Gerwyn Price remains favourite to defend darts crown after thrilling opening nine days

The 2022 PDC World Darts Championship has entered its annual Christmas break which gives us the perfect chance to reassess the outright market and look back on the key moments.

After nine days of solid darting competition, we finally get a few days to compose ourselves and prepare for the next stage of the tournament.

We've only seen the opening two rounds but there's already been a plethora of talking points, including two nine-darters, shock exits and a mouth-watering line-up for the next round.

Outright market - little movement as Price remains man to beat

Gerwyn Price ahead of his match against Ritchie Edhouse on day one of the William Hill World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace, London. Picture date: Wednesday December 15, 2021.

At the start of the tournament, four men topped the outright betting market - Gerwyn Price (7/2), Michael van Gerwen (4/1), Peter Wright (7/1) and Jonny Clayton (7/1).

After the opening two rounds, those names and their order are unchanged while their odds also remain relatively the same.

Price, who continues to lead the pack, is now 3/1 to defend his crown following a confident start to his world championship campaign. The Iceman might not be a fan favourite but his 101 average and a 3-1 win over Ritchie Edhouse suggests that the Welshman is in tip-top shape.

The defending champion takes on Kim Huybrechts in the third round after the Belgian got the better of Steve Beaton.

Jonny Clayton celebrates after winning the Unibet Premier League Final at the Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes.

Price's compatriot, Jonny Clayton, is also through to the next round. The Ferret has enjoyed a tremendous year having won four major titles on the PDC Tour.

Clayton posted the second-best average of the tournament in his second round 3-2 victory over Keane Barry. The Welshman was forced to come back from 2-1 down in order to ensure progression.

As things stand, Clayton and Price are on a possible quarter-final collision course.

Michael Van Gerwen celebrates after winning a leg against Chas Barstow during day four of the William Hill World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace, London. Picture date: Saturday December 18, 2021.

Second-favourite for the title, Michael van Gerwen, will take on Chris Dobey in the third round following his 3-1 victory over Chas Barstow.

The Green Machine averaged 94 and hit six 180s in what was a good start to his campaign. The only concern will be the Dutchman's ability to close out legs considering he missed 25 darts at double.

Peter Wright celebrates after winning the opening set against Ryan Meikle during day three of the William Hill World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace, London. Picture date: Friday December 17, 2021.

Peter Wright had similar checkout issues during his second-round clash with Ryan Meikle.

Snakebite won the game 3-0 and didn't get out of second gear as his opponent average a mere 79.

Clearly the bookmakers need more time in order to make any major changes to the outright odds. However, as things stand, Price is a deserving leader in the market as he eyes back-to-back world titles.

New dark horse - is this Smith's time to shine?

Michael Smith in action against Ron Meulenkamp during day seven of the William Hill World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace, London. Picture date: Tuesday December 21, 2021.

Following Dimitri Van den Bergh's shock exit - more on that later - it's Michael Smith who has taken the Belgian's place as fifth favourite.

Bully Boy is currently priced at 18/1 in the outright market and considering how he performed in his opening game, you can expect a lot of takers - especially at that price.

For many darts experts, Smith is a world champion in the waiting. The 31-year-old has been knocking on the door for a number of years although he's yet to claim major silverware in the PDC.

The St Helens-born player has reached four major finals in his PDC career, including the world championship final in 2019 when he lost 7-3 to Michael van Gerwen.

Smith certainly sent a message of intent during his opening match of the ongoing world championships, winning 3-0 against Dutchman Ron Meulenkamp.

Bully Boy posted the highest average of the tournament (106.32), hit six 180s and enjoyed a checkout percentage of 75%.

If you're looking for a longshot bet, you won't get a better one than Smith.

Comeback of the tournament - keep your eyes on King

Mervyn King during day one of the Ladbrokes UK Open 2021 tournament at the Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes. Picture date: Friday March 5, 2021.

The likes of Smith, Price and Clayton were all very impressive in the opening nine days, but the performance of the tournament has got to go to Mervyn King.

The 55-year-old found himself 2-0 down to Ryan Joyce before mounting a sensational comeback and booking his ticket to the third round.

King posted an average of 92. However his 50% checkout rate proved pivotal as he took out big finishes - including a 120 - to complete a memorable win at Alexandra Palace.

The veteran is one of the hardest working players on the PDC Tour but is yet to reap the rewards of his labour. Despite making seven major finals in the top tier darting organisation, King has failed to clinch a notable piece of silverware.

Winning this year's world championship seems a task too far for the two-time BDO world runner-up. However, there are a couple of things in his favour.

Firstly, the crowd are beginning to jump on the King bandwagon - something we've rarely seen in darts. Secondly, King has a favourable draw. Should he prevail against Steve Lennon, he will then take on the winner of Raymond Smith vs Florian Hempel.

A win in the fourth round would likely see him take on either James Wade, Vincent can der Voort or Joe Cullen in the quarter-finals - more than winnable games for an experienced operator like King.

Worst performers - Ashton fails to deliver

Lisa Ashton walks off stage after losing a set to Ron Meulenkamp during day two of the William Hill World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace, London. Picture date: Thursday December 16, 2021.

The expectations surrounding female players are beginning to grow following Fallon Sherrock's breakthrough win in 2019.

The Queen of the Palace bowed out in the opening round of this year's tournament after a sensational battle with veteran Steve Beaton.

Lisa Ashton also suffered elimination in the second round. However, her performance left a lot to be desired.

The Lancashire Rose posted the lowest average of the tournament (73) as she was thrashed by Meulenkamp - who only averaged 87 himself.

Moment of the tournament - Big Willie stuns Palace

William Borland

What is every dart player's fantasy? To win a world title? To be number one? Perhaps. But the one thing every player would love to do is hit a nine-dart finish in a deciding leg of a match.

William Borland did just that in his 3-2 victory over Bradley Brooks.

The 25-year-old - who was inspired by derogatory chants about Scotland - produced arguably one of the greatest moments in darts history as he booked his place in the second round with nine perfect darts.

Shock of the tournament - Van den Bergh's last dance

Dimitri Van den Bergh during day one of the Ladbrokes Masters 2021 tournament at the Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes. Picture date: Friday January 29, 2021.

Two-time world championship quarter-finalist Dimitri Van den Bergh entered the tournament as fifth favourite.

However, the 27-year-old failed to make it past the second round as he fell to a shock 3-1 defeat against Germany's Florian Hempel.

The DreamMaker averaged 101 and hit six 180s but all that proved inconsequential as the Belgian simply couldn't find his doubles.

Van den Bergh missed 11 darts at double and posted a checkout percentage of just 35%. His opponent, meanwhile, was deadly in the checkout department and boasted a percentage of 75%.

Third-round draw - And then there were 32

Darts fans during day seven of the William Hill World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace, London. Picture date: Tuesday December 21, 2021.

Action at the Alexandra Palace will resume on Monday, December 27. There are 16 third-round games that will be contested across three days.

Here's the line-up…

Gerwyn Price vs Kim Huybrechts

Ross Smith vs Dirk van Duijvenbode

Jonny Clayton vs Gabriel Clemens

Michael Smith vs William O'Connor

James Wade vs Vincent van der Voort

Joe Cullen vs Martijn Kleermaker

Florian Hempel vs Raymond Smith

Steve Lennon vs Mervyn King

Peter Wright vs Damon Heta

Ryan Searle vs Danny Noppert

Jose de Sousa vs Alan Soutar

Nathan Aspinall vs Callan Rydz

Michael van Gerwen vs Chris Dobey

Dave Chisnall vs Luke Humphries

Gary Anderson vs Ian White

Rob Cross vs Daryl Gurney

READ MORE: The five most fierce rivalries in darts, including Taylor vs Barneveld

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