2021/22 William Hill World Darts Championship preview

The 2021/22 William Hill World Darts Championship gets underway at London's Alexandra Palace on Wednesday as Gerwyn Price begins his title defence on the opening night.

For the first time in almost two years, a full crowd will be inside the iconic Ally Pally venue to witness the world's biggest darts event.
The festive feast of darts runs from Wednesday December 15 through to the final on Wednesday January 3, with 96 players from around the world competing for 2.5million pound in prize money.

Price's defence of the Sid Waddell Trophy will begin on the opening night against either Ritchie Edhouse or Peter Hudson, a late replacement for Lihao Wen after the Chinese qualifier did not receive his visa in time to travel to the UK. The world number one is bidding to join Phil Taylor, Gary Anderson and Adrian Lewis as back-to-back PDC World Champions, but Price insists he is ready to carry a new level of expectation.

"I'm looking forward to John McDonald announcing me as reigning and defending champion in front of fans," Price smiled. "To be part of a small number of players who are back-to-back World Champions would be special. "I've done it before at the Grand Slam and on the European Tour, so I seem to perform well when that sort of pressure is put on me. "I've become a lot more confident and believe I'm the rightful world number one and World Champion. If somebody plays well against me, I find that extra gear. It's good to know I've got an A game to beat anyone. "I believe 100 percent that I can win it. I am going to win it."

The pre-Christmas period will see the first and second rounds played across nine days from December 15-23.
An eagerly-anticipated first session will also see two-time World Champion Lewis up against Canada's Matt Campbell, while speedster Ricky Evans takes on India's Nitin Kumar.

Fallon Sherrock will face Steve Beaton on Sunday December 19 as she returns to the stage where she famously became the first woman to win at the PDC's World Championship two years ago. Fresh from making history in November's Grand Slam of Darts as the first woman to reach the quarter-finals of a televised PDC ranking event, Sherrock is feeling good about the prospect of continuing her momentum on the biggest stage.

"I'm feeling so confident in my game at the moment," said Sherrock. "Steve is an iconic player and he's been around for so many years, he's a legend. I know he's a great player and he'll push me, so I'm excited to see what happens. "I don't look too far ahead so I'm only looking at playing against Steve. I try to ignore everything else that's happening, because I don't want to put extra pressure on myself. "I've got amazing memories and it gives me goose-bumps when I think back to two years ago."

A blockbuster evening of action on Sunday December 19 will also see the most successful player of 2021, Jonny Clayton, in action against Keane Barry or Royden Lam and the all-German tie between Florian Hempel and Martin Schindler.

World number two Peter Wright will begin his quest for a second Ally Pally title in three years against either Ryan Meikle or 16-year-old German Fabian Schmutzler on Friday December 17. Heading into this year's event, World Matchplay champion Wright is taking a philosophical approach to his chances of becoming a multiple World Champion.

"Being World Champion is something that can never be taken away from me," the 51-year-old reflected. "Even if I never won it again, which I will, then my name would still go down in history among the greats of the game. "From the age of 13 my dream was to become World Champion. It took me to almost the age of 50 to achieve it but the journey was worth it. "Now the challenge for me is to join greats who have won it more than once. I'm hungry to add my name to that list."

Saturday December 18 will see Michael van Gerwen open his challenge to lift the Sid Waddell Trophy for a fourth time against Chas Barstow or John Norman Jnr. A barren year for Van Gerwen saw him go a calendar year without a televised ranking title for the first time since 2011. However, only Phil Taylor has lifted the Sid Waddell Trophy on more occasions that Van Gerwen, who is hungrier than ever for a fourth World Championship title after last tasting Ally Pally success three years ago.

"There's always a lot of pressure on my shoulders," Van Gerwen added. "The Worlds is always the one you want but when you don't win it you have to keep working harder, keep fighting. "To win it three times is a special achievement for me. Only Phil Taylor has won it more in the PDC. "There's still more in the tank. I've been through a bit of a rough period but I know there's more to come and more memories to be made on this stage. "If I play my best game then no one can beat me, simple. They all know that, but no one will say it. "Of course, I didn't do what I wanted to do [over the last two years], but as long as you keep believing in yourself and know where you want to go, things can get better."

Thursday December 16 will see the first double session, as two-time winner Anderson plays either Lewis - in a possible rematch of two previous finals - or Campbell, and Lisa Ashton meets Dutchman Ron Meulenkamp.
Darting legend Paul Lim, 67, will become the oldest player to have competed in a PDC World Championship on Friday December 17 when he takes on Joe Murnan.
Dutch legend Raymond van Barneveld will make his Alexandra Palace return on Monday December 20 against Lourence Ilagan, on a night which will also see three-time semi-finalist James Wade begin his campaign.

The first round will draw to a close on Tuesday December 21, with 2018/19 runner-up Michael Smith and two-time quarter-finalist Dimitri Van den Bergh in second round action.
A double session of second round action on Wednesday December 22 will feature former runner-up Simon Whitlock, two-time semi-finalist Nathan Aspinall and two-time quarter-finalist Luke Humphries
The second round will conclude across two sessions on Thursday December 23, when former champion Rob Cross and world number seven Jose de Sousa are among the stars 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.

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