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World Darts Championship: Five potential first-round upsets

Players from 28 different countries including three former world champions and three top women stars take centre stage in round one of the PDC World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace.

If history tells us anything it's that there will be upsets - but who will be this year's Davids and Goliaths?

Here are five ties with genuine upset potential.

What: World Darts Championship

When: 15th December 2022 - 3rd January 2023

Where: Alexandra Palace, London

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, Josh Rock 16/1, Jonny Clayton 16/1

Rafferty ready for debut delight

Rising star Nathan Rafferty, one half of the Northern Ireland double act which dominated this year's Development Tour, is ready to make a noise on his World Championship debut.

The 22-year-old will set foot on the stage at Ally Pally for the first time with an opening-night assignment against seasoned pro Jermaine Wattimena.

It isn't the easiest of draws for the 7/4 chance, but he will be confident after enjoying a fabulous 2022 in which he claimed five wins on the Development Tour, pipping Northern Irish rival Josh Rock for top spot in the rankings.

Rafferty also had some success on the main tour and qualified for the Grand Slam where he beat Luke Woodhouse but failed to qualify.

Wattimena did make the last-16 of the Grand Slam and is clearly a decent, established pro. But he is also incredibly inconsistent and the scars of last year's surprising 3-0 demolition at the hands of Boris Koltsov at this stage of the worlds may reopen once he walks back on stage.

Owen primed to wreck Gilding's return

Big things were expected of Robert Owen when he reached the UK Open semi-finals in 2018 but the fact that this year is the Welshman's World Championship debut tells you that the last few years haven't gone as planned.

This year, though, it's clicked with the Bridgend thrower finishing second on the Challenge Tour order of merit, earning his spot at the Palace where he takes on Andrew Gilding.

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Owen gets a 12/5 quote against Gilding which looks on the big side for a player who beat him in their last meeting at a Players Championship event in August.

Gilding has enjoyed a revival in 2022 by reaching two Players Championship finals and the final of the Belgian Darts Championship, though his televised efforts this year all ended in early exits.

Six years have elapsed since Goldfinger last qualified for the worlds and his record at the Palace is hardly encouraging.

Smith can ring out Christmas Karel

Raymond Smith made a big impression at Alexandra Palace last year though that hasn't earned him anything better than a 6/5 quote against Karel Sedlacek.

Smith, who along with son Ky became the first father-son pairing to compete at the same worlds, had an absolute blast beating Jamie Hughes, Devon Petersen and Florian Hempel before coming off second in a bruising fourth-round encounter with Mervyn King which went the distance.

So, a one-winter wonder? Not a bit of it. Smith has come out firing again this year with untold success Down Under, booking his return to North London with a 3-0 win over Joe Comito in the DPA play-off.

Smith looked absolutely rock-solid on the oche, boasting the kind of temperament which suggests he will have the mettle to take care of Sedlacek.

The Czech trier finished seventh on the Challenge Tour, had a few goes at the Pro Tour which barely caused a murmur, though he did qualify for the European Championship finals where he took four legs off Michael Smith in his round-one loss.

Sedlacek has yet to win either of his previous first-round games at Alexandra Palace.

Young Pole can land early blow

Teenage Polish chucker Sebastian Bialecki has been making waves this year and can round off a breakthrough campaign by getting the better of Jim Williams.

Bialecki, a 7/4 chance, started the year suffering the disappointment of missing out on a Tour card through Q school. Two months later, however, he was trousering a cheque for £12,500 for reaching the UK Open quarter-finals, where he missed a match dart against William O'Connor for a place in the semis.

Buoyed by that sparkling effort he went on to finish top 10 on the Development Tour - his one title came with a win over Keane Barry in June - and the 19-year-old beat Rusty-Jake Rodriguez in Eastern Europe qualifying to book a slot in this showpiece.

Williams was a Pro Tour winner in March but has been far more erratic since the summer and the former Lakeside runner-up will have his off-days.

Beau arrowed in on O'Connor shock

Three women go to post at Ally Palace, two of whom - Fallon Sherrock and Lisa Ashton - are firm crowd favourites there.

However, it's the third member of the female triumvirate, Beau Greaves, who may have the best chance of becoming the second lady arrowsmith (after Sherrock) to beat a male on the Palace stage.

Greaves has got a big ask against William O'Connor and in any floor event you'd struggle to oppose the Magpie.

But this is far from any old floor event and O'Connor is acutely aware that the entire Palace will be rooting for 2/1 shot Greaves, another teenage talent who looks the real deal.

Beau 'n' Arrow, as the Doncaster lass has been nicknamed, became the youngest ever women's world champion in April - thrashing Kirsty Hutchinson 4-0 in the final - and has gone on to hoover up bundles of titles, including eight in a row in the PDC women's series in the autumn.

The highlight of that little run was a 5-3 win over Sherrock in the seventh of those eight in which she averaged 107.86.

The 18-year-old needs to hold herself together on debut, on the biggest stage she will have ever graced, and O'Connor has to go off the boil.

But ask Ted Evetts or Mensur Suljovic, Sherrock's scalps from a previous worlds, whether that's possible or not, and then appreciate that Greaves could well provide a shock.

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