Prince Harry was in the crowd here last night and today the historic venue will witness the coronation of a new king. Gary Anderson and Adrian Lewis will both make their debuts in tonight's final as they chase the £200,000 prize on offer to the winner of the Professional Darts Corporation's Ladbrokes.com World Championship.
A new champion had been guaranteed with the quarter-final defeats of Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld on Saturday. Anderson followed up his victory over Van Barneveld by beating Terry Jenkins 6-2 in last night's semi-finals, but Mark Webster, who had thwarted Taylor's attempt to reach the final for the 17th time in the last 18 years, went out at the penultimate hurdle for the second year in succession. Having been beaten by Taylor in the semi-finals 12 months ago, Webster went down 6-4 to Lewis, a former protégé of "The Power".
Anderson is the only player whose three-dart average has not dipped below three figures in any of his matches at the tournament. If his semi-final average of 101.61 was slightly down on his earlier figures, he still set a pace that Jenkins struggled to match, recording 25 scores of 140 or better and 12 maximum 180s.
Jenkins started superbly, hitting three successive doubles at the first attempt to take the opening set, and a fourth followed as he took the first leg of the second set with a 102 check-out. If Anderson's confidence had taken a knock it was quickly restored in the next leg as he hit a maximum 180 before cheekily checking out on double one.
Anderson went on to reel off five legs in succession. His only wobble came when he missed six attempts at a double in the middle of the seventh set, which Jenkins went on to win 3-1.
The 40-year-old Scot is so focused on winning the title that he is not returning phone and text messages. He made one call to his family back home in Somerset to wish them a happy new year but does not want them in the crowd here. "I'm here to concentrate on the game that I play," he said. "I don't want any distractions."
A high-quality contest had been expected in the other semi-final, but both players were below their best for long periods. The match took time to catch fire as Webster in particular made a nervous start. Lewis took a 4-2 lead, despite missing eight of his first 36 attempts at a double, but Webster levelled at 4-4 and finally edged in front by taking the first leg of the ninth set.
Lewis appeared to be wavering, but the 25-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent, who has long been regarded as a potential world champion, recovered his poise to take the last two sets. At 2-1 in the 10th set Lewis hit his ninth maximum of the match before completing victory with an 82 check-out. He finished with a three-dart average of 98.17 compared with his opponent's 96.39. "Prince Harry came up to me afterwards and gave me a big hug," a surprised Lewis said afterwards.