Something closer to darts normality unfolds this weekend when, for the first time in six months, fans will be back to cheer on their heroes as they head to the oche at the World Series of Darts Finals.
The 6,700-capacity Salzburg Arena won’t be full – social distancing rules are in place in Austria as they are across much of Europe – but it means
2/1 favourite Michael van Gerwen can begin the defence of his title with the welcome boost of at least a small crowd roaring on his every throw.
The World Series of Darts Finals is a 24-player event, the field ordinarily culled from a series of qualifying events held across the globe.
This year, of course, those competitions haven’t happened, which means the PDC have invited 14 of their biggest stars, added six names from around the world and tagged on four more – Steve Beaton, Harry Ward, Joe Cullen and Vincent van der Voort – who emerged from a qualifying event.
The top eight – not including double world champ Gary Anderson, who has decided against competing – enter at the second round on Saturday.
Who Will Dethrone the Queen of the Palace
Most eyes in round one will be on Fallon Sherrock, who was crowned Queen of the Palace at Ally Pally at Christmas when she became the first female darts player to win a match at the World Championship.
Sherrock went on to draw with Glen Durrant in the Premier League, though more fireworks in Austria look unlikely given she’s a
250/1 outright shot.
The Buckinghamshire thrower has been drawn against former Lakeside finalist Jeff Smith and she’s a
41/20 chance to take down the Canadian.
Sherrock should be heartened to see, however, that Smith lost all five of his matches at last week’s PDC Autumn Series in Germany.
Mighty Mike Back to Form?
It has been a tough summer for world No.1 Van Gerwen, battered by Simon Whitlock in round two of the World Matchplay and then unimaginably failing to qualify for the Premier League play-offs after winning just three of his final nine matches.
He sounded more bullish after a win in last week’s low-key Autumn Series, but improvements are needed if he is to win the World Series for a fifth time in six runnings.
Seeded into round two, he knows he has a brutal tie ahead of him against the winner of the first-round duel between Glen Durrant and Dimitri van den Bergh. Duzza is
20/33 to see off Van den Bergh and given that he’s won all three previous showdowns with Van Gerwen, he would then be seriously confident of toppling Mighty Mike.
Price Looks Right for World Domination
Glen Durrant arrives in Austria in outstanding form but so too does Gerwyn Price,
6/1 third favourite and in red-hot nick after winning the last two Autumn Series events.
Price is all about confidence and self-belief and the Welshman looks to have an outstanding claim given the numbers he was posting in Niedernhausen.
He averaged 104 across six matches during the second of those two triumphs and topped the Autumn Series Order of Merit by a mile. He could be the best bet.
*All odds correct at time of writing