Sky Sports News Reporter/Presenter @MissEmmaPaton
From Fallon Sherrock and Lisa Ashton to this year’s dark horse and her favourite for the title, who will Emma Paton plumb for? The Sky Sports Darts presenter puts her predictions on the table ahead of the World Darts Championship from Wednesday, December 15 until Monday, January 3
Last Updated: 06/12/21 1:54pm
Sky Sports Darts presenter Emma Paton lets us in on her predictions ahead of this year’s PDC World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace.
Emma has taken time away from her presenting duties to write her very own column ahead of this year’s tournament, which starts on Wednesday, December 15.
First up, how far can Fallon Sherrock go this year?
What a first-round tie! If you listen back to the draw you can actually hear me gasp when I read Fallon’s name to play Steve Beaton! This is definitely one of THE ties of the opening round for me. I think one of Fallon’s biggest positives at the moment is she doesn’t have too many scars – she’s got incredible memories of the Ally Pally stage from two years ago, plus a massive confidence boost from her heroics at the Grand Slam more recently which will stand her in good stead.
It’s a tricky opener against someone who’s making a record 31st consecutive appearance at the Worlds (wow!) but I expect ‘The Queen of the Palace’ to get the job done.
If Sherrock gets past Beaton it’s a second-round tie with Kim Huybrechts, which won’t be easy. In the last three years the Belgian has always reached the third round or further, and looking back at his performances this season – he’s made a Players Championship semi-final, a number of quarter-finals plus a last-eight run at the World Series Finals too.
Of course there’ll be an enormous amount of pressure on Huybrechts and the crowd will certainly be with his opponent so maybe it will come down to how well he can hold it together. With that in mind, we know how laser-focused Sherrock is when she’s on the big stage – so here’s to some more magic moments!
That leaves a clash with world No 1 Gerwyn Price next which is where her journey ends, I think. Price is one of the hot favourites, coming in as defending champion and weeks after picking up a third Grand Slam title, I think he’ll have too much and has the mentality to cope with the situation.
Plus, after his comments about Sherrock having to make the World Championship final, or better still – win the whole thing, to earn a Premier League spot – then he’ll have to back that up, right!?
What about Lisa Ashton’s chances?
I certainly think if Lisa plays how we know she can then she could create her own slice of history at the Worlds.
I think back to her first-round defeat to Adam Hunt last year and it was a cracking tie. In the end it went to a deciding set and was a hard-fought win for Hunt. Ashton certainly won’t be fazed by playing on the big stage – having played at the Palace twice before – we also saw the tour card holder average over a ton when beating Aaron Beeney at the UK Open earlier this year.
‘The Lancashire Rose’ comes up against Ron Meulenkamp in her opener. He was blown away by Krzysztof Ratajski in the first round of the Players Championship Finals a matter of weeks ago – averaging just 85 in a 6-1 defeat – so I think if Ashton can get a good start she could do some damage.
Michael Smith, the 2019 finalist, awaits in the second round. We saw him reach the final four of the Grand Slam recently – a win over Michael van Gerwen one of the highlights of his week. A clash with the world No 9 won’t exactly be easy will it but I’ll leave you with this…
Ashton has beaten ‘Bully Boy’ before – at a Players Championship in September last year – it was a 6-4 win despite Smith averaging over 101!
This year’s dark horse is?
Is there such a thing in darts anymore?! Here goes…
Brendan Dolan has to be one of my picks. In a sport all about timing – ‘The History Maker’ achieved one of his best tournament finishes with a semi-final run at the Players Championship Finals a few weeks ago.
En route to the final four he beat Gerwyn Price and Jose de Sousa and what a confidence boost just weeks out from the Worlds.
Looking at his section of the draw – if he gets past Callan Rydz or Yuki Yamada in his opener, he could face Nathan Aspinall in the third round. In their only meeting this year, it’s Dolan who came out on top. De Sousa is also in his section, but he’ll be feeling confident of doing the job over ‘The Special One’ – having done just that in Minehead against the tournament’s top seed.
Plus, we all remember how close Dolan came to toppling eventual world champion Gerwyn Price at Ally Pally last year.
Breakfast: My special breakfast smoothie! Secret ingredients are: one small banana, frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries, a scoop of chocolate protein powder, oatly milk, a spoonful of peanut butter.
Workout routine: With the crazy routine of the Worlds I will probably look to fit in some running and maybe a gym session or two. My weekly running routine would consist of at least one long run, a tempo based session where I move a bit quicker, and an interval session to really bust the lungs!
Music en route: Christmas songs…duhh!!!
Mardle chat away from darts: Anything and everything…literally! Wayne is the best storyteller so I could listen to his stories all day.
Favourite thing about Ally Pally: The fans!! And I can’t wait for them to return this year!
It’s been a bleak year in terms of trophies by MVG’s lofty standards, but he told us at the Grand Slam he was back and he’s certainly on his way there.
Emma Paton on Michael van Gerwen
Who are the favourites?
Well it probably won’t surprise too many that Price is the favourite before a dart has been thrown. The defending champion and world No 1 has enjoyed a good year after adding another major to his collection with a third Grand Slam title, plus a couple of Players Championships too. So can he become just the fourth player in history to win the big one back to back?
Three-time world champion Michael van Gerwen is always in the mix for any big event. It’s been a bleak year in terms of trophies by MVG’s lofty standards, but he told us at the Grand Slam he was back and he’s certainly on his way there.
Jonny Clayton has been THE man of 2021 with four big titles – the Masters, the Premier League, the World Grand Prix and the World Series of Darts Finals – so unsurprisingly he’s one of the favourites for the biggie. He’s actually never made it past the third round at Ally Pally, but he’s a different player now, isn’t he?!
And after steamrolling everyone at the World Matchplay in July, Peter Wright’s form fell off a cliff but he’s certainly finding it when it matters. A final run at the Grand Slam in the middle of November, to then winning the Players Championship Finals makes ‘Snakebite’ one of the big favourites at the Palace.
And the winner is?
For a chronically indecisive person this is tough, but I’m going to go for Michael van Gerwen.
I feel like he’s getting close to something special and something to signal ‘right, he really is back!’. There have been signs, haven’t there?
His performance at the European Championship (despite falling to defeat to Rob Cross in the final), the record Grand Slam average of over 115, and there’s been a confidence about him that we haven’t seen for a while.
For someone who’s been champion of the world three times, no doubt if he could do it in 2022 it would be the most significant crowning of the lot.
It’s not long to wait until the darts returns to your screens and it’s the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace – join us on Sky Sports for every arrow from every session across 16 days which gets under way on Wednesday, December 15. Check out daily Darts news on skysports.com/darts, our app for mobile devices and our Twitter account @skysportsdarts