But bookies make Taylor the man to beat
Last Updated: 06/12/12 2:32pm
Adrian Lewis: bidding for a hat-trick of world titles
Reigning World PDC darts champion Adrian Lewis bids for a third successive crown at the Alexandra Palace next week but seldom has the game's showpiece looked more wide open.
The 27-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent has made a habit of peaking for the big occasion but there will be no shortage of takers in the effort to topple him including 13-time champion Phil Taylor and in-form Dutch duo Raymond van Barneveld and Michael van Gerwen.
Sky Bet darts trader Craig Ibbotson agrees that there are plenty of players determined to wrestle the crown away from Lewis when the tournament gets under way next Friday.
Ibbotson said: "It's the undoubted highlight of the darts calendar and everything points to a tournament to remember. We have already seen big interest in the outright market and that will only intensify once the action gets underway.
"We take around double the amount on this tournament than any other and it's timing over Christmas and New Year really appeals to the punter. It doesn't clash with football that often and it really seems to grip the sporting nation."
As usual there's been plenty of money for Phil 'The Power' Taylor who is currently 7/4 favourite and Ibbotson believes the 52-year-old remains the man to beat.
"There's been talk of him being in decline but I just think the competition has improved and that makes it even more difficult for one man to dominate like he did in the past," he explained.
Twenty-three year old Van Gerwen is the big market mover and is currently 9/2 favourite after starting the year as a 100/1 shot.
"He was billed as the sport's next big superstar when he beat Taylor as a 16-year-old but it's this year when he has finally started to fulfil his undoubted potential.
"Despite that I now think his price is very short for someone whose temperament has always been questioned and will be sure to come under even stiffer examination in the cooker pressure atmosphere of the Ali Pali," added Ibbotson.
Van Barneveld will also be popular with punters but he is in the toughest quarter of the draw which includes Dave Chisnall, Aussie Simon Whitlock and 2011 finalist Gary Anderson.
Ibbotson conclude: "It's going to be as competitive, if not more so, than any other year but if I had to go with one it would be Lewis at 8/1. His form hasn't been the greatest recently but it wasn't going into the previous two years when he came out on top. His temperament isn't in question and he is at his best when it matters most.
"At a bigger price I quite like Robert Thornton (33/1) who has beaten Taylor on their last two meetings and could upset the big guns if he gets some early momentum."
The action reaches a rowdy climax on New Year's Day and you can check out all the latest odds at Sky Bet.