the-last-32:-frontrunners,-contenders-and-pretenders

The last 32: Frontrunners, contenders and pretenders

Gerwyn Price, Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright head the field

Gerwyn Price, Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright head the field

After a three-day break, the darts returns on Monday afternoon.

The business end of the PDC World Championship is upon us. 32 players remain, but just one will prevail.

Ahead of the third round, we assess the runners and riders as the Ally Pally extravaganza intensifies.

Live World Darts Championship

December 27, 2021, 12:30pm

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The frontrunners

The ‘big four’ of Gerwyn Price, Peter Wright, Michael van Gerwen and Jonny Clayton all came through their opening assignments with varying degrees of ease.

The ‘Iceman’ and the ‘Green Machine’ endured similar encounters, dropping the first set before claiming 3-1 victories against Ritchie Edhouse and Chas Barstow respectively.

Price was the more impressive, averaging 101.28 to clear the first hurdle at the World Championship for just the fourth time in his career.

MVG meanwhile will know that an improvement is needed for his last-32 showdown with Chris Dobey.

Wayne Mardle was impressed with Gerwyn Price's win over Ritchie Edhouse

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Wayne Mardle was impressed with Gerwyn Price’s win over Ritchie Edhouse

Wayne Mardle was impressed with Gerwyn Price’s win over Ritchie Edhouse

‘Snakebite’ was never forced out of second gear, as he eased to a 3-0 victory over Ryan Meikle with a 92.19 average.

But it was Premier League and Grand Prix champion Clayton who came through the stiffest test. ‘The Ferret’ had to call upon his A-game to see off Keane Barry 3-2 in an epic contest.

Jonny Clayton and Keane Barry hit a record-breaking 10 ton-plus checkouts in their rip-roaring second-round match

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Jonny Clayton and Keane Barry hit a record-breaking 10 ton-plus checkouts in their rip-roaring second-round match

Jonny Clayton and Keane Barry hit a record-breaking 10 ton-plus checkouts in their rip-roaring second-round match

Part: Of all the big guns, Clayton will be best pleased

“The happiest player of the top four contenders will be Jonny Clayton. He had to battle back well against an excellent performance, and he knows he can do everything at the highest quality when he needs it,” three-time world champ John Part told Sky Sports.

“When you know you can bring it out of yourself that’s always a good feeling, but he knew that already. He is safely out of the gate if you will, and he’s going to be really hard to beat. He’s just showing that.

“I think Price is also similar in that fashion. I don’t think he was quite as spectacular necessarily, but he was in moments. He certainly did everything he had to do when questions were asked.

“I don’t think he had as formidable an opponent or performance against him as Clayton, but he’ll still be very pleased that he dealt with it.

“Michael van Gerwen missed a lot of doubles. He got himself in trouble really, and he lost a set because of it. Chas played well, but any trouble Van Gerwen was in was mostly of his own causing.

“He will be happy that he showed he can get some big scores and in places he rectified his mistakes on the double. Of the four I think he’ll be the third on the list of happiness. I think he’s ready though.

“Peter Wright won’t be despondent or negative I don’t think. It was a ‘got the job done’ match really and that’s all you can say about it in how he would be feeling.

“It wouldn’t give him any particular boost forward, but you want timing in matches and you want timing in tournaments.

“Having a 108 average in your first game in a World Championship, isn’t necessarily when you want your 108 average, so I think they’re all in with a great chance from here, but Clayton is going to be enjoying his Christmas dinner the most.”

Could Clayton cap a dream year by lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy?

Could Clayton cap a dream year by lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy?

The contenders

There is a slew of big names in the chasing pack.

Michael Smith produced perhaps the performance of the tournament thus far with a 106.32 average in his 3-0 dispatching of Ron Meulenkamp.

Michael Smith says he has a point to prove on the Ally Pally stage

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Michael Smith says he has a point to prove on the Ally Pally stage

Michael Smith says he has a point to prove on the Ally Pally stage

Joe Cullen is being widely tipped as a dark horse. ‘The Rockstar’ will feel he has what it takes to prevail in a wide-open second quarter, with James Wade the only higher-ranked player in that section of the draw. ‘The Machine’ was not at his best against Maik Kuivenhoven, but will be confident he can go a long way.

In the third quarter, Ryan Searle, Jose de Sousa and Nathan Aspinall all have the calibre to challenge Peter Wright for the semi-final berth.

Rob Cross sent out a message with an impressive victory over Raymond van Barneveld. ‘Voltage’ is back in top form, but will have his work cut out if a last-16 meeting with Gary Anderson transpires. The Flying Scotsman showed 12 months ago how far he can go without being at his best. If he manages to summon his top performance levels, the two-time winner can do damage.

Rob Cross fought back from losing the opening set to win 3-1 against Raymond van Barneveld in round two

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Rob Cross fought back from losing the opening set to win 3-1 against Raymond van Barneveld in round two

Rob Cross fought back from losing the opening set to win 3-1 against Raymond van Barneveld in round two

Aside from MVG, Cross and Anderson, the bottom quarter also contains Dave Chisnall. High-scoring Chizzy is a match for anybody on his day, and do not rule out the possibility of him overcoming MVG for the second year in succession if both players come through their third-round assignments.

The pretenders

Outside of the big names, there is no shortage of pretenders to the throne.

After upsetting seeds in the second round, Ross Smith, Willie O’Connor, Martijn Kleermaker, Florian Hempel, Raymond Smith, Steve Lennon, Alan Soutar and Callan Rydz will all feel they could have a week to remember in London.

Damon Heta is a player who has quietly gone about his business over the last year, and will fancy his chances of stunning ‘Snakebite’ on Tuesday evening.

The perennial question about Ian White is whether he can bring his floor game to the big stage, but there is no concrete evidence as of yet to suggest ‘Diamond’ will come through the bottom quarter of the draw.

Kim Huybrechts sent out a warning to reigning champion Price, after the ‘Hurricane’ eliminated Steve Beaton. But the former Premier League star will know he needs to take his game to another level.

Daryl Gurney awaits Cross in the last 32, and after showing signs of his 2018-2019 form, ‘Super Chin’ will be hoping to kick on.

Two-time quarter-finalist Luke Humphries is a player who knows how to deliver big results at the Alexandra Palace, and will hold no fear of Chizzy on Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Chris Dobey, Danny Noppert, Mervyn King, Vincent Van der Voort, Gabriel Clemens and Dirk van Duijvenbode all have A-games to trouble the big guns, but it is a question of consistency.

Alan Soutar hits a 144 checkout to defeat Mensur Suljovic

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Alan Soutar hits a 144 checkout to defeat Mensur Suljovic

Alan Soutar hits a 144 checkout to defeat Mensur Suljovic

The draw

Top Half

(1) Gerwyn Price vs (32) Kim Huybrechts

Ross Smith vs (17) Dirk van Duijvenbode

(8) Jonny Clayton vs (25) Gabriel Clemens

(9) Michael Smith vs William O’Connor

(4) James Wade vs (29) Vincent van der Voort

(13) Joe Cullen vs Martijn Kleermaker

Florian Hempel vs Raymond Smith

Steve Lennon vs (21) Mervyn King

Bottom Half

(2) Peter Wright vs (31) Damon Heta

(15) Ryan Searle vs (18) Danny Noppert

(7) Jose de Sousa vs Alan Soutar

(10) Nathan Aspinall vs Callan Rydz

(3) Michael van Gerwen vs (30) Chris Dobey

(14) Dave Chisnall vs (19) Luke Humphries

(6) Gary Anderson vs (27) Ian White

(11) Rob Cross vs (22) Daryl Gurney

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