The two favourites to win the Ladbrokes World Darts Championship will lock horns tonight to see who will win the Sid Waddell Trophy – and both Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen are in great form following a successful 2012.
Taylor is the undisputed world number one. As well as having 15 world titles to his name, the 52-year-old has also won 13 World Matchplays, 11 World Grand Prix trophies and countless other majors.
In 2012, Taylor won the Premier League, Matchplay and Players Championship, although in years gone by, he’s won more than that.
Taylor has just about everything in his locker as far as the game of darts is concerned.
Clinical finishing, heavy scoring and the ability to play well under pressure have all served him well over the past 25 years, but there are one or two signs that Old Father Time is catching up with him.
The Power comes into the final having only hit 15 180s in five games, and with some below-par performances early on against limited opponents like Jerry Hendriks and Mickey Mansell.
However, he raised his game against Robert Thornton and Andy Hamilton before the semi-finals.
In the semis, he had a 5-1 lead against Raymond van Barneveld, but lost concentration and the Dutchman made it 5-4. Although Taylor eventually won 6-4, there were signs that he could be beaten if he succumbs to tiredness.
The man from Stoke admits that he has been struggling with a cold, talking of how he’s been tired because of it. If it doesn’t clear up, then Van Gerwen may have a chance.
Winning a 16th title has been top of Taylor’s agenda for pretty much the past 12 months, and seems to be improving with every game. He will be favoured by most to win, but is wary of what his fiery opponent can do.
The mean green 180 machine
Over the past five months, there’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Van Gerwen.
Until 2012, he was seen as another unfulfilled talent who failed to live up to his early promise when he won the World Masters as a 17-year-old.
Since moving to the PDC in 2007, he had flattered to deceive. He never managed to reach the quarter-final stage of a major tournament, and had barely broken into that all-important top 32 of the PDC Order of Merit.
However, there were signs a year ago that Mighty Mike had changed. He was playing better on TV and in the Tour events, had become a little more consistent and began to enjoy playing again.
In October, his first big breakthrough as a PDC player came when he won the World Grand Prix, catapulting him into the world’s top eight.
Since then, he has won four Tour events, beating Taylor in the final of one and has also conquered his opponent tonight en route to reaching the final of the Grand Slam of Darts. Basically, the man’s in scintillating form.
There’s a lot to like about Van Gerwen. The 23-year-old is one of the best scorers in the world, lethal when left with a big ton-plus checkout to get and is lightning quick with every throw.
He also shows plenty of emotion, letting out a roar with every good visit.
So far in this tournament, he has hit 48 180s, and needs 13 more to break the world record for maximums hit in a World Championship. However, his finishing has been erratic, with a checkout success rate of around the 30% mark, 17% less than Taylor.
Failing to improve on that stat could cost him.