With the 2013 Darts Premier League kicking off tonight, theknightlyblog looks into who could be victorious on May 16th.
The obvious answer is Phil Taylor, who since winning the Player’s Championship in early December and then soon after re-capturing the world title in January has seen a slump by his standards subside and with last week’s World Cup of Darts title to add into the mix, it appears that the 16 time world champion is on his best form, clearly making him a huge threat to the other 9 players.
Michael Van Gerwen could also be an interesting prospect though, as in the last 6 months he has become the player that the Darts World has hailed him as for so long. With him taking his first PDC major at the World Grand Prix in October and then getting to the final of both the Grand Slam of Darts (losing to Barney) and then the World Final (losing to Phil Taylor) I don’t think anyone could bet against the young Dutch master pulling out all the stops and winning is maiden premier league.
Dangerously however, is the lack of attention James Wade has been receiving, who whilst struggling for form somewhat of late, he is one of three out of the nine players to have won the premier league, with his victory back in 2009. This and his list of major wins make him dangerous regardless of his form coming into the Premier League because if his game is there, Wade has shown his capability throughout his career of dispatching anyone and so could certainly make the last 4 of the tournament.
Then you have the Wizard, Simon Whitlock, who played superbly throughout the 2012 Premier League losing the final to Phil Taylor, clearly showing that his game is consistent enough to do damage in the premier league, whilst still looking for his first PDC major, could this be the tournament where Whitlock finally breaks his duck and wins his first?
Adrian Lewis (the 2011 runner-up) is an interesting prospect because his form goes from the sublime to the poor within a leg, meaning that when he goes through purple patches, he can take legs quickly and with little work. But when his form drops he becomes an easy target and can quickly fall behind, very much seen in the World Cup of Darts where he was reliant on Taylor at times to allow the English duo to progress. However, towards the end of the tournament and his final singles match against Ronny Huybrechts his form appeared more stable. If it is the form that saw him lift 2 consecutive world championships and hit 9-darters in the process then Lewis could whitewash the Premier League, but if inconsistency strikes, it could be another poor performance from the two-time world champion.
The Hammer, Andy Hamilton is also capable because of his determined game, making him very hard to beat. 2012 was very much a year that has seen Hamilton become a real player, someone who is around at the end of tournaments and has a realistic chance of success. Whilst I do feel he is hard to beat, I think this year’s line-up is so stuff that he may struggle to make the top four, but I do predict that his dogged game will get him in to 5th or 6th place, with him causing upsets along the way.
On the other hand though, can the rejuvenation of Raymond Van Barneveld be ignored? No. Put simply it can’t because the old Barney has re-emerged recently with his old energy and passion for darts seemingly returning after claiming his first PDC major in 5 years in the shape of the Grand Slam of Darts and then being involved in a steamy encounter with Phil Taylor in the Semi-Finals of the worlds. After perhaps a disappointing World Cup of Darts with Van Gerwen (where they crashed out in the second round) his morale could be knocked, but I think his recent form should outweigh this and as long as the consistency and energy for playing is there in Raymond, I predict that he could challenge this year, if we see his form from the last 6 months.
Finally, the other new boys Thornton and Newton both showed the quality of their games in 2012, both having good runs, Thornton more so with 2 major television victories over Phil Taylor and a major win in his concurring of the UK Open. Whilst I feel these 2 players could finish well, I don’t see either of them as a true threat for the title in this year’s Premier League. I would also put Anderson in this category because whilst his victory in the Premier League in 2011 shows he does have the potential, I feel of late his game hasn’t been at the same standard of the likes of Barney, Taylor and Van Gerwen, meaning that a mid to low table finish is where Anderson is likely to come.
In my opinion I think that Phil Taylor will get his hands on his 7th Premier League title and will be joined in the last four by Van Gerwen, Whitlock and Wade with both Lewis and Barney only narrowly missing out on the top four. In terms of the relegation after week 9 I expect both Newton and Thornton to be leaving the league at that stage with Anderson just only hanging on in the league.
You can catch all the action from the tonight’s first round of games from the Premier League on Sky Sports 1 HD at 7pm