The 2022 WDF World Darts Championships get underway at the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green on Saturday as Wayne Warren and Mikuru Suzuki look to defend their titles.
Albeit three months later than planned, top-level darts are returning to ‘Home of World Darts’ for first time in three years for the 35th World Championships to be played inside the iconic venue.
Running from April 2nd to April 10th, a record 78 players are competing for four World Championship titles – Men’s, Women’s, Boys’, and Girls’ – and a total prize pot of £300,000. The winner of the 48-player Men’s tournament will pocket £50,000, while the 24 throwers involved in the Women’s competition will battling to take home the top prize of £25,000, the largest ever on offer in a Women’s World Championship.
24 games will be played during an exciting first round weekend, with six games in each of four sessions, before the seeds enter the fray on Monday. Round three action will begin on Wednesday evening, while Friday will see all eight quarter-finals in the Men’s and Women’s tournament take place. The semi-finals for the Men’s, Women’s and expanded Boys’ event will be played on Saturday ahead of the first-ever ‘Finals Day’ on Sunday that will see all four World Champions crowned.
The full playing schedule can be viewed here
Wayne Warren became the oldest World Champion in history when he defeated Jim Williams in 2020. He’ll kick off his attempt to join Eric Bristow, Raymond van Barneveld, Martin Adams and Glen Durrant as the only men to win the tournament in successive years when takes on the winner of the first-round clash between best friends and tour travelling partners Lee Shewan and Jordan Brooks in the final game of Tuesday’s evening session.
Wayne is one of two former champions in the men’s field, the other being the legend Martin Adams. ‘Wolfie’ last tasted title success on the Lakeside stage in 2011 but he’s played as much as anyone over the last two years, producing multiple competitive nine-darters and reaching the final of the inaugural World Seniors Championship. He’ll have to hit the ground running early though as he opens the tournament against young Jarred Cole, who came through December’s qualifier at Lakeside and has been throwing big averages in National League action recently.
Cole is one of seven World Championship debutants involved in the eagerly-anticipated first session. The other man to come through the Lakeside qualifier, Johnny Haines, takes on John Scott, New Zealand’s Haupai Puha faces Ben Hazel, and Romania’s Laszlo Kadar is up against Sweden’s Andreas Harrysson. In the women’s competition, experienced pair Paula Jacklin and Rhian O’Sullivan kick off proceedings with a spot in the second round against Corrine Hammond on the line, with new faces Amanda Harwood and Marjolein Noijens rounding out the afternoon’s action.
Two men making their returns to Lakeside after lengthy absences, Dave Prins and Mark Barilli, are both in action on Saturday evening. Prins, who has already qualified for the 2023 Worlds through his recent Isle of Man Open win, hasn’t played at Lakeside since 2014, while Barilli’s last appearance came the year prior. The Scot, who won his maiden WDF ranking title in 2021, will be looking to end his winless record on that stage when he faces Canada’s debuting Rory Hansen.
Three-time quarter-finalist Paul Hogan makes his 11th World Championship appearance in Saturday evening’s final game against experienced Australian Justin Thompson.
England Open finalist Ian Jones will play at Lakeside for the first time in 14 years when he meets veteran Canadian campaigner David Cameron in Sunday’s opening game, although that session’s biggest story centres on the fourth game and the man known as ‘Rosko’, Francesco Raschini.
Raschini was a regular fixture on the tour in 2020 and 2021 and will get his reward by becoming the first Italian to compete in any World Darts Championship. His opponent is Ryan de Vreede, the Dutchman returning to Lakeside for a second appearance six years after his debut.
The final block of first-round games on Sunday evening promises to be one of the best of the entire tournament with several fascinating ties in store.
Dave Parletti and Shaun McDonald kick off the session with what promises to be one of the tightest games of the first round before history-makers Paula Murphy and Veronika Ihász take to the stage. Murphy, the oldest player in the Women’s tournament, will become the first American woman to compete at Lakeside since the late Stacy Bromberg’s only appearance in 2002, while Ihász is the first Hungarian woman to play in a World Championship after topping the East Europe regional table.
Mikuru Suzuki, the reigning two-time World Champion, will be hoping to start her march to a third title and maintain her unbeaten record at Lakeside when she faces the ever-improving Laura Turner. Laura, meanwhile, will be hoping for a positive result before turning spectator on Monday afternoon when her husband Aaron Turner makes his long-awaited Lakeside debut against. Aaron’s opponent will either be the 2021 British Classic champion and former Scotland international Jim McEwan or New Zealand’s Landon Gardiner.
Having racked up eight previous PDC World Championship appearances between them, Steve Hine and James Richardson make their Lakeside debuts on Sunday night against Kevin Luke and Sebastian Steyer respectively.
After the delay of this year’s tournament from January to April, it was inevitable that some of the field would become PDC Tour Card holders. Five of the seven that came through the Q-School lottery have made the most of the exemption agreed between the two organisations for them to still compete at Lakeside. Four of them, Jules van Dongen, Nick Fullwell, Cameron Menzies and top seed Brian Raman, start off in the last 32, although early bookies’ favourite Connor Scutt begins on Sunday night against the debuting Canadian, Shawn Burt. Whoever comes through will face a tough tie in the second round against the second seed, France’s impressive Thibault Tricole.
With those seven players having moved to the PDC, there’s been a bit of change to the WDF rankings since November’s cut-off and Gloucestershire’s James Hurrell now finds himself as Men’s No.1. Hurrell, the new England captain, last qualified for Lakeside in 2018 but had to withdraw that year through ill health. Starting off by facing the winner of John Desreumaux’s tie with Donovan Lottering, he’ll be hoping to make a deep run this time.
Hurrell only just held on to his No.1 ranking during last month’s Isle of Man Festival weekend by defeating teenage sensation Luke Littler in the Isle of Man Classic final. Littler took to the adult tour like a duck to water last year and broke the record for the youngest-ever winner of a senior WDF ranking event when claiming the Irish Open title aged 14 in November. Now 15, there are some tipping the Warrington-born thrower to go all the way this year.
The captain of England’s female team in 2022 is the crowd favourite and current Women’s No.1 Deta Hedman. ‘The Heart of Darts’ won six titles in 2021 to take her career tally over 220 – adding a World title to that collection after three previous final defeats would be particularly sweet for the 62-year-old.
Hedman is part of an incredibly stacked top half of the draw in the Women’s competition that also includes defending champion Suzuki, Laura Turner, former World Masters Aileen de Graaf and Lorraine Winstanley and the tournament’s form player, Beau Greaves. The hugely talented teenager had been struggling with dartitis but her triple title win in the Isle of Man and recent 93.93 National League average suggests that that phase is firmly behind her. If it is, she could be set to make history.
The opening rounds of the Boys’ and Girls’ World Championships were played back in December, with representatives coming through the qualifiers at Lakeside and in Assen.
Favourite for the Boys’ event is Leighton Bennett. Having appeared in the last two World Youth Championship finals, Bennett will be looking to join Justin van Tergouw as the only players to have won the tournament twice. Now 16, he kicks off his bid this year by facing off against compatriot Charlie Large, with Dutchman Bradly Roes taking on Germany’s Luis Liptow in the other semi-final.
A close friend of Luke Littler, Lancashire’s Eleanor Cairns will be hoping to win the inaugural Girls’ World Championship in honour of her late mother, who passed away last year. To do so, she’ll need to beat Germany’s Wiebke Riemann.
Opening round games in the Men’s, Women’s and Boys’ competitions are all contested over the best of three sets. Sunday 10th April will see all four Lakeside finals taking place, for Girls (3 sets), Boys (5 sets), Women (7 sets) and Men (11 sets).
All in all, it promises to be a fantastic nine days of action as World Championship darts finally comes home!
The tournaments will be broadcast live on Quest and Eurosport in the UK, on Eurosport and Discovery+ throughout Europe and on the WDF’s YouTube channel for international audiences outside of Europe. The WDF’s long-term partnership with DartConnect also means that scores and stats will be available through that platform throughout the tournament.
HOW TO WATCH – HERE