The Alexandra Palace in London is set for the quarter-finals of the 2022 PDC World Championship in the first quarter-final line-up exclusively consisting of players from Britain since 2006. In a World Championship thus far blighted by Covid-19, this time not in denying the event of any spectators but in denying the opportunity of certain players to continue in the event due to positive Covid tests, 8 remain in a field which consists of 3 former champions.
Defending champion Gerwyn Price’s route to the last 8 has been largely plain-sailing but for a few minor hiccups. His third round encounter against Kim Huybrechts is the only time in which the 2021 world champion has really looked on the ropes and his hopes of becoming just the fourth man to retain a PDC world title remain high accordingly. In a rematch of the 2020 World Grand Prix final, Dirk van Duijvenbode was sadly unable to put up much of a challenge in the fourth round, in a match which looked like it could produce some premature New Year’s fireworks.
Price’s victory sets up a blockbuster quarter-final with former finalist Michael Smith. Smith’s Alexandra Palace career goes way back to 2012, with his appearances including a 2014 dethroning of Phil Taylor and a 2019 final. He has been on excellent form and was one half of one of the matches of the tournament in the fourth round when he got the better of Jonny Clayton. It was a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat clash in which both shared 25 180s and produced some of the championship’s best arraz. Fans quickly made claims to the tie being a future Darts Gold episode, and you would no doubt struggle to find better drama on TV over Christmas. It was a cruel exit for Clayton, who leaves the event despite having never averaged below 100 in his three matches and having the most maximum visits thus far. Nonetheless, a superb and unpredictable quarter-final looms.
James Wade has just about every major PDC trophy going but the World Championship has proved so far elusive. But at this World Championship he is just one win from reaching his equal best of a semi-final if he can overcome a man he has twice beaten to win PDC majors, Mervyn King. Wade has been one of the beneficiaries of Covid-related withdrawals, with ‘The Machine’ receiving a bye in the third round when Vincent van der Voort pulled out. In the fourth round, he pulled no punches in a cool dismissal of Martijn Kleermaker, who only clicked into gear and started to trouble Wade deep into the match when it was already too late.
Wade, who has yet to hit a 180 in this World Championship, will face a Mervyn King who pulled off the comeback of all comebacks in round 4 against Raymond Smith. King, who had already overturned a 2-0 deficit against Ryan Joyce in round 2, found the crowd on his side in his efforts and has now booked his place in the last 8. King, who competed in his first world championship in 1997, made a major final at the start of the year at the Masters and will no doubt be hoping to repeat such success over the coming days.
The final two quarter-finals are book-ended by two Scottish former champions, who are both hoping to conquer players who are attempting to make their first worlds semi-final. Peter Wright once again found himself at the centre of a storm over a mid-match equipment change when he ditched his darts 2-0 down to Damon Heta in the third round, returning to a set which won him the 2021 World Matchplay. He found few problems against Ryan Searle despite early wobbles and will remain optimistic of his ambition of completing the Blackpool-London double come Sunday.
Callan Rydz could prove to be a very tricky opponent however. Rydz has shown all the marks of experience and zen-like focus in his time in north London and will treat Wright no differently to the four opponents he has already dispatched with ease. ‘The Riot’ is the only unseeded quarter-finalist and a victory on Sunday would produce history in making him the first unseeded PDC world champion. He only dropped his first set of the tournament in his fourth round clash with Alan Soutar, but his 14-1 sets record would leave most in the field envious. There is very much the potential for a shock.
At the bottom of the draw, Luke Humphries faces two-time champion Gary Anderson. Humphries, though only 26, already had 2 World Championship quarter-final appearances to his name but is looking to reach his first semi-final. He defeated Chris Dobey in another ‘match of the tournament’ contender in round 4. It received top billing from Sky Sports and truly delivered, as ‘Cool Hand Luke’ came back from 3-1 down to reach the last 8 for the third time. Humphries, who has discussed his desire to play in the Premier League this week, will be hoping it is third time lucky when he toes the oche on New Year’s Day.
Gary Anderson proves an interesting contrast to the likes of Rydz and Humphries. In recent years, he has embodied a Ronnie O’Sullivan-style blase attitude to events, assuring audiences he does not care that much. But the hunger for a third world title is no doubt there and was certainly present in the key moments of his mouth-watering clash with another former world champion, Rob Cross. Anderson found himself 3-0 down in his third round match with Ian White but still managed to fight back, and got over the line against Cross despite late doors miscounting. A third world title would be a huge cherry on the cake of an excellent career, and perhaps cause for a blissful farewell from a professional circuit he has had difficulties at times enduring in the last few years. Nonetheless, those are matters for the future, and for now he very much has eyes on ultimate glory.
Image Credits: BBC