Michael van Gerwen will begin the defence of his Unibet Masters title against former Premier League star Kim Huybrechts in Milton Keynes, whilst newly crowned world champion Rob Cross faces Ian White in the season-opening tournament.
The world’s top 16 players will compete in the Unibet Masters from January 26th-28th at Arena MK in Milton Keynes, live on ITV4, although some familiar faces will be absent. Phil Taylor will not feature after his high-profile retirement following the World Championship, whilst Adrian Lewis misses out after slipping outside the world’s top 20.
However, world number one Van Gerwen will be aiming to banish his World Championship demons by clinching his fourth successive Masters crown later this month. He faces a potentially tricky opener against Kim Huybrechts, but ‘The Green Machine’ has won his last eleven meetings against the Belgian.
Rob Cross will begin his first tournament as world champion with a first-round showdown against Ian White. Cross has catapulted himself up to third on the PDC Order of Merit following his stunning triumph at the Alexandra Palace, whilst White is the new Stoke number one following Taylor’s retirement and Lewis’ slide on the Order of Merit.
Second seed Peter Wright plays Masters debutant Alan Norris, with both men bidding to bounce back from disappointing second-round exits at the Alexandra Palace. Meanwhile, Wright’s compatriot and two-time world champion Gary Anderson locks horns with Dutchman Benito van de Pas in another exciting tussle.
World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney and UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price will collide in a battle of the Premier League debutants, whilst Champions League of Darts winner Mensur Suljovic plays Michael Smith, who is also returning to the Premier League fold following his relegation on debut back in 2016.
Elsewhere, seventh seed Dave Chisnall meets five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld in a repeat of last year’s first-round clash. The pair will open up the tournament for the second year in succession and Van Barneveld will be hoping for a repeat of twelve months ago, when he defeated the St Helen’s star 10-5.
The final first-round tie sees World Grand Prix finalist Simon Whitlock play seven-time major winner James Wade. Whitlock is making his Premier League return in 2018 after a four year hiatus, whilst Wade missed out on selection after enduring a disappointing year, so he’ll be hoping to avoid a third consecutive defeat against ‘The Wizard’.
The opening round will be played across Friday and Saturday evening, before the tournament concludes on Sunday January 28th. The quarter-finals will take place in the afternoon session, before the semi-finals and final will be hosted in a blockbuster evening session at the Arena MK.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
(1) Michael van Gerwen v (16) Kim Huybrechts
(8) Simon Whitlock v (9) James Wade
(5) Daryl Gurney v (12) Gerwyn Price
(4) Gary Anderson v (13) Benito van de Pas
(2) Peter Wright v (15) Alan Norris
(7) Dave Chisnall v (10) Raymond van Barneveld
(6) Mensur Suljovic v (11) Michael Smith
(3) Rob Cross v (14) Ian White
Schedule of Play
Friday January 26 (7pm)
First Round x4
Dave Chisnall v Raymond van Barneveld
Mensur Suljovic v Michael Smith
Rob Cross v Ian White
Peter Wright v Alan Norris
Saturday January 27 (7pm)
First Round x4
Simon Whitlock v James Wade
Daryl Gurney v Gerwyn Price
Gary Anderson v Benito van de Pas
Michael van Gerwen v Kim Huybrechts
Sunday January 28
Afternoon Session (12.45pm)
Peter Wright/Alan Norris v Dave Chisnall/Raymond van Barneveld
Mensur Suljovic/Michael Smith v Rob Cross/Ian White
Daryl Gurney/Gerwyn Price v Gary Anderson/Benito van de Pas
Michael van Gerwen/Kim Huybrechts v Simon Whitlock/James Wade
Evening Session (7pm)
First Round – Best of 19 legs
Quarter-Finals – Best of 19 legs
Semi-Finals – Best of 21 legs
Final – Best of 21 legs
First Round Losers £5,000