WRIGHT OUT TO RETAIN TITLE AS WILLIAM HILL WORLD DARTS CHAMPIONSHIP OPENS
The 2020/21 William Hill World Darts Championship begins on Tuesday at Alexandra Palace, London as 96 of the world's best players compete for the sport's biggest prize across 16 days of darts.
Taking place from December 15-January 3 over 28 sessions, the World Championship will once again offer the winner a life-changing 500,000 pound prize along with the coveted Sid Waddell Trophy.
The pre-Christmas period will see the first and second rounds played across nine days from December 15-23, with reigning champion Peter Wright to compete on the opening night against either Steve West or Amit Gilitwala.
Despite being the current title holder, Wright believes he is the player with least pressure on his shoulders at this year's tournament.
Wright famously exorcised his final demons by defeating Michael van Gerwen in style to become World Champion for the first time almost 12 months ago, however the Scot insists he isn't feeling any weight of expectation to defend his crown.
"I've already accomplished my dream. It's the other guys who have never won it so the pressure is on them," Wright explained.
"I've done it, so it doesn't matter what happens now. That moment will never be taken away from me.
"That said, I'll be going out all guns blazing to try and take the Sid Waddell Trophy home with me again.
"It's every darts player's dream to be World Champion. I achieved it last year and it made me cry like a baby on stage, but that's just what it means to fulfil your dream.
"The other players need to watch out, because give me a chance and I'll take it. Honestly, I think I can defend this title."
An exciting first session will also see Steve Beaton compete in his record 30th successive World Championship as he plays Brazil's Diogo Portela, while Canada's Jeff Smith takes on Irish prospect Keane Barry.
World number one Van Gerwen opens his challenge to win a fourth World Championship on Saturday December 19, on a day which will also feature Women's Series Qualifier Deta Hedman's tie with Andy Boulton and Scott Waites' Alexandra Palace debut.
Despite suffering a difficult year at times, the Dutchman has enjoyed a return to form of late and is rated the 5/2 favourite for glory with title sponsor William Hill.
"Of course, this year has not been an easy one for me, as it hasn't been for a lot of people," admitted Van Gerwen, who will face either Ryan Murray or Lourence Ilagan.
"There have been some difficult moments both on and off the oche but it's about how you come through those moments.
"In the last few weeks I have been feeling good again and I can definitely feel the old Michael coming out on the dartboard.
"I have to thank my family, friends and management for helping me through this year, I couldn't have done it without their support.
"Now I'm feeling ready to go at the World Championship and the other players need to watch out."
Third seed Gerwyn Price opens his challenge to improve on his semi-final run 12 months ago on Monday December 21 against either Luke Woodhouse or Jamie Lewis.
The Welshman has enjoyed his best year in the PDC, picking up three televised titles, including winning the World Cup for the first time.
"A few months ago I thought 2020 was going to be a write-off for me, but it hasn't turned out that way," said Price, a first round victim in July's World Matchplay.
"It's turned out to be one of my best years on tour in terms of my results.
"I have found it difficult at times without a crowd, but it's the same for all of us and we've just had to get on with it.
"The few weeks rest I've had has come at a great time for me because I was just starting to have a little lull in my performances.
"But the break has allowed me to recharge the batteries and give me my competitive edge back heading into the big one which I would love to get my hands on."
The second round will conclude across two sessions on Wednesday December 23, when top ten stars Michael Smith, Nathan Aspinall and Dave Chisnall are amongst the players in action.
Following a three-day Christmas break, the third and fourth rounds will be held from December 27-30, with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final being held from January 1-3.
In a change from previous World Championship rules, to reduce the possibility of sessions over-running, there will be no tie-break in any match. Should any deciding set reach two-all, the fifth leg would be the final leg.