Two former World Champions commence their campaigns at the 2019/20 PDC World Championship in a star-studded line-up at Ally Pally…
Two former World Champions commence their campaigns at the 2019/20 PDC World Championship in a star-studded line-up at Ally Pally on Saturday night.
Part Two of an unmissable double-header on opening weekend sees a clutch of big names take to the stage in a bid to avert an early exit in the sport’s blue riband event.
All eyes will be on departing legend Raymond van Barneveld as he begins the final chapter of his glittering career with a clash against America’s Darin Young.
Van Barneveld will bring the curtain down on a professional career spanning more than three decades come the end of his campaign at Alexandra Palace and will be desperate to bow out on a high.
The five-time World Champion, who triumphed in one of the greatest matches in the sport’s history in the 2007 world final at the Circus Tavern, is aiming to roll back the years one more time and mount a challenge for glory against the odds.
Van Barneveld’s farewell season has largely been one to forget in terms of results, having dropped out of the world’s top 32 and missed out on a place in the World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and Grand Slam.
The Dutch maestro finished bottom of the Premier League, reversing a rash decision to retire immediately after elimination in Rotterdam, but his run to the Quarter-Finals of last month’s Players Championship Finals sparks hope for the ‘Barney Army’ that their man still has the heart and desire to match his unquestioned ability.
Van Barneveld is unseeded in a PDC World Championship for the first time and therefore starts out in Round One, with compatriot Jeffrey de Zwaan the reward should he stave off a major upset at the hands of Young.
Young qualified for his tenth PDC World Championship appearance, a first since 2015/16, as the highest Ranked American on the CDC circuit and is looking to pull off a sensational scalp to become the man to end Van Barneveld’s competitive career and mark only a second-ever win in this event.
Rob Cross pulled off one of the biggest darting fairy-tales of all-time when he triumphed here on debut two years ago, and ‘Voltage’ aims to set off on the road to another crowning glory by coming through his opening salvo in style.
The world number two surrendered his world title at the Last 16 stage 12 months ago but has affirmed his position as one of the sport’s greats by securing a further two majors this season – the World Matchplay and European Championship.
Cross faces pressure to defend his £400,000 in prize money against his world ranking from two years ago, but for now will be focused solely on a potentially tough opener against Belgian ace Kim Huybrechts.
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 came through a hard-fought opener on Friday to edge out Dutch left-hander Geert Nentjes in a deciding set and will look to take confidence from that tenacious display.
Jamie Hughes is one of the most high-profile debutants in this year’s tournament, and ‘Yozza’ aims to announce his Ally Pally arrival in style by seeing off Austria’s Zoran Lerchbacher.
Hughes, who reached two Lakeside Semi-Finals, qualified as the highest ranked player from the ProTour Order of Merit having triumphed at the Czech Open and gone on to qualify for every ranked major this season.
While Hughes is yet to progress beyond the Last 32 stage of a PDC major thus far, he remains a genuine threat in the draw given his formidable scoring power – a trait which has seen him register numerous ton-plus averages on the circuit this term.
Lerchbacher defeated Mervyn King to reach the Last 32 here two years ago, but having since dropped out of the world’s top 64, faces an uphill task if he is to protect his Tour Card.
The 47-year-old partnered Mensur Suljovic in reaching the Quarter-Finals of this year’s World Cup of Darts for Austria but returns to Ally Pally on the back of a torrid season in singles competition.
The opening match of the night sees two debutants collide as former Lakeside finalist Mark McGeeeney meets Canada’s Matt Campbell.
McGeeney was runner-up to Glen Durrant in a dramatic deciding set at Lakeside two years ago but is yet to make the impact he would have hoped for since securing a Tour Card at Qualifying School in January.
McGeeney, though, did reach the Semi-Finals of a ProTour event earlier this year and was beaten 6-4 by Gabriel Clemens in Round One of the recent Players Championship Finals – one of only two major appearances since his switch.
CDC star Campbell is flying the flag for Canada in this year’s competition and will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of his legendary compatriot John Part.
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
Saturday December 14
7.15pm Mark McGeeney v Matt Campbell
8.15pm Jamie Hughes v Zoran Lerchbacher
9.15pm Raymond van Barneveld v Darin Young
10.15pm Rob Cross v Kim Huybrechts (Second Round)