Paul Nicholson's five potential first-time Players Championship winners

Ricky Evans

Darts commentator and pundit Paul Nicholson picks out five potential first-time Players Championship event winners in 2024 ahead of Monday's start of the ProTour season...

Ricky Evans

Rapid is entering his 12th consecutive season playing in Players Championships and still hasn’t won a title. He has made finals on three occasions but hasn’t been able to get over the line.

In his rookie season, he lost in PC13, unlucky for some, to Brendan Dolan. Some said that was a great sign early in his career and that he would definitely win one soon. He hasn’t yet. 

This is a battle cry to one of the most talented players in PDC darts. He has the skills, he has the ammunition to win these things, but for some reason he hasn’t. I think he can this season, but only if he recognises what isn’t working for him and what he needs to do to find that extra belief. It’s time he found it, or the truth is, he may never win one.

We all know how good you are Ricky; go and prove to yourself how good you are by working hard, get a new level of focus and internal energy and take what you want. Make it a question of refusal to admit that this level is good enough for you. Demand more! I think he can finally, after 263 events of trying, finally get that interview at the end of the day. 

Gabriel Clemens

Gabriel Clemens 

The German Giant is the second-highest ranked player in the world who has not won a Players Championship event. Andrew Gilding is ranked higher but he won the UK Open in 2023. 

Much like the aforementioned Evans, Gabe has been to final matches but has not succeeded yet. However, the big man has been to double the amount of finals as Ricky in half the time, meaning he is probably seen as more likely to get there again. 

The downside is that Clemens has lost his last two finals 8-0 and 8-1. That has to have hurt him. One thing we know about German sports stars though is that they are made of tough stuff, and I still believe that Gabriel can be what would now be the third player to grab a title in German colours. 

He doesn’t have to fix a great deal about his game to do that. Ability wise, not a lot has changed the past few years. I think if he conquers the mental side, that will get him over the line. That and maybe settling on one set of flights and stems that work, because he does tend to tinker a bit. 

All joking aside, he’s lost to six different opponents in finals. Could it be lucky number seven for him in 2024? I say, why not! Go get ‘em Gabe. 

Luke Littler

Luke Littler 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know he’s won in Bahrain and the new darting superstar may be everywhere, but now that the ranked season is upon us, let’s see how he fares in ProTour action. I have no doubt that he will have many great tournaments this year, and his development tour season last year will prepare him for this rookie season in PC’s perfectly. 

For some people it is just a matter of time until he gets his first title in this regard, and most people I am sure will be proven right.

However, they do not just give out these titles and he will have to go through some sickening draws just to make quarter finals, so as long as his confidence is good and his energy levels with the Premier League campaign are good, I see no reason why he won’t go on to win more than what he already has. 

He has won on every tour he has ever played, so why not in Players Championships too? There is no reason why he cannot win. 

Dom Taylor

Dom Taylor 

Looking at how The Tower has been playing over the last couple of years on various tours, it is zero shock you will get from anyone to see that he is a pro tour card holder for at least the next two years. His ceiling of performance is about as tall as he is and his experience levels are just right for him to have a great rookie season. 

Making a semi-final in Players Championship 28 last year and only just losing out 7-6 to Ross Smith, the eventual champion, should’ve put everyone on notice. He even had one match dart in the final leg to play against Damon Heta in that final. 

Now that we will have more exposure to Dom and his talents, I am sure he could be one of the PDC rookies that could do what Jim Williams did a couple of years ago, or what the new Masters Champion, Stephen Bunting did back in 2014 and win in their first few months. It really wouldn’t shock me. 

Andy Baetens 

Everyone on planet darts knows how good The Beast is. You don’t get a nickname like that for nothing, or at least you shouldn’t in my book. 

He has ticked a multitude of boxes on his measured approach to becoming one of the newest PDC tour card holders. A Lakeside champion, WDF world number one picking up a stack of titles, and now that he looks more ready to do this against the elite, he will be one of the names that people do not want to play in the early rounds of any PC this season. 

If he kicks into gear quickly, he could do severe damage in any event he plays, including the European tour providing he masters the new qualifying criteria. However, in Players Championship action which he is guaranteed to play in if he attends, I see this as his first frontier to being a possible newcomer of the year. He really is that good sometimes. I call him the Belgian Chizzy.

He doesn’t get bogged down by overthinking things, he just has this capacity to dismantle players. Plus, he gave our new world champion a heck of fright last year in the Belgian Darts Open which served as a precursor to what we may see in the next thirty events in 2024.