The 2016 PDC World Championships are just a matter of days away, and in this article, I assess one of the biggest contenders for this year’s title….Peter Wright’s progression over the past couple of years has been remarkable. But can he go one step further than two years ago and claim the Sid Waddell trophy?
5. Peter Wright
It seems to be a case of when, not if, Peter Wright will win a PDC TV major title. Snakebite has produced the best darts of his career in a year which has seen him establish a spot in the world’s top four.
At the beginning of the year, Wright made bullish claims about becoming World Number 1 in the not so distant future and many people were quick to dismiss this.
Whilst he has a considerable task on his hands to dislodge Michael van Gerwen from his number 1 spot, Peter has enjoyed a mightily successful year and he’s established himself as a genuine contender for every major crown.
At the beginning of the year, Wright changed his equipment with frustrating regularity, which subsequently had a debilitating effect on his Premier League campaign.
He struggled to establish consistency and was thus relegated after 9 weeks of action, along with Kim Huybrechts. However, his performances in other majors have been extremely impressive.
He has been threatening to break his major duck in 2015, but he has only been thwarted by one obstacle; that man being Michael van Gerwen. The World Number One has defeated Wright in two major finals and two semi-finals in 2015.
The Scot reached the final of the UK Open in March, where he was beaten by the ‘Green Machine’. Peter whitewashed Stephen Bunting 10-0 in the semi-finals, although van Gerwen was an 11-5 victor in the final.
Wright claimed a rare victory over MvG in June’s Japan Darts Masters, taking out a scintillating 141 checkout in a last-leg decider to seal victory. He faced Phil Taylor in the final, but despite an inspired comeback from Snakebite, the 16-time World Champion claimed victory courtesy of another nerve-jangling last-leg decider.
The 2014 World Championship-finalist reached the semi-finals of this year’s World Matchplay, where his progress was again halted by the eventual winner, van Gerwen. Wright defeated Kim Huybrechts, Andrew Gilding and Gerwyn Price, before succumbing to a 17-12 defeat against the Dutchman, despite posting an average in excess of 102.
In November’s European Championships, Wright defeated Alan Norris, Huybrechts and compatriot John Henderson to set up another tie with MvG in the semi-finals.
Snakebite trailed 8-1 at one stage, but reeled off six successive legs to reduce the arrears to the solitary leg. However, after Wright failed to restore parity, van Gerwen won four consecutive legs of his own, to progress with an 11-7 victory.
Their most recent meeting came in the World Series of Darts Finals, in mid-November. Cheered on by a partisan Glasgow crowd, Wright defeated James Wade and Phil Taylor to reach his second major final of 2015, where he again faced the imperious Dutchman. Van Gerwen stormed into a commanding 5-0 lead, but Peter fought back valiantly and gained an unlikely lead.
With Wright leading 10-9 and just one leg away from a maiden PDC major crown, van Gerwen produced a stunning couple of legs. He initially produced a 129 checkout for a 12-darter to force a deciding leg, before breaking Snakebite and clinching the title with a magnificent 11-darter. The Scot was flawless, averaging over 106, but van Gerwen’s brilliance is undeniable.
If Wright is to win this year’s World Championships, he may well have to overcome the 26-year-old from Boxtel in the semi-finals. Nevertheless, his route to that stage is far from a procession. He has a potential banana-skin in the opening round, after being pitted against 2014 World-Youth Champion Keegan Brown.
Brown has claimed a number of high-profile scalps in his brief TV career thus far and he won’t be fazed by the prospect of facing the World Number four. Nevertheless, Wright’s consistency and composure should prove decisive.
The 45-year-old could face either Dean Winstanley or Ronny Huybrechts in the second-round. Neither man has enjoyed a particularly fruitful 2015 season, although both are experienced campaigners capable of producing high-quality darts. Despite this, Wright would be comprehensive favourite against either player.
In the last 16, Wright could face Dave Chisnall, who beat him in both the World Grand-Prix and Grand Slam of Darts this year.
The formats in both matches were extremely short, however Chisnall undoubtedly has the quality and pedigree to usurp the colourful Scot; that could be an explosive clash!
If Wright were to reach the quarter-finals, he would in all likelihood face Two-Time World Champion Adrian Lewis. Lewis defeated Wright 10-7 in last month’s Grand Slam of Darts last 16 clash, and there is a healthy rivalry emerging between the pair.
Wright has been throwing more consistently than Jackpot throughout the year; however Adrian thrives under pressure and notoriously produces his best game at Alexandra Palace.
It’s fair to say that Wright has an extremely testing draw. Nevertheless, in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. Snakebite has shown on multiple occasions that he has the capacity to average 100+ in the longer format, whilst his composure and self-belief is unquestionable.
I genuinely believe he has all the tools to win the World title; the question is, can he deliver the goods when necessary? He is priced at 20/1 with title sponsor William Hill; will the party be stopped at Ally Pally?