German hopes rest on Gabriel Clemens, world number one is Gerwyn Price, still. But the clear favorite is Michael van Gerwen, although one aspect might distract him, as German darts professional Max Hopp ranks on ntv.de.
Three big favourites, one a little more than the other. A strong German who has nothing left to lose after the biggest success of his career to date. And a daring Englishman who is no longer made fun of. The 2023 World Cup of Darts is turning on the home stretch. The quarter-finals will take place on New Year’s Day at Alexandra Palace in London. In an interview with ntv.de, darts professional Max Hopp, who is the German record holder with eight World Cup appearances, analyzed the chances of the quarter-finalists.
1.Michael van Gerwen
The Dutchman Michael van Gerwen enters the decisive phase of the World Championship as the big favourite. The champion of 2014, 2017 and 2019 returned to Dominator mode last year. The Premier League, World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and Players Championship Finals titles went to “MvG”. The Dutchman is the measure of all things again, the 33-year-old is the only player to average over 100 points in each of his three World Cup rounds.
“Ambition and experience speak for Michael van Gerwen,” said German darts professional Max Hopp in an interview with ntv.de. “He’s so ripped off in crucial situations. And he’s playing really well right now because he’s got the confidence back that he lost for a short time. With the four major titles he’s won. That makes it extremely dangerous.”
However, the argument against winning the fourth World Cup could be “that he’s too busy trying to become world number one again”, analyzes Hopp. For first place, van Gerwen must bring in the £500,000 prize money for the world championship title. In the quarter-finals, the Dutchman will face English outsider Chris Dobey, a duel with Gerwyn Price or Michael Smith is only possible in the final.
2. Michael Smith
After two vice-champion titles in 2019 and 2022, the world title would be the logical continuation of the development of the “Bully Boy”. Michael Smith won a major for the first time in November, and since that Darts Grand Slam success the Englishman has played noticeably more freely. The fourth in the world ranking surprisingly clearly won against Joe Cullen in the round of 16, the 4-1 victory was a show of power. A lap earlier, Smith had to fight hard against the German Martin Schindler. “He looked very nervous, it showed in his flushed cheeks. I didn’t think he would win after being down 3-1. He’s definitely a title contender,” Hopp told ntv.de.
A look at past editions shows that later world champions often fail in the tournament. Peter Wright even survived a match dart in the opener against Filipino underdog Noel Malicdem at the 2020 World Cup, Gerwyn Price won three games on his way to his 2021 title in the deciding set alone, Wright has been to the 2022 World Cup twice by two sets. So maybe the game bodes well for the 32-year-old.
3. Gerwyn Award
Favored by many pundits and fans, Gerwyn Price is less likely to win the world title than Michael Smith. Unlike Smith, the world number one has won all of his matches with ease so far, but Price hasn’t really been challenged either. “I haven’t played well so far, it was about winning at the start. I won’t show my best game until the quarter-finals,” said the Welshman after beating Jose de Sousa in the round of 16 .
“Your self-confidence goes down the longer it takes for your A-game to be there. It’s always a topic in the media. Then it takes root even more. Guys like that sleep better when they’ve played well . They are devoured by ambition “, analyzes Max Hopp. The fact that Price is a master at adapting his level to the opponent speaks for the “Iceman”. “Gerwyn seems extremely focused this week. Is that enough to clinch the second World Cup crown after 2021?
Among others, his Welsh compatriot Jonny Clayton will oppose it. “The Ferret” is a former rugby player, just like Price. The seventh in the world rankings should make the list after his convincing 4-3 win over darts ‘prodigy’ Josh Rock. “Apart from Gabriel Clemens, I would give Jonny everything to win the World Cup. I have an extremely good and relaxed relationship with him,” Hopp said in an interview with ntv.de.
For Jonny Clayton, this is the first World Cup quarter-final of his career. The 48-year-old has achieved great success in other tournaments so far. In 2021, Clayton did what Michael van Gerwen did last year, which was to win four majors. In the quarter-finals, Clayton is capable of another victory, but it shouldn’t be enough for more due to stiff competition for “MvG”, Smith and Price.
5. Dimitri Van den Bergh
Clayton’s quarter-final opponent is Dimitri Van den Bergh. Experts expect a competitive and balanced game. The 28-year-old Belgian is the youngest player in the last eight, having impressed with three easy wins so far. Van den Bergh dropped just one set throughout the tournament, the best of any quarter-final. One wonders how the world number 15. plays when he is first put under pressure. If there’s an easy favorite in the game with Clayton, it’s unlikely to be the Belgian. His performances in 2022 weren’t consistent enough for that.
The “German Giant” wrote the history of German darts in the previous round. In 30 years of professional darts world championships, no German had reached the quarter-finals. Clemens reached the last eight with three games still solid. So far, the 39-year-old Saarlander hasn’t had to remove a seed from the tournament. But that shouldn’t hide the fact that Clemens played at a higher level than his next opponent Price. Clemens had to do it too or he would have been knocked out against the extremely strong Jim Williams in the third round. Clemens even survived a darts match against the Welshman.
Clemens’ chances certainly won’t diminish, nor will his release. When asked if he ever thinks about becoming world champion, Clemens stressed: “I don’t think about it. I just want to play my game.”
Hardworking coach Clemens had laid the foundations for his best performances heading into the World Cup. “He prepared very well, also worked with a mental trainer, so he does a lot apart from playing darts,” reports Max Hopp.
On paper, Clemens is of course a clear underdog against Price, but the German number one doesn’t have to playfully hide at the moment. “Maybe not by name, but by performance he can currently compete with Gerwyn Price.”
The Englishman was ridiculed ahead of the World Cup for declaring the title as his goal. But now no one is laughing. Stephen Bunting’s performances against top players Dave Chisnall and Luke Humphries were too good. In both games, Bunting averaged nearly 100 points. “But he’s not a title contender. I’m not convinced that Bunting now consistently brings such performances to the board,” Hopp told ntv.de. Against Michael Smith “The Bullet” is clearly in the underdog role, but he was in the last two rounds.
8. Chris Dobey
Chris Dobey has already beaten two former world champions. After deserved successes over Gary Anderson and Rob Cross, “Hollywood” is also capable of a top performance against Michael van Gerwen in the quarter-finals. However, it’s not realistic for Dobey to make it through the third round from the underdog role for the third time in a row. If Dobey even lifted the Sid Waddell Trophy on the evening of January 3, it would be a sensation. Even a semi-final entry via van Gerwen should be classified in this category.
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