Defending champion Gary Anderson will kick off the defence of his Dubai Darts Masters title with a tie against 16-time world champion Phil Taylor, whilst Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld will contest a thrilling all-Dutch showdown when the World Series opener gets underway on Wednesday evening.
The fifth staging of the Dubai Darts Masters will take place on May 24th-25th at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, in the opening World Series event of 2017. Michael van Gerwen won the first three stagings of this event, but Anderson claimed the spoils last year; defeating ‘The Green Machine’ in a dramatic final.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ will begin his title defence with a showdown against Phil Taylor, who is embarking on his final World Series campaign ahead of his impending retirement. The Scot defeated Taylor in the semi-finals of last year’s competition, and the second seed will be aiming to repeat that feat this time around.
Anderson claimed: “It’s a tough game. Phil’s beaten me the last two times we’ve played in the Premier League so it will be hard game, and he’ll be trying his damnedest because this is his last year. It’s nice to get over to Dubai and be back here. Winning the event last year was a great memory and I’d love to do it again.”
World number one Michael van Gerwen kicks off his assault for a fourth Dubai Darts Masters crown against his fellow Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld. Van Gerwen defeated Barney in the final of the tournament’s inaugural staging back in 2013, whilst he also edged out his legendary compatriot in the first-round of the 2015 event.
Nevertheless, Van Barneveld has enjoyed a number of memorable televised victories over the world number one in recent years, most notably their famous last 16 clash at the 2016 World Championship. In addition, Van Barneveld was also the man to end MvG’s unprecedented 44-match televised unbeaten run, less than two months ago.
The five-time world champion is aware of the task facing him, but is relishing the challenge. “There were no easy draws and you know what you’ve got to do – play your best. To beat Michael, the Premier League champion and World Champion, is going to be tough so I hope I play well tomorrow.
“Mike is a machine but someone has to stop him and why not me? If there is one player in darts that can beat him it’s me, I’ve shown that for the last two or three years,” Van Barneveld insisted.
Van Gerwen retained his Premier League crown with a dramatic deciding-leg victory over Peter Wright last Thursday, recovering from 7-2 down and surviving six match darts to edge out Snakebite. However, the world champion is now turning his attention to reclaiming the Dubai title.
The world champion said: “I’m looking forward to it. It’s always a fantastic tournament for me and I’ve always played well over here. Last year I let Gary Anderson walk away with the trophy, unfortunately I made a few mistakes, but I’m here to try to get it back again.
“That’s what you need to aim for, keep your confidence high and make sure you perform well and also prepare well because you need to get used to the heat again. I feel comfortable about it,” ‘The Green Machine’ added.
Premier League runner-up Peter Wright, a former finalist in Dubai, will take on an in-form Dave Chisnall in another exciting quarter-final tie. Snakebite defeated Chisnall en route to claiming his first major title at March’s UK Open, but Chisnall, who will make his World Cup debut for England next week, will provide a stern test for the Scot.
Chisnall has reached the semi-finals in his two previous Dubai appearances and enters this tournament in fantastic form, having enjoyed a stunning seven-match unbeaten in the second half of the Premier League season. Wright, who has won eight ranking titles already this year, is well aware of the challenge facing him in the desert.
“My plan is to come here and win. I want to make up for losing out in the Premier League so I’m going to try and win this one. I think Chizzy is probably playing the best darts of anyone else and you just have to look at the end of the Premier League, when he was unbeaten in seven games, so I’ve got a very hard game,” the world number three admitted.
Wright is renowned for constantly tinkering with his darting set-up and admitted that he would take two sets on stage, as the players aim to combat the open-air elements. “You’re not sure how the darts are going to fly up there so I’m going to take two sets of darts with me on stage. If one doesn’t go, and the others don’t go, then I’m in real trouble!”
The final quarter-final sees eight-time major winner James Wade take on World Series debutant Gerwyn Price. Wade is seeded fourth for this event in the absence of two-time world champion Adrian Lewis, whilst Price is making his World Series debut; having secured selection after reaching his first major TV final at this year’s UK Open.
Wade has suffered three successive first-round defeats in this event since reaching the semi-finals in 2013, but he’s looking forward to taking on the Welsh number one. ‘The Machine’ claimed: “I don’t think anyone enjoys the heat and the conditions but everyone has to do the same thing. It’s the same for every player and I can’t wait.”
Price is entering unknown territory in Dubai, although ‘The Iceman’ has been backed to adapt in his open-air debut by Peter Wright, the man who defeated him in the UK Open Final. “It’s Gerwyn’s first time and it will be interesting to see how he deals with the heat on stage, but he’s a professional sportsman so he should be alright,” added Snakebite.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2017 Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Raymond van Barneveld
James Wade (4) v Gerwyn Price
Gary Anderson (2) v Phil Taylor
Peter Wright (3) v Dave Chisnall
Schedule of Play
Wednesday May 24
James Wade v Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright v Dave Chisnall
Gary Anderson v Phil Taylor
Michael van Gerwen v Raymond van Barneveld
Best of 19 legs
Thursday May 25
Best of 21 legs