumph, with a shoulder injury not helping him.
Lendel Faria: Wayne is a class act and a class player but he hasn’t been as good as he was since his title in 2020. I expect Cameron Menzies to beat him in the last 16.
Pim Huberts: Wayne Warren did not play well at the World Seniors Championship, and hasn’t stood out in WDF-tournaments as well. I could see Warren losing in his first round, but if he does survive his first round he will be well beaten by Cameron Menzies.
Jetze Jan Idsardi: Wayne Warren has had a tough time since winning the BDO World Championship in 2020. The impact of Covid on his career has been immense, and I don’t see him suddenly returning to form in this event. He should win his first game, but beating Cameron Menzies at the last 16 seems a near impossible task.
Which first round matches are you most looking forward to?
Chris Murphy: The first one – Martin Adams v Jarred Cole. It’s the perfect match to get the tournament started. Cole is an undoubted star of the future but who is very capable of doing big things now, while Adams has still got ‘it’ at the age of 65. It just leaps off the page and is a great way to open the event.
Andrew Sinclair: There are three that really catch the eye: Martin Adams vs Jarred Cole, Mark Graham vs Dave Prins and Dave Parletti vs Shaun McDonald.
Josh Green: I think Dave Parletti vs Shaun McDonald has a chance of being a cracker, we’re all keeping an eye on the first match of the tournament, but this is a sneakily good game.
Ben Hudd: Martin Adams v Jarred Cole. It’s a battle of the generations, a fascinating match between one of the sport’s all-time greats and an emerging youngster vying to follow in his footsteps. Both probably know each other’s games inside out by now after sharing the oche on countless occasions in the Live League.
Pim Huberts: I’m very much looking forward to Fransesco Raschini becoming the first player from Italy to appear on a World Darts Championship. I’m also looking forward to the debut of the 15-year old Luke Littler in the second round.
Jetze Jan Idsardi: Martin Adams vs Jarred Cole is the obvious pick here, but Andreas Harrysson vs Laszlo Kadar is where the ‘darts hipsters’ should look at. Kadar has made a great start to 2022, while Harrysson has shown on multiple occasions that he can play his best stuff on stage. A Swede vs a Romanian, what’s more to like?
Which seeds are most in danger of going out in the second round?
Chris Murphy: I think Aaron Turner and Scott Marsh will have a tough time winning their opening games, which I expect to be against Jim McEwan and James Richardson respectively.
Andrew Sinclair: Probably Antony Allen and Andy Baetens in the men’s competition. That’s not an indictment on the ability or form of either man, as they’re both terrific players (Andy won three titles last year!), but it’s more a reflection of who’ll they face in that second round. For Allen, it’s either Wolfie or rising star Jarred Cole in his Lakeside debut, while Baetens will have a tough assignment on his hands regardless of whether he faces Dave Parletti or Shaun McDonald. In both cases, it could well be that the winner of the first round game is just that bit more stage seasoned.
Josh Green: Antony Allen will be second favourite against either Cole or Adams, and Scott Marsh also has an unfavourable draw.
Ben Hudd: There really are a handful of seeds that could find themselves in trouble. The obvious call is Antony Allen, who is guaranteed a tricky contest in either Martin Adams or Jarred Cole, while Aaron Turner could also have his work cut out against Jim McEwan – if he brushes aside the unheralded Landon Gardiner that is.
Lendel Faria: Aaron Turner. Mainly because he will probably play Jim McEwan in his first match.
Pim Huberts: Antony Allen, Aaron Turner, Thibault Tricole, Andy Baetens, Scott Marsh, Wayne Warren. The Lakeside World Championship is closer than ever which makes no seed safe.
Jetze Jan Idsardi: Antony Allen would not have been too happy after he saw he would play the winner of Martin Adams vs Jarred Cole in round two. The Englishman wasn’t that great at the latest WDF events either. Thibault Tricole has been a bit sloppy this year as well, although he picked up some form at the Pro Tour. He will likely face a big battle with Connor Scutt though, not an easy task.
This tournament will be the first WDF World Championship, taking over the reins from the BDO. What do you see as the biggest challenges for the WDF in making their version of the World Championship a success?
Chris Murphy: It depends on what metric you are measuring success by. I think that getting the event on, after all the setbacks, and with a record-breaking prize-fund for a women’s tournament is a success already . I think putting on event and using TV to put across an event that people want to watch and attend will be a success. I think the event should be judged as a first attempt by the WDF, as that is what it is. Ultimately though, the darts will dictate… the standard, the stories, the drama and the emotion, all the things that make any sporting event watchable and enjoyable.
Andrew Sinclair: Two of the biggest things are related to them taking over from the BDO. The BDO name held weight, particularly in this country, whereas I would suspect that very few of those people would have been able to tell you who or what the WDF were before 2020. A cursory glance at the social media numbers for the WDF compared to the BDO demonstrates that they’ve got a long way to go to get the same sort of presence and reach within the wider public consciousness. The key to changing that is actually running this event and running it well, leveraging the stories that emerge into exciting social media and video content and using this as a building block for future growth. The other issue is almost the other side of the coin – the absolute farce the BDO made of things towards the end has tarred the WDF for some people as they just assume it’s the same. It obviously isn’t but the only real way you’ll be able to prove that is, again, by running the event and running it well. With the team they’ve got to front the coverage, and of course the return of Richard Ashdown as MC and Team Ref on stage, I have every faith they’ll be able to deliver. The other issue is the fallout from the removal of four Russian players from the tournaments. While seemingly unavoidable given the WDF’s ties to the IOC and the Olympic movement, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a negative PR story for them. Hopefully the situation in Ukraine is resolved promptly and peacefully and we can get back to how things were before.
Ben Hudd: The obvious answer to that question is selling tickets and from what can be seen on the Lakeside website, that doesn’t appear to be going particularly well, mainly thanks to the extortionate prices and not the fault of the WDF. Aside from that, I would say another challenge is putting the players across to the public. There are quite a few players in both fields that audiences aren’t familiar with.
Lendel Faria: I think they are already doing a brilliant job in trying to globalize the sport. I like the fact that they increased their number of participants to 48 and 24. We’ll see a lot of players that we otherwise would not see on the stage. The only thing I’m a little bit worried about are the ticket sales, I think the prices are too high. Especially for the first WDF Lakeside it’s important to have a packed house. Potter wants to make a profit now, but that’s not always the best way. I think it would’ve been better if he had established a good product (good first tournament, with a electric atmosphere in the house) then later on increase ticket pricing little by little. Now he scared a lot of dart fans away and that could hurt the product long term.
Pim Huberts: Audience. The ticket price is more than overpriced while the WDF World Championship could be the perfect night out for the darts fan and Lakeside-lover. Only if the WDF advertises itself as the ‘amateur’ World Championship, it could be part of the darts landscape.
Jetze Jan Idsardi: The biggest challenge in their first year is proving the doubters wrong. They want to show the world they still have a marketable product and have left the BDO shambles behind. Most sessions will be far from sold-out, but as long as the TV-production can make it look good, they will be fine. They have to start somewhere, and if they can get the enthusiasm up, they can improve on this in 2023.
Picture: Chris Sargeant/Tip Top Pics
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