11 Dec, 2020
Events

Only nine people have won the PDC World Championship in its 27-year history, but this year's event might just be the most wide-open yet. Team Target sends 11 players to Alexandra Palace (two of them former champions) with the dream of lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy.

The return of fans after an absence of eight months in the UK makes this year's event even more significant, but even if it were still to be played behind closed doors, winning the World Championship is the pinnacle of any player's career.

Target's 2021 competitors hail from five different countries and include not only the oldest man in the field in Paul Lim but two reigning World Youth Champions - Bradley Brooks and Keane Barry.

As usual, the top 32 players in the rankings enter at the second round stage, with the other 64 having to fight their way through the opening round. Below, we set-out the task that lies ahead of our guys at the biggest darts tournament in the world.

Rob Cross

Ranking: 5

Previous best: Winner 2018

Title odds: 50-1

Opening game: Dirk van Duijvenbode or Bradley Brooks

This is the first year that "Voltage" has not picked up a title of any sort since coming to the PDC at the start of 2017. Having immediately won ProTour titles, then the World Championship in his debut campaign, and supplementing that with the Matchplay and European crowns, Cross talked of dominating the sport.

2020 has derailed those plans and he is now fighting his way back to form. There has been a steady improvement, but the pace has not been quick enough to satisfy him. For every encouraging high, there has been a low to match, and despite his world ranking Cross has become one of the most unpredictable performers in the PDC of late.

When he gets it right, he can look like the man who imperiously swept aside Phil Taylor in the Alexandra Palace final three years ago - but can he get it right consistently this December?

Cross faces a tricky opener against fellow Target star Bradley Brooks or Grand Prix finalist Dirk van Duijvenbode. If he has another "off day", then he could face an early exit for the second year running.

Nathan Aspinall

Ranking: 6

Previous best: Semi-finalist 2019, 2020

Title odds: 20-1

Opening game: Scott Waites or Matt Campbell

The bookmakers believe "The Asp" is Team Target's best hope for success at this year's event, and it is easy to understand why when Nathan has made the semis on both his previous campaigns.

The former UK Open champion is firmly established amongst the world's elite and has picked up three titles this year, as well as reaching the final of the Premier League in his debut campaign.

To reach the semis for a third consecutive year, Nathan may have to overcome the second-favourite for the title Gerwyn Price - but "The Asp" may be the player in the field who fears him least. Aspinall relishes his contests with the Welshman, having become the first person in two years to beat him at the Grand Slam last month, and also producing an incredible comeback win at Ally Pally two years ago.

First things first though - he has to negotiate a minefield section of the draw, including an opener against multiple BDO world title winner Scott Waites or the promising Canadian talent Matt Campbell.

Glen Durrant

Ranking: 12

Previous best: Quarter-finals 2020

Title odds: 28-1

Opening game: Steve Beaton or Diogo Portela

"Duzza" heads into just his second PDC World Championship as the reigning Premier League champion, and only the third man in history (behind Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen) to win the league phase of the tournament. However, having been knocked sideways by Covid, Glen's preparation for another Alexandra Palace campaign has been hit hard.

Despite an early exit at the Players Championship Finals, the three-time Lakeside world title winner looked much improved. Regular practice sessions with fellow Target pro Gabriel Clemens (using the DartCounter app) are helping him get back to his usual self, but the question is whether he will be firing on all cylinders in time.

Even a below-average "Duzza" is fancied by the bookmakers to reach the quarter-finals, but he has been placed in a section of the draw featuring four other Target players - and may have to overcome Adrian Lewis and Rob Cross to reach the last eight.

Adrian Lewis

Ranking: 21

Previous best: 2011, 2012 Winner

Title odds: 125-1

Opening game: Damon Heta or Danny Baggish

This year's tournament marks a decade since "Jackpot" fulfilled his destiny and became the World Champion that many predicted he would become. Despite another world title and two more majors that followed, Adrian has perhaps not achieved as much in the sport as some expected.

Lewis heads to this year's world championship ranked outside the top 20, having failed to qualify for the Grand Slam and gone out in round one of the Players Championship Finals - yet there have been so many positive displays from him in recent months.

If the "Jackpot" that reached the Matchplay quarter-finals, or who sparkled in the Winter Series, arrives at Ally Pally, there could be fireworks. The worlds do seem to bring the best out of him, only losing to Michael van Gerwen and an excellent Dimitri Van den Bergh in the last 16 for the previous two years.

The magic must return again if he is to progress through this tough and Target-studded section of the draw - but nobody has ever doubted Adrian's abilities.

Gabriel Clemens

Ranking: 31

Previous best: Last 64 2019

Title odds: 100-1

Opening game: Andy Hamilton or Nico Kurz

A year of firsts for "The German Giant" has seen him make debuts at both the World Matchplay and World Grand Prix, and it would be fitting to see him get a run at the World Championship off the back of them.

The former locksmith may not have a PDC title to his name as yet, but he does go to Alexandra Palace as a seeded player for the first time, so will not have to come through a first round tie. Gabriel will be favourite to win his opener against former finalist Andy Hamilton or fellow German Nico Kurz, and that alone would give him his best result at the tournament. However, defending champion Peter Wright could await in the last 32 - and that is where he really could make his mark on the event.

Some of Clemens' displays at the recent Winter Series were spectacular, and if his pre-tournament practice sessions with Target's Glen Durrant help him recapture some of that, then the big man from Saarland could produce a seismic shock and blow this section of the draw wide open.

Keane Barry

Ranking: 105

Previous best: Last 96 2020

Title odds: 250-1

Opening game: Jeff Smith (winner plays Chris Dobey)

The 18 year old Irish sensation is a reigning double world champion heading into his second appearance at Alexandra Palace, holding both the BDO boys' and Junior Darts Corporation titles. "Dynamite" earns his spot this year by virtue of his performances on the Development Tour, and has already turned heads with his limited opportunities on the senior PDC circuit - upon which he will compete next year, having won his Tour Card.

Keane is another product of our Elite1 system and is perhaps the most exciting young talent in the sport right now. Many believe he is capable of producing a run in this event, but winning his first game on the Ally Pally stage would be a significant enough moment - especially as he faces former Lakeside finalist, and the North American number one, Jeff Smith.

Ricky Evans

Ranking: 32

Previous best: Last 32 2014, 2016, 2020

Title odds: 400-1

Opening game: Mickey Mansell or Haupai Puha

The fastest player on the planet is itching to get back on the biggest stage of all, upon which he has competed for the last five years running. "Rapid" has clung on to his spot in the world's top 32, which sees him enter at the second round stage, but also sees him potentially face world number one Michael van Gerwen in round three for the second year running. Lightning quick, entertaining, and unpredictable - the Northamptonshire man certainly has the capabilities to make an impact on the event, but the bookies have him as a rank outsider purely based on his position in the draw.

Evans was comprehensively beaten by MvG at last year's event and will be desperate to at least run him close if they do go head to head once more.

Stephen Bunting

Ranking: 26

Previous best: Quarter-finals 2015

Title odds: 250-1

Opening game: Andy Boulton or Deta Hedman

After reaching the quarters on his debut in the PDC World Championship, Alexandra Palace had not been a happy hunting ground for "The Bullet" until last year - where he produced a run to the last 16. His confidence is high, and Bunting firmly believes he is playing better darts now than at any point in his career.

That said, 2020 has not been one to remember for Stephen - who failed to qualify for the Matchplay and European Championship for the first time since switching from the BDO. Three major quarter-finals last year have been followed with none this year, but that will seem less significant if he can produce a deep run at Alexandra Palace.

"The Bullet" may have to take out two top ten players just to reach the quarters (in James Wade and Ian White), but he does have winning records and long-format victories in major tournaments against both of them.

Paul Lim

Ranking: N/A

Previous best: Last 16 2001

Title odds: 1000-1

Opening game: Luke Humphries (winner plays Dimitri Van den Bergh)

66 years young and still going strong, "The Singapore Slinger" is a legend in the world of darts - and not just for throwing the first nine-darter at a World Championship back in 1990.

Lim came through a late qualifier in Hong Kong to earn his return to Alexandra Palace and this will be the 25th world championship campaign of his extraordinary career. He had played 12 of them before his first round opponent was even born!

It will be a clash of generations when Paul faces Luke Humphries, and it will be the same again if he comes through it to face Dimitri Van den Bergh. There are few players whom the fans love to cheer more - it would be a Christmas treat were he to welcome their return with a run into the late stages of the tournament.

Danny Baggish

Ranking: N/A

Previous best: Last 64 2020

Title odds: 500-1

Opening game: Damon Heta (winner plays Adrian Lewis)

A second appearance at the World Championship for the exciting American talent, who won his opening game last year before going out to Target's Nathan Aspinall. Baggish broke through in 2019's North American Championship and does have the capability to produce big 100+ averages, but many of the international qualifiers have not had the same opportunities for competitive action this year as the rest of the PDC professionals.

If Baggish does arrive in the UK in form, he can be a match for anyone - and his opening clash against Damon Heta might well be the pick of the first round ties. Danny could potentially face three Target world champions in succession if he does overcome the Australian (Lewis, Durrant, Cross), but he is not a player to be taken lightly.

Bradley Brooks

Ranking: 113

Previous best: Debut

Title odds: 750-1

Opening game: Dirk van Duijvenbode (winner plays Rob Cross)

The 20 year old from Blackburn's victory at the World Youth Championship last month not only earned him £10,000, but also booked his ticket to Alexandra Palace for the first time. While it may be a debut on the biggest stage of all, "Bam Bam" is no stranger to professional darts, having competed on the professional circuit for three years now.

Bradley is a product of Target's Elite1 training and mentoring system, and can call upon the expertise and knowledge of Darryl Fitton to help him prepare for a huge moment in his career. But the draw has not been kind to him - with Grand Prix finalist Dirk van Duijvenbode one of the most dangerous possible opponents, and the small matter of a former champion (Target's Rob Cross) awaiting the winner.

Good Luck to all our #TeamTarget players.

Event photos © Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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