Adrian Lewis will take on five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld in the pick of the first round matches at the World Grand Prix, when the double-in tournament begins next Sunday in Dublin.
Two-time World Champion Lewis will be participating in his 11th Grand Prix, but like van Barneveld, he is still searching for his maiden title in Ireland. Both Lewis and van Barneveld have been runners up previously; Lewis in 2010; van Barneveld in 2008 and 2009, however both men have been handed an extremely challenging route if they are to taste glory in Ireland’s capital city.
Van Barneveld’s participation in the World Grand Prix was only officially confirmed yesterday, as he maintained his position of World Number 16, whilst also reaching his first Pro Tour final since 2013, where he lost 6-4 to compatriot Jelle Klaasen in yesterday’s final.
Lewis and van Barneveld have enjoyed some titanic tussles over the past 12 months. Van Barneveld prevailed in a pulsating last 16 clash at the World Championships, despite Jackpot hitting a 9-darter to clinch the first set.
They then shared victories in this year’s Betway Premier League, whilst van Barneveld knocked Lewis out of the Coral UK Open at the third round stage, with a comprehensive 9-3 victory.
More recently, they enjoyed two classic battles in August’s World Series. Lewis beat van Barneveld 10-9 in the semi-finals of the Sydney Darts Masters, before they met in the final of the Auckland Darts Masters just a week later.
It was a thrilling contest, one of the best PDC finals in years, as Lewis survived five missed match darts from van Barneveld to claim an 11-10 victory. On this basis; we should be in for a cracker!
Elsewhere, World Number four Peter Wright will take on former finalist Dave Chisnall, currently ranked 9th, in another mouth-watering first-round clash. Only the top eight are seeded in Dublin, so Wright has effectively been handed the toughest draw. Likewise, Chisnall can consider himself extremely unfortunate to play a man of Wright’s calibre at such an early stage in the tournament.
Defending Champion Michael van Gerwen faces a tough test, as he takes on former World Youth Champion Keegan Brown. The Isle of Wight star has taken the scalps of Raymond van Barneveld, Adrian Lewis, Robert Thornton and John Part on the TV cameras over the past 12 months, so over such a short format, the Green Machine will have to be firing.
Eleven-time Grand Prix Champion Phil Taylor faces a difficult first-round tie against the in-form Dutchman Vincent van der Voort, whilst the current World Champion Gary Anderson takes on fellow Scot John Henderson.
James Wade, twice a winner here in Dublin, takes on the Austrian enigma Mensur Suljovic, in a repeat of this year’s World Matchplay quarter-final. The Austrian will be making his debut in Dublin and he certainly has the game to trouble the Machine.
Ireland’s main hope of success, Brendan Dolan, will face Jelle Klaasen, who secured Players Championship victory in Barnsley on Sunday, whilst Daryl Gurney will play Robert Thornton, who starred in one of the best matches in the tournament’s illustrious history last year.
Both James Wade and Thornton hit 9-dart finishes in an epic last 16 clash, which Wade won 3-2. Prior to that astonishing encounter, there had only been one 9-darter hit in the tournament’s history, by Brendan Dolan, also against Wade.
William O’Connor will play young Welshman Jamie Lewis in a very evenly poised match. Both players will be happy with their draw and quietly confident of progressing, but it will be interesting to see how O’Connor deals with the pressure of being ‘home favourite’.
Two World Grand Prix veterans Terry Jenkins and Mervyn King will meet in a tasty-looking first-round tie. Both men are former finalists here and Jenkins in particular is in tremendous form, having won a Players Championship event in Barnsley on Saturday. They are both consistent and tenacious performers, so this could be a contest of fine margins.
Simon Whitlock, who has endured a miserable run of TV form, faces a tricky-tie against the unorthodox Andrew Gilding in round one. Gilding has made his mark on the big stage in 2015, where he reached the semi-finals of the Coral UK Open, although Whitlock’s Pro Tour form has improved markedly recently, so he’ll be hoping to transfer this to the main stage.
World Number eight Michael Smith has been pitted against Welshman Gerwyn Price, who makes his Grand Prix debut this year. The pair met in the first round of the Matchplay in July, where Price secured a surprise victory, but the St Helen’s star will be desperate to avenge that particular defeat.
Another debutant in Dublin will be Dutchman Benito van de Pas. The 22-year-old Dutch star has been drawn against Belgian ace Kim Huybrechts.
Two former Lakeside Champions are set to collide, as Mark Webster meets Stephen Bunting in round one. Bunting reached the semi-finals on debut last year, but has struggled for results in recent months, while Webster managed to secure qualification yesterday by reaching the last 32 of Sunday’s Players Championship in Barnsley.
Elsewhere, friendships will be put aside when Justin Pipe takes on ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ Steve Beaton, whilst best buddies Ian White and Jamie Caven will also meet in round one.
partypoker.com World Grand Prix
First Round Draw & Draw Bracket
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Keegan Brown
Kim Huybrechts v Benito van de Pas
Michael Smith (8) v Gerwyn Price
William O’Connor v Jamie Lewis
Adrian Lewis (5) v Raymond van Barneveld
Mark Webster v Stephen Bunting
Peter Wright (4) v Dave Chisnall
Jelle Klaasen v Brendan Dolan
Gary Anderson (2) v John Henderson
Ian White v Jamie Caven
Robert Thornton (7) v Daryl Gurney
Justin Pipe v Steve Beaton
James Wade (6) v Mensur Suljovic
Andrew Gilding v Simon Whitlock
Phil Taylor (3) v Vincent van der Voort
Mervyn King v Terry Jenkins