Daryl Gurney will begin the defence of his Unibet World Grand Prix title against John Henderson later this month, whilst three-time winner and top seed Michael van Gerwen meets home favourite Steve Lennon.
The draw for the unique double-start event- which takes place at the Citywest Hotel, Dublin, from September 30th to October 6th, was conducted by former Grand Prix finalist Rod Harrington. This saw eight seeded players already in the draw bracket, with the remaining 24 qualifiers drawn out at random.
Arguably the tie of the first-round sees Champions League of Darts winner Mensur Suljovic take on two-time Grand Prix winner James Wade. Suljovic- twice a semi-finalist at this event within the last three years, defeated ‘The Machine’ in round-one back in 2015, but Wade is one of just three men in the field to have won this title.
Another crunch clash sees Premier League finalist Michael Smith meet two-time world champion Adrian Lewis. Smith has enjoyed a stunning 2018 and secured his maiden televised title at the Shanghai Darts Masters, whilst Lewis- a finalist in Dublin back in 2010, has just regained his spot in the world’s top 16 after a tumultuous 18 months.
Reigning champion Daryl Gurney will meet John Henderson at the Citywest for the second straight year. ‘Super-Chin’ defeated Henderson in the semi-finals of this event twelve months ago, but ‘The Highlander’ gained revenge by dumping out the Northern Irishman in the second-round of the World Championship just months later.
Michael van Gerwen will begin his bid for a fourth World Grand Prix title against debutant Steve Lennon. Lennon qualified for this event by virtue of reaching the final of the Dutch Darts Masters- where he was beaten by Van Gerwen, but he’ll be hoping to inflict MvG’s second straight opening-round defeat at this event.
World number two Peter Wright faces Steve West in an intriguing first-round tussle. ‘Snakebite’ has never gone beyond the quarter-finals of this competition, whilst West famously stunned Phil Taylor in his debut Grand Prix appearance in 2016.
In a repeat of last year, world champion Rob Cross collides with the legendary Steve Beaton. Beaton ran out a convincing 2-0 winner against ‘Voltage’ twelve months ago, yet Cross has won both of their meetings this year, albeit in last-leg deciders.
Two-time world champion Gary Anderson will be aiming to secure his third ranking major of the season as he begins his campaign against the dangerous Jonny Clayton. ‘The Flying Scotsman’ has already clinched maiden UK Open and World Matchplay crowns this year, whilst Clayton was the highest-ranked of the 16 Pro Tour qualifiers.
Last year’s finalist Simon Whitlock faces a tough assessment against an in-form James Wilson, who has performed with supreme consistency on the Pro Tour this year. ‘The Wizard’ came agonisingly close to winning this title twelve months ago, but his run to the final catapulted him back into the world’s top ten and he returns to Dublin as 7th seed.
2013 Grand Prix finalist Dave Chisnall makes up the list of seeded representatives and he kicks off his campaign against former World Youth champion Max Hopp. ‘The Maximiser’ is making his debut in Dublin this year, having lifted his first senior PDC title at the German Darts Open back in April.
Elsewhere, five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld has been pitted against ‘Rapid’ Ricky Evans, for the right to take on Chisnall or Hopp in the last 16. Van Barneveld was runner-up at the Citywest back in 2008 and 2009, whilst Evans is making his Grand Prix bow after reaching the final of the recent Dutch Darts Championship.
Dutch Darts Champion Ian White will be hoping to continue his impressive form when he takes on talented debutant Josh Payne, whilst Gerwyn Price- who won last week’s International Darts Open, meets former Lakeside finalist Danny Noppert, who secured his last gasp qualification after reaching the semi-finals in Riesa.
World number fourteen Darren Webster and former Lakeside champion Stephen Bunting lock horns in another high-profile affair, with the winner likely to face Michael van Gerwen in round-two.
World Matchplay semi-finalist Jeffrey de Zwaan will be hoping to transfer his Winter Gardens form to the Dublin stage as he meets Belgium’s Kim Huybrechts. Meanwhile, 2012 Grand Prix finalist Mervyn King plays Dutch debutant Jermaine Wattimena, whilst Wattimena’s compatriot Ron Meulenkamp opens up against world number 15 Joe Cullen.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Draw in full:
(1) Michael van Gerwen v Steve Lennon
Darren Webster v Stephen Bunting
(8) Dave Chisnall v Max Hopp
Ricky Evans v Raymond van Barneveld
(5) Daryl Gurney v John Henderson
Ron Meulenkamp v Joe Cullen
(4) Gary Anderson v Jonny Clayton
Jeffrey de Zwaan v Kim Huybrechts
(2) Peter Wright v Steve West
Jermaine Wattimena v Mervyn King
(7) Simon Whitlock v James Wilson
Michael Smith v Adrian Lewis
(6) Mensur Suljovic v James Wade
Josh Payne v Ian White
(3) Rob Cross v Steve Beaton
Danny Noppert v Gerwyn Price