In a year of darting shocks Dan Fitch is backing Dimitri van den Bergh to upset Michael van Gerwen, as our man breaks down each quarter of the 2021 PDC World Championship...
"Dimitri van den Bergh has made his breakthrough, winning the World Matchplay this year. The 26-year old Belgian also performed brilliantly at the recent Grand Slam of Darts, where he really should have made the final."
The 2021 PDC World Championship begins on Tuesday and once again Michael van Gerwen starts as the pre-tournament favourite, available at 3.613/5.
What's perhaps different on this occasion is that while Van Gerwen is the deserved favourite, there is less expectation of him winning the tournament than in previous years. Van Gerwen has won two majors this year, including the recent Players Championship Finals, but he's not been nearly as dominant as usual.
This promises to be the most open World Championship that we've seen for some time. In this very peculiar year, we've witnessed some shock results in major tournaments and there's no reason to think that the World Championship will be different. Here's our lowdown on each quarter.
Value lies with Belgian
Van Gerwen is the 1.674/6 favourite to win the 1st Quarter. There's little value in that price, nor in his odds of 3.613/5 to win his fourth World Championship. Van Gerwen has just had too many off days this season and could have a very tough quarter-final.
Dimitri van den Bergh has made his breakthrough, winning the World Matchplay this year. The 26-year old Belgian also performed brilliantly at the recent Grand Slam of Darts, where he really should have made the final.
Available at 9.28/1 to win the 1st Quarter and 30.029/1 to win the tournament, he should at least get as far as the quarter-finals, which he reached in 2018 and 2020. If he can play at the sort of standard that he's capable of, these odds will be much smaller by the time Van den Bergh reaches the quarters.
No clear favourite in second quarter
The 2nd Quarter is the most open, with no clear favourite. It features two former World Champions, this year's Premier League winner, one of the PDC's brightest young talents and some in-form players who are starting to make their mark.
Again, there's no value with the favourite, with Michael Smith trading at 3.814/5. Smith can beat anyone on his day, but he's been erratic all season and has a tough run, with the much improved Devon Petersen possible waiting in the third round and the two-time World Champion, Gary Anderson potentially a fourth round opponent.
Also rule out the world number five Rob Cross, with the 2018 World Champion having had a poor year. The Premier League champion Glen Durrant would be my pick, but for the fact that he looked so poor after becoming ill with COVID. If he is back to his best in his first match, Durrant's price of 8.415/2 to win this quarter could be tempting. If not, then Damon Heta at 12.011/1 and Dirk van Duivenbode at 14.013/1 should be considered, with the latter having reached the final of the World Matchplay.
Wade should be waiting for Wright
The defending champion Peter Wright is 2.526/4 to win the 3rd Quarter and 7.613/2 to defend his tournament. It's not bad value, as Wright has a reasonable draw.
Wright's main opposition is likely to come from Simon Whitlock. The Aussie has rediscovered his form in recent months and could be waiting for Wright in the fourth round.
If Whitlock produces the sort of display that we've seen from him in recent majors, then even Wright would be stretched.
For that reason James Wade could be a contender to come through to win this quarter at 6.611/2. Wade reached the final of the Grand Slam of Darts and has had a kind draw, with the out of form Ian White his highest ranked opposition en-route to the quarter-finals, which he is 15/8 to reach on the Sportsbook.
Difficult draw for Price
Gerwyn Price is the second favourite to win the tournament at 7.613/2 and is 2.56/4 to win the 4th Quarter. 'The Iceman' has often looked like the best player on the tour this year, but he's had a really unkind draw here.
Price is on a collision case with the Grand Slam of Darts winner Jose de Sousa in the fourth round, while Nathan Aspinall doesn't have much opposition en-route to the quarter-final. Aspinall has reached the semi-finals in both of the previous two years and could be the value choice to do so again.
'The Asp' has a good record against Price, who he knocked out of the Grand Slam of Darts. He looks a certainty to make the quarter-finals and can be backed to do do at 7/5.