The curtain is about to go down on yet another remarkable season of darts, with Alexandra Palace playing host to the World Darts Championship 2018 this month. 72 of the world’s best players are competing for the prestigious Sid Waddell Trophy, and there have already been plenty of twists and turns in the competition. The event is fast becoming a platform for emerging talent to make a statement for next season, and as sponsorship money continues to filter down into tournament prize pools around the world, the sport of darts is becoming more competitive than ever before.
As ever, it's difficult to look past Michael van Gerwen as a contender for all the major titles in 2018. The Dutchman's confidence and ability is there for all to see — so much so that he'd almost certainly accept a prop bet with any of his fellow pros that he will win all five darts majors in the next 12 months, just to add a little more spice to proceedings. But let’s look at some of van Gerwen’s long-term competition and a host of emerging names that could upset the applecart in 2018.
Rob Cross – The 27-year-old has broken into the world’s top-20 for the very first time and has already made a big impression since joining the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) in 2016. 2017 has been a very impressive year, with Cross reaching his first premier event final of the 2017 European Championship (losing to van Gerwen) and falling at the semi-final stage of the Players Championship 2017. The electrician-turned-darts pro is likely to spark plenty of interest in 2018.
Benito van de Pas – This Dutch ace became a member of the British Darts Organisation (BDO) at an early age. van de Pas competed in the Under-21 PDC World Championship in 2011, losing only to Michael van Gerwen at the semi-final stage. The Tilburg-born pro is on the cusp of cementing a place in the top 10 of the world rankings, but needs to do more in the premier events to be considered a genuine contender.
Chris Dobey – It has been a meteoric rise to professional darts stardom for Englishman Chris Dobey. Just three years ago, Dobey had a world ranking of 1,757. Fast forward to the present day, and Dobey now finds himself attempting to break into the top 32 and secure consistent entry into premier events. Dobey made the last 32 of last year’s PDC World Championship and earlier this year made the last 16 of the 2017 Players Championship.
Dimitri van den Bergh – The 23-year-old Belgian won the 2017 PDC World Youth Championship with plenty to spare. van den Bergh has already made the last 32 at the PDC World Championship twice in 2016 and at this year’s event, securing his biggest pay-day yet of £18,500. He already has plenty of experience mixing it up with the elite of the sport and appears to have the flair and temperament to feature more heavily in 2018’s premier events.
One thing’s for sure — the depth of talent in the professional darts scene is a joy to behold. With prize money at record levels, crowds continuing to flock to live events, and more regular TV coverage than ever before, darts is still very much on the up. We look forward to 2018 with interest!