The draw for the World Darts Championship has been made and three-time winner Michael van Gerwen is hoping to add the Sid Waddell Trophy to his cabinet once more after an outstanding 2022.
This article was originally published on 12th December 2022
On Sunday, MvG won his fourth TV major of the year, overcoming Rob Cross in a high-quality final at Minehead where the Dutchman hit a nine-darter.
The Premier League, Matchplay, and Grand Prix have all been won by Van Gerwen this year and now is the man to beat heading to Alexandra Palace for the year's showpiece event.
Defending champion Peter Wright is hoping to win a first big title since last year's final when he overcame Michael Smith while world number one Gerwyn Price is defending his winner's cheque from two years ago.
The top 32 ranked players in the world get entry to round two while there are a smattering of exciting names taking part in the first round. The 32 Pro Tour order of merit qualifiers where drawn against the international qualifiers which also include affiliate tours in the UK.
What: PDC World Darts Championship
Where: Alexandra Palace, London
When: Thursday 15th December-Tuesday 3rd January 2023
How to watch: Sky Sports
Van Gerwen last won the title in 2019 when defeating Michael Smith in what was ultimately a comfortable win for the Dutch thrower.
He will start his quest for a fourth title against either his left-handed compatriot Niels Zonneveld or Welsh Development Tour star Lewy Williams with both players making just their second appearance in the tournament.
Wright, meanwhile, has had a poor year by his very high standards and pulled out of the recent Players Championship Finals tournament due to family reasons.
However, he is still a big draw as the defending champion and is likely to play on the opening night.
The 52-year-old will open up his campaign against either Northern Ireland's Mickey Mansell, who has had a solid year on tour after winning his card back in January, or New Zealander Ben Robb.
The big pressure this time around lies on Gerwyn Price who could see nearly £500,000 wiped off his rankings if he falls early on, two years after his win against Gary Anderson in the behind-closed-doors final.
Awaiting the "Iceman" will be Luke Woodhouse or Vladyslav Omelchenko, the first-ever Ukrainian to play in the World Darts Championship.
Number four seed Michael Smith finally won his first major following a 16-5 thumping of Nathan Aspinall in the Grand Slam in mid-November and will be feeling full of confidence heading to the capital. Either fast-throwing Dutchman Jermaine Wattimena or Development Tour table-topper Nathan Rafferty will be his first test.
One of the big stories of the Grand Slam was the performance of Raymond van Barneveld, who got all the way to semi-finals as he rolled back the years.
Ultimately, Smith proved too strong for him in the last four but Barney's performances saw him move up to 32nd in the order of merit and with that, guaranteeing his place in the second round.
He will face four-time women's world champion Lisa Ashton or the improving Ryan Meikle in his opener.
Two-time winner Gary Anderson has fallen short this year and could tumble down the rankings as he is defending his runners-up prize from two years ago. The Flying Scotsman will open up against either Latvian Madars Razma (1/4) or Indian qualifier Prakash Jiwa ().
James Wade is still ranked number eight in the world but his best TV display this year was a run to the Premier League semi-finals as he seeks an elusive first world title. Up first for him will be Pro Tour title winner Jim Williams (4/9) or 18-year-old Pole Sebastian Bialecki () - the youngest male player to take part.
The most eye-catching draw in round one is Josh Rock with the recently-crowned World Youth Champion putting on some stunning performances in his debut year, with the Grand Slam nine-darter against MvG the big highlight.
If he gets past Spaniard Jose Justicia in round one, he will face Callan Rydz in what could be a mouth-watering tie between two young stars.
Dave Chisnall might find his second-round tie a struggle too as he could face Andre Gilding (1/3) or Robert Owen ().
Gilding has enjoyed a superb year, taking part in all but one of the televised ranking majors while Owen was outstanding on the Challenge Tour, securing a two-year tour card in the process.
Cross may have reached Sunday's final in Minehead but he could face Scott Williams, who has finished seventh in the Pro Tour order of merit despite not having a tour card or Ryan Joyce, a former World Championship quarter-finalist who came through Monday's last-gasp PDPA qualifier.
Fallon Sherrock makes her return to the Palace following her Women's Matchplay triumph over the summer. The Queen of the Palace underperformed during her trips to the USA and Australasia over the summer and will have a point to prove as she faces Rapid Ricky Evans in round one.
However, the one to really keep an eye on will be 18-year-old Beau Graves with the Doncaster teenager the youngest player to play at Ally Pally this year.
She won eight Women's Series events in a row to the end of the year to climb from nowhere to qualify for Alexandra Palace and Irishman William O'Connor (), a UK Open semi-finalist this year, will not be looking forward to facing 12/5 Graves.