The eight PDC stars will battle it out for the 2019 US Darts Masters title in Las Vegas on Friday…
Price celebrates as Anderson looks on during the 2018 Grand Slam final (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
The eight PDC stars will battle it out for the 2019 US Darts Masters title in Las Vegas on Friday as the opening World Series event of the season draws to a close.
Day One at the Mandalay Bay Resort saw the eight PDC invites successfully stave off competition from the North American qualifiers to avert an early exit.
The stakes and format rise on Day Two, with the Last Eight played down to a winner as the big guns battle for the £20,000 top prize.
Undoubtedly the stand-out Quarter-Final tie sees Gary Anderson and Gerwyn Price face off for the first time since their explosive Grand Slam final last November.
Price came out on top to claim his first major title in controversial fashion as the pair squared up on the oche; the Welshman was subsequently handed a record total of fines for his conduct during the tournament, while Anderson was given a formal warning.
The box office duo have avoided each other in PDC competition since but will now renew their rivalry in a heavyweight show-down worthy of top Vegas billing.
Price recovered from a bout of early doubles trouble to close out a 6-4 victory over former UK Open finalist Gary Mawson in Round One, while Anderson came from 2-0 down to see off TV debutant Elliot Milk by the same scoreline.
Both players have played down this long-awaited grudge clash in the build-up but will be desperate to let their darts do the talking, with Price aiming to dethrone the defending champion.
Meanwhile, the evening’s action also features a repeat of January’s World Championship final as Michael van Gerwen takes on Michael Smith.
Van Gerwen, the 2017 US Masters champion, had to survive a minor scare before eventually dispatching Darin Young 6-4 in his opener with a 99 average, and will now look to raise his game over the extended format.
The world number one has not claimed silverware of any sort since his Premier League triumph at The O2 in May and will be keen to send out a clear message ahead of the World Matchplay later this month.
Van Gerwen has won his last five meetings with Smith in all competitions and 28 of their 34 in total and has suggested in the build-up to the match that Smith is “mentally weak”.
Since finishing runner-up to MVG at Ally Pally, Smith has gone on to reach the Semi-Finals of the UK Open but could only manage a disappointing seventh place finish in the Premier League and was beaten in the Last 16 of the World Cup alongside Rob Cross.
Smith landed pivotal checkouts of 126 and 131 in seeing off Canada’s Jim Long 6-4 on Thursday but knows he requires a marked improvement on his average of 93 if he is to contend with the merciless MVG.
Another re-run of a recent major final sees Rob Cross and Nathan Aspinall lock horns in a repeat of March’s UK Open decider.
It was Aspinall who came out on top on that memorable occasion, clinching victory with a sensational 170 checkout for his first major crown, and Cross will have revenge on his mind at the first opportunity.
Cross, runner-up here 12 months ago, produced the stand-out performance of the opening round as he whitewashed Leonard Gates with a 101 average, sending out an early message to the field.
Aspinall, meanwhile, marked his World Series debut with a solid 6-2 defeat of Canadian qualifier Shawn Brenneman with a 98 average and now looks to remain in the running for a second televised title of the season by doing the double over the world number two.
The fourth Quarter-Final tie sees world number three Daryl Gurney take on world number six Peter Wright for the second year running in Vegas.
Wright prevailed 8-6 in a below-par Quarter-Final last year, averaging just 88 to Gurney’s 85, and both players will be out to serve up a more memorable encounter this time around.
Wright held his nerve to edge out 2018 North American champion Jeff Smith in a last-leg decider on Thursday, while Gurney’s route was contrastingly straightforward as he thrashed 2019 North American champion Daniel Baggish 6-1.
Three of their last four Premier League meetings have ended in draws, underlining the closely-matched nature of the pair.
The action gets underway from 8pm BST, with all matches to be contested over the best of 15 legs.
US Darts Masters 2019 Match Schedule
All times BST (Local time eight hours behind)
Friday July 5
8.00pm Michael van Gerwen v Michael Smith
8.45pm Gary Anderson v Gerwyn Price
9.30pm Rob Cross v Nathan Aspinall
10.15pm Daryl Gurney v Peter Wright
11.00pm Van Gerwen/Smith v Anderson/Price
11.45pm Cross/Aspinall v Gurney/Wright