In this bizarre year, the highlights of the darting calendar seem to come thick and fast. The latest is today’s draw for the William Hill World Championships. With the reduced crowd and a qualification process severely affected by Covid-19, this could be one of the most unpredictable events for many years.
Many of the seeds could be in for a tough time right from their first round. They will meet experienced players, from all systems, many of whom will find they have fewer disadvantages than usual. In addition, they will have already ‘played themselves in’ in what looks to be one of the best first rounds the championship has seen.
Ally Pally is a difficult place to play and it’s especially hard for the lesser experienced or those not used to the biggest events. The stage is huge, the crowd is normally raucous and bigger than most will have played in front of. In addition, the processes behind the scenes, the TV and media requirements mean that often qualifiers or lower-ranked players are overwhelmed or slow to start.
2020 is going to be different. There will be only a small crowd and their merriment will be heavily restricted. Although this may make the place feel even more cavernous. The fact that they will have already had a chance to get used to this may prove very valuable. Another factor is the sheer talent, quality, and experience of those who will play in round one.
Here are a few highlights that could lead to bigger tests for the biggest names:
Perhaps the most intriguing draws, of the big names, is the challenge that may face Nathan Aspinall. Aspinall will play either Canadian Matt Campbell or double World champion Scott Waites. Campbell is lesser-known but is seriously capable and has recorded impressive averages while being difficult to shake off. Matt slightly underperformed last year making his debut but that experience may help. Waites could be a serious dark horse at the Ally Pally. Although it’s taken ‘Too Hotty‘ a little while to adapt, to the rigors of the PDC, he is a big stage and big-game player. The small, but no doubt excited, crowd will suit him and he has begun to find his feet after some decent Pro Tour efforts. This could be a cruncher of a first-round and The Asp will have to be very prepared for a tough opener.
Chris Dobey will face the winner of Jeff Smith vs Keane Barry. Smith is a former World Cup Singles Champion and Lakeside finalist. ‘The Silencer‘ has had an excellent 2020, especially considering he has often had a tougher time than most traveling back and forth to Canada. But Jeff will first have to deal with one of the games hottest prospects. Barry, a former World youth champ, has begun to adapt to the senior game and is tipped for major success in the coming years. Dobey is going to have a tough time will either player.
The ‘German Giant‘ is due to meet either ‘The Hammer‘ or the ‘Man with No Name‘. Andy Hamilton returns to Ally Pally after a spell with the BDO and conquering his demons over the past couple of years. But he is hugely experienced, exerts a lot of pressure, and will not fold regardless of his opponent. Sebastien Kurz has the technical and temperamental potential to have a superb career. He has a certain style and likability that may endear him to the crowd/viewers if he can relax and play his own game then perhaps he can set up a huge all-German clash with Gabriel Clemens in round 2. Either way, keep an eye hear for a truly titanic pair of matches.
Jamie Hughes could also be in for a tough encounter. Either Lisa Ashton or Adam Hunt will be relieved to progress and may relax and play to their full potential in their second game. Hunt is a fine player who is yet to really show what he can do. Part of a group of Northeast players to have come through over recent years Hunt is currently in the shadow of Ryan Joyce, Chris Dobey, and, of course, Glen Durrant, but that may well play to his advantage. Ashton has had a remarkable year.’The Lancashire Rose‘ gained her tour card through Q School, becoming the first female player to do so, and has gained regular wins on the Pro Tour. Lisa is yet to really demonstrate her talent on TV, but she has had some experience on the Ally Pally stage and may well feel more at home. Jamie will be coming from a cold start whereas his opponent will be confident and familiar.
Another big name with a tough start is likely to be Adrian Lewis. ‘Jackpot‘ will play the winner of Damon Heta and Danny Baggish. Both of these guys could trouble Ade if they play close to their potential. Heta is the breakthrough player of the last couple of years. Damon has totally committed to a career in pro darts. He moved to the UK with his family and even with no experience and the Covid-19 issues, he has managed to claim a Pro Tour event and is beginning to find his feet in the majors. Baggish however will be no walkover, he debuted well at Ally Pally this year and seems to have kept busy during a virtual US shutdown of live darts. Lewis seems also to be through the worst of his slump and is heading in the right direction. This section of the draw should be thoroughly enjoyable.
So, as always Ally Pally is looking like a seriously competitive and entertaining couple of weeks. That’s without mentioning many of the biggest names. Players like Paul Lim, Nick Kenny, and Jason Lowe could also make waves before we even reach the entry of the world top 32!
2020/21 William Hill World Darts Championship
Draw Bracket – Second Round Onwards
(1) Michael van Gerwen v Ryan Murray/Lourence Ilagan
(32) Ricky Evans v Mickey Mansell/Haupai Puha
(16) Joe Cullen v Wayne Jones/Ciaran Teehan
(17) Jonny Clayton v John Henderson/Marko Kantele
(8) Dave Chisnall v Keegan Brown/Ryan Meikle
(25) Danny Noppert v Martijn Kleermaker/Cameron Carolissen
(9) Dimitri Van den Bergh v Luke Humphries/Paul Lim
(24) Jermaine Wattimena v Derk Telnekes/Nick Kenny
(4) Michael Smith v Jason Lowe/Dmitriy Gorbunov
(29) Devon Petersen v Steve Lennon/Daniel Larsson
(13) Gary Anderson v Madars Razma/Toru Suzuki
(20) Mensur Suljovic v Maik Kuivenhoven/Matthew Edgar
(5) Rob Cross v Dirk van Duijvenbode/Bradley Brooks
(28) Jamie Hughes v Adam Hunt/Lisa Ashton
(12) Glen Durrant v Steve Beaton/Diogo Portela
(21) Adrian Lewis v Damon Heta/Danny Baggish
(2) Peter Wright v Steve West/Amit Gilitwala
(31) Gabriel Clemens v Andy Hamilton/Nico Kurz
(15) Krzysztof Ratajski v Ryan Joyce/Karel Sedlacek
(18) Simon Whitlock v Darius Labanauskas/Chengan Liu
(7) James Wade v Callan Rydz/James Bailey
(26) Stephen Bunting v Andy Boulton/Deta Hedman
(10) Ian White v Kim Huybrechts/Di Zhuang
(23) Jeffrey de Zwaan v Ryan Searle/Danny Lauby
(3) Gerwyn Price v Luke Woodhouse/Jamie Lewis
(30) Brendan Dolan v Mike De Decker/Edward Foulkes
(14) Jose de Sousa v Ross Smith/David Evans
(19) Mervyn King v Max Hopp/Gordon Mathers
(6) Nathan Aspinall v Scott Waites/Matt Campbell
(27) Vincent van der Voort v Ron Meulenkamp/Boris Krcmar
(11) Daryl Gurney v William O’Connor/Niels Zonneveld
(22) Chris Dobey v Jeff Smith/Keane Barry