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World Darts Championship: Can Peter Wright defend his title?

Only three players have successfully defended the PDC World Darts Championship title in its 29-year history and Peter Wright would dearly love to become the fourth.

Snakebite is already one of just six multiple winners of the biggest title in darts, but defending his crown - only previously done by Phil Taylor, Adrian Lewis and Gary Anderson - would surely elevate the Scot to the realm of the darting greats.

But to be there on January 3rd to have a shot at darts glory, the 10/1 chance needs to rediscover a form streak which has deserted him for much of 2022  and which many of his doubters believe may have gone for a while.

Wright hoping to put poor 2022 to bed in style

What: PDC World Darts Championship
Where: Alexandra Palace, London
When: December 15th - January 3rd 2023
How to watch: Sky Sports
Odds: Michael van Gerwen 5/2, Gerwyn Price 6/1, Michael Smith 15/2, Peter Wright 10/1, Luke Humphries 14/1

Wright used to contest tournament favouritism every time he took to the stage, but not this year.

Snakebite is a 10/1 chance as he prepares for the defence of his World Championship title with an opening-night showdown against either Mickey Mansell or Ben Robb on December 15th.

The odds merely reflect Wright's year - still a great player but results have been up-and-down, with plenty off the oche weighing him down as well as some uncharacteristically disappointing performances.

The 52-year-old has reached six finals in this season, hardly a shabby return. But only three of those have been since April and, despite several decent runs at majors, he suffered early exits at the World Series Finals and Grand Slam and failed to make the Premier League play-offs.

His annual average in 2022 has been 97.31, again hardly horrific, but it is his lowest since 2018 and he will be more aware than anyone that he needs to up his numbers if he is to be a contender.

Autumn of discontent plain to see in Wolverhampton

The low point of Wright's year came at Grand Slam time in November. Seeing Snakey go on stage in Wolverhampton minus make-up or colourful Mohican alerted everyone to the fact that something wasn't right.

It transpired Wright's wife - and hair stylist - Jo was in hospital, hence the Scot's dismal sub-90 average in that tournament and subsequent withdrawal from the Players Championship Finals, the last event before Ally Pally.

Jo is fine which is the good news and, presumably if Wright's head is in a better place, then his form will improve as well.

He still tweaks equipment, often changing darts mid-match and will continue to do that. That element of his game has rarely been a factor when he has an off-night.

The question of course is, will he be rusty? And if he is, how much does that matter?

The reality is that all these players effectively go to the Palace cold after a couple of weeks without any competitive action, so Wright missing the Players Championship Finals weekend in Minehead shouldn't actually matter much at all.

The bigger break which might be a factor is the 12 days he will have to wait between his opener and his third-round match - presuming of course he takes care of business against either Mansell or Robb.

That was exactly the same gap between his first two matches the last time he defended in 2021 and he lost in the third round that year, 4-3 to Gabriel Clemens.

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Wright up against it as rivals hit form

Having said all that, Wright is a vastly experienced player these days and when he turns it on it can be spectacular, such as 12 months ago when he produced a 99.3 tournament average in winning the trophy for a second time.

The way he reeled off those last three sets against an on-fire Michael Smith in the final was a masterclass in delivering under the utmost pressure.

He was world No.1 for a while this year and his game is better than pretty much anyone else's when he is in the zone.

But the reality is that since winning at the Palace last January he has won just two relatively low-key events, one on the floor and the other on the European Tour.

And while he has floundered, others have come to life, notably 5/2 Michael van Gerwen, but also 15/2 shot Michael Smith - who is a major winner at last - and prolific winner Luke Humphries (14/1). And you know there will be a serious fight put up by 6/1 Gerwyn Price and one or two others.

Personal issues aside Wright has had a poor year and there are many darts fans and punters who believe that the rot is hard to stop if it has set in.

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