Two major title winners and two German hopefuls are among the line-up at the World Darts Championship on Friday night…
Two major title winners and two German hopefuls are among the line-up at the World Darts Championship on Friday night as the Second Round action continues.
Four seeds have bitten the dust in the sport’s show-piece at Alexandra Palace so far, with a number of debutant qualifiers having enjoyed a winning start on the iconic stage.
The second installment of another fascinating double-header sees a quartet of big names begin their campaigns against lower-ranked opposition.
Peter Wright, who came within touching distance of glory here in 2014 when he lost out to Michael van Gerwen in the final, starts out against Philippines qualifier Noel Malicdem.
Wright returns to Ally Pally as the number seven seed following an indifferent season which has seen him enjoy his best results in non-ranked competition.
Wright claimed glory for Scotland at the World Cup of Darts alongside Gary Anderson, as well as the German Masters title and was runner-up in the Champions League of Darts and Grand Slam.
Grand Slam aside, ‘Snakebite’ has struggled to make an impact in major ranked tournaments this year and is now bidding to avert a third consecutive early exit in the spot’s show-piece.
The colourful Scot starts out as huge odds-on favourite to press home his vast experience against Asian Tour Order of Merit qualifier Malicdem – who is appearing at this stage of the competition for the second year running after a straight sets win over Rowby-John Rodriguez in Round One.
UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall looks to emulate his ground-breaking run to the Semi-Finals here 12 months ago and opens up with a tie against American ace Danny Baggish.
Both players enjoyed a memorable week in Las Vegas in June, with ‘The Asp’ picking up the U.S Masters title on his World Series debut and Baggish bagging the North American Championship title to secure a dream debut at Ally Pally.
Aspinall defeated the likes of Gerwyn Price, Kyle Anderson and Brendan Dolan en route to the Last Four in 2018 and has since surged up to 12th position on the PDC Order of Merit.
The Stockport star has been widely tipped as a potential challenger for this title but must first navigate his way through a tricky opener against Baggish – who edged out Stoke’s Andy Boulton 3-2 in Round One and will look to follow in the footsteps of his compatriot Darin Young by pulling off a giant-killing.
Joe Cullen aims to banish his below-par record in this competition by overcoming German youngster Nico Kurz in his opener.
Cullen, the number 15 seed, has won just one match in nine previous visits to Alexandra Palace and will be determined to double his tally and stave off a potential scalp at the hands of the debutant qualifier.
A landmark year for ‘The Rockstar’ has seen him win his first European Tour title as well as reach the final of a Players Championship event, but his form in TV majors has been lacking since his run to the Semi-Finals of the European Championship in October 2018.
Kurz is no stranger to a big-named upset, having announced his arrival onto the scene in May’s German Masters World Series event by knocking out Gary Anderson.
The 22-year-old missed double 12 for a nine-dart finish on his way to a 3-1 win over James Wilson in Round One and will be quietly confident of pulling off an even bigger result here.
Kurz’s fellow countryman Max Hopp also aims to delight the large German contingent in the at Ally Pally crowd by overcoming World Championship specialist Benito van de Pas.
Hopp made his debut here as a 16-year-old back in 2012 and has already gone on to become the most successful player in German darts history.
The 2018 German Open champion is now ranked 24th and is looking to finally come of age on the biggest stage of all, having fallen at the Last 32 stage on three previous occasions.
Van de Pas, meanwhile, has continued the trend of registering his best results at this competition having struggled for consistency throughout the past two years but still managing to string together wins at Alexandra Palace.
The former top 16 star, now ranked 59th, has made the Last 16 here in four of his five previous appearances, including 2014/15 – when he defeated Hopp 3-1 in the First Round.
The action gets underway from 7pm GMT, with 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, 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 20
7.15pm Nathan Aspinall v Danny Baggish
8.15pm Joe Cullen v Nico Kurz
9.15pm Max Hopp v Benito van de Pas
10.15pm Peter Wright v Noel Malicdem