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Van Gerwen is “there to be shot at” admits Price ahead of World Championship quest

World Darts Championship 2019/20 Day One preview and order of play: MVG commences title defence on opening night

Jamie Shaw in World Darts Championship 12 Dec 2019
Van Gerwen aims to hit the ground running (Photo by Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

The curtain is officially raised on the 2019/20 PDC World Championship on Friday, with the reigning World Champion and World Youth Champion among the notable names in action at Alexandra Palace.

The waiting is finally over as the greatest show on planet darts returns for a festive feast of arrows, featuring 96 players from 23 nationalities competing across 16 days for the sport’s most prestigious prize.

As per tournament tradition, the defending champion takes centre stage on opening night, with the honour falling for the third time to Michael van Gerwen.

Van Gerwen became the second most successful player in PDC World Championship history when he triumphed over Michael Smith in the final on New Year’s Day and is now bidding to retain the Sid Waddell Trophy for the first time.

The world number one has not lost in the opening round of the tournament since 2011, before he became a serial major winner, and has reached at least the Semi-Final stage in six of his last seven visits to Ally Pally.

Van Gerwen launches his title defence with a Second Round show-down against either 2006 BDO World Champion Jelle Klaasen or Northern Ireland’s Kevin Burness – who face off in the opening match of the night.

A potential grudge clash could see MVG face his arch enemy Klaasen for the first time in over two years, with ‘Mighty Mike’ having won each of their last 12 meetings since Klaasen’s last head-to-head success in 2014.

Klaasen enjoyed a superb run to the Semi-Finals in 2015/16, defeating Phil Taylor along the way before being on the receiving end of a nine-darter and a 6-0 demolition from Gary Anderson.

The former Premier League star has dropped to 47th in the Order of Merit after failing to qualify for numerous televised majors over the past two years and has lost in the opening round of his last eight consecutive televised tournaments.

Klaasen, who is desperate to recapture his brilliant best form and avoid a battle to avert dropping off the tour next year, faces a tricky opener against a player no stranger to a scalp on the sport’s biggest stage.

Burness marked his debut with a straight sets victory over former Players Champion Paul Nicholson 12 months ago before losing out to Gary Anderson 3-1 in Round Two, and despite a relatively poor year of results since, the 54-year-old battled his way through last month’s PDPA Qualifying event to secure an immediate return to Ally Pally.

Newly-crowned World Youth Champion Luke Humphries aims to recreate the magic of his landmark run last year when he opens up against South African star Devon Petersen in one of the stand-out ties of the First Round.

Luke Humphries celebrates (Photo by Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

Humphries, an 11-time Development Tour event winner, came of age in only his second William Hill World Championship campaign by dethroning defending champion Rob Cross on his way to the Quarter-Finals – a run which has kick-started his career at the top level and guided him into the world’s top 50.

A Premier League ‘Contender’ earlier in the year, ‘Cool Hand Luke’ came through a 96-player field to win the World Youth Championship last month, whitewashing Adam Gawlas in the final, and will look to rekindle the memories of his last visit to Ally Pally in a quest to go deep into the competition once again.

Petersen has also enjoyed his career highlight to date on this iconic stage, embarking on a roller-coaster of a run to the Last 16 in 2018 which saw him save his Tour Card for the following season.

Dancing Devon heads back to the palace as world number 60 and facing the same equation, though his below-par form throughout the season suggests it would require a special performance on the big occasion to deny the in-form youngster.

Belgium faces Netherlands in another tasty tie as former major finalist Kim Huybrechts takes on Development Tour Order of Merit qualifier Geert Nentjes.

Huybrechts, a former PDC World Cup and Players Championship Finals runner-up, has dropped out of the world’s top 32 after missing out on a number of ranked majors this season, and knows he requires a big performance at the palace to potentially resurrect his career.

The former Premier League star, who famously faced his brother Ronny here in 2014, starts out as favourite to press home his vast experience against the 21-year-old world number 108 – who lost in straight sets to Nathan Aspinall on his debut here 12 months ago and has since picked up two Development Tour titles.

The action gets underway from 7pm GMT, with First Round and Second Round matches to be contested over the best of five sets, best of five legs per set.

A tie-break will be in operation from the second round onwards, where the final set must be won by two clear legs. If the score reaches 5-5, the 11th leg will be sudden-death.


William Hill World Championship 2019/20 Match Schedule


Friday December 13

7.15pm Jelle Klaasen v Kevin Burness (First Round)
8.15pm Kim Huybrechts v Geert Nentjes (First Round)
9.15pm Luke Humphries v Devon Petersen (First Round)
10.15pm Michael van Gerwen v Klaasen/Burness (Second Round)