Darts: PDC World Championship
Friday December 14
Alexandra Palace, London
Sky Sports 1 7pm
The 20th PDC World Championship gets under way tonight. And, with 72 players competing for the brand new silverware – named the Sid Waddell trophy after the legendary commentator who died this year – and a first prize of £200,000, it’s set to be the toughest tournament yet.
Only five men have won the tournament since its inception in 1994, but Andy ‘The Hammer’ Hamilton’s run to last year’s final proved that form often goes out of the window here.
Unlike Hamilton, James Wade is yet to make a World Championship final, but he should see off Peter Hudson in his first-round tie on Monday night, while Raymond van Barneveld faces Michael Smith on Sunday. Gary Anderson and Michael Van Gerwen, meanwhile, have both had a fantastic year – Van Gerwen in particular – and are in action on Sunday and Thursday respectively, against the winners of the day’s preliminary matches.
The main attractions, though, are two men from Stoke: Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor and Adrian ‘Jackpot’ Lewis, who have dominated the event for the past four years.
Taylor has actually taken the title an incredible 13 times – with a run of eight consecutive wins between 1995 and 2002 – and begins his campaign against Michael Mansell tomorrow night. Lewis, meanwhile, is looking for a hat-trick of victories this year, and kicks off tonight against youngster Gino Vos.
We caught up with the two masters to get their thoughts ahead of stepping up to the toughest oche in the business. Let’s play darts...
ADRIAN ‘JACKPOT’ LEWIS
What do you make of your draw?
“I don’t really know too much about Gino Vos, except that he’s come from the BDO and he’s played in a few pro tour events. What I do know is if he’s Dutch [which he is], he’ll be a fast thrower. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a slow Dutch player.”
Are you under more pressure because of your two wins in a row?
“No, I don’t feel under pressure at all actually. Obviously I was under pressure last year, because I was defending my title and I had to prove my previous win wasn’t a one-off. I don’t have anything to prove now, though, because I’ve done it. I can just go out and play.”
What makes the World Championship so special?
“It’s just a great tournament. It doesn’t get any bigger than the worlds, with all the best players at a great venue with a loud crowd. All that comes together to make a fantastic event. I just can’t wait to get started again, so I’m glad I’m playing on the opening night.”
Is it true you had no sleep before last year’s final?
“Not quite. I think I got less than four hours, though. My semi final went on so long that we didn’t finish until about 1.20am. Then I had to do a drugs test, so I was there until about five. It definitely made the final more difficult. But it’s the World Championship, so tiredness quickly left my body.”
PHIL 'THE POWER' TAYLOR
What do you make of your draw?
“It’s great. There are some tough draws for some of the lads, I tell you. I’ve got a tough draw as well, with Michael, which is always a good thing because it means I’ll prepare properly and get ready for him. Sometimes a tough draw in the first round can set you up for the rest of the tournament, because you have to be on your game. So I’m happy.”
What makes the worlds so special?
“It’s the big one, isn’t it? This is the one we’re all after – this is the daddy.”
Does last year’s shock exit motivate you?
“Yeah, because everyone keeps reminding me about it! I’d love to win it, just one last time, and it’d be extra special because of Sid – he was one of my best friends in darts. On top of that, Bruce Spendley – the MC I’ve worked with for 25 years – is retiring, and he’s calling the final scores. I’d love to win it for him.”
Your fitness regimes are well publicised. What kind of shape are you in?
“I’m always experimenting and trying different regimes, and I’m doing a lot of juicing at the minute – which I’m enjoying. I feel better than I have done for a while. Just myself, I guess. I suppose age is catching up with me, so I have to put more work in to keep up.”
Finally, we keep hearing it’s your last year?
“No, you’re not getting rid of me that easily!”
The Ladbrokes World Darts Championship is live on Sky Sports HD, including the semi finals and final in 3D. Join the conversation at #Ladbrokesdarts