Top 5 darts players poised to win their first championship
Lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy in front of a packed Alexander Palace, surrounded by confetti, cheerleaders, and drunk lads in fancy dress, is the pinnacle of darts. It is the darting dream to be on that stage in early January for the World Darts Championship.
Michael van Gerwen, Adrian Lewis, Gary Anderson, Rob Cross, and Peter Wright have all done it and will be back to try to do it again this year, but which players yet to live that dream are best placed to break their world championship duck?
‘The Iceman’ Gerwyn Price
There’s no better place to start than with the current world No. 3, the most divisive man in darts, Welshman Gerwyn Price.
Price’s game has been revolutionized in the last two years. He has gone from mid-card player to main-event draw. He is electric on stage, spiky toward his opponent, and now his darts are backing up the bravado.
In 2019 he reached the final of the Players Championship and the final of the European Championship and won the Grand Slam of Darts for the second year in a row. This year he has already reached the final of the UK Open.
His world championship form is mostly dreadful — from 2015 to 2019, he never made it past the third round — but he put that right in 2020, when he reached the semifinal, where he lost, 6-3, to Peter Wright.
‘Bully Boy’ Michael Smith
The 2013 under-21 world champ has always threatened to be a major player on the big stage, but it hasn’t quite happened yet for Michael Smith.
Smith broke into the top 16 in the rankings in 2015, and although he is yet to win a major, televised tournament, in 2019 he had one of his most successful years.
It began with a world championship final appearance against van Gerwen, and although he was beaten, 7-3, it gave Smith valuable Ally Pally experience. He went on to make televised semifinals of the UK Open, European Championship, and Champions League of Darts, as well the World Matchplay final, which was won, 18-13, by Cross.
Smith has been under the wing of Anderson for several years, so it would be no surprise to see Bully Boy make waves at the end of 2020.
‘The Machine’ James Wade
Arguably the greatest player never to have won the world championship, Wade is a two-time UK Open champ, two-time World Grand Prix champion, and winner of the World Matchplay, Premier League, European Championship, and the Masters.
Throw into the mix another 12 televised final appearances, and the fact he has been in the top 10 for 13 years, and it’s incredible that The Machine has never made it past the semifinal of the world championship.
The Machine’s off-the-board struggles have been well documented, but his home life appears in a good place, with his wonderful wife Sammi and baby boy Arthur. Could everything be aligning for a world championship run?
‘The Asp’ Nathan Aspinall
Aspinall is a young gun with plenty of years left on the oche, but he hit flying form in 2019 and can take another step toward a world championship with a solid 2020.
The Asp made the 2019 world championship semifinal, where he lost, 6-3, in a thriller where both men averaged over 100. This year he made another run to the semifinal but lost 6-3 to van Gerwen.
In between those appearances, he won his first televised title, when he defeated Cross, 11-5, in the UK Open. Selected for the 2020 Premier League, he has already beaten world champions MVG and Glen Durrant under the lights.
‘The DreamMaker’ Dimitri Van den Bergh
If you never have a dream, how will you ever have a dream come true?
Van den Bergh is a huge price for World Championship glory in 2021, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t without a chance. The world youth champion in 2017 and 2018, he is into the top 32 and mixing it up with the very best.
Van den Bergh beat two-time world champ Lewis to make the quarterfinals at the Ally Pally this year and has made the last eight of the UK Open and the Grand Slam of Darts, as well, in the past couple years. Throw in a televised nine-darter against Smith in the Grand Slam, and you have a wildcard with a ton of upside.