Van Barneveld gets set for a hero’s welcome in Amsterdam (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
The top eight seeds from the World Series Order of Merit enter the fray in Amsterdam on Saturday, with Raymond van Barneveld aiming to raise the roof in his farewell tournament on home soil.
The opening night of the £300,000 invitational saw the 16 qualifiers face off, with Michael Smith, Nathan Aspinall and Jeffrey de Zwaan among the notable casualties.
More big names begin their campaigns at the AFAS Live on Saturday, including Dutch darting icon Van Barneveld – making his final appearance in a televised tournament in his homeland.
Van Barneveld, who bowed out of the Premier League in Rotterdam earlier this year, will be hoping for a happier ending than the one on Judgement Night which afterwards saw him announce his immediate retirement before reversing the decision the following day.
It has not been a farewell season to remember for RVB, having dropped out of the world’s top 32 after failing to qualify for the World Matchplay and World Grand Prix.
The 52-year-old is aiming to build up a head of steam prior to his swansong at Ally Pally next month but first faces a tough test against fellow countryman Jermaine Wattimena.
Wattimena replaced Barney in the Netherlands’ World Cup of Darts side this summer and has established himself as the new Dutch number two, recently reaching his first major Quarter-Final at the Grand Prix and defying a 100 average from Gabriel Clemens to prevail 6-4 on Friday night.
Undoubtedly the match of the night sees world number one and three-time World Series Finals winner Michael van Gerwen take on Gerwyn Price – a man he is yet to lose to in their 18 previous meetings.
Van Gerwen went unbeaten in the first three stagings of this tournament before losing to Van Barneveld in last year’s Quarter-Finals, and will be keen to get last week’s shock First Round exit at the European Championship out of his system.
Winner of the World Grand Prix and Champions League of Darts within the last three weeks, MVG is otherwise enjoying a fine spell of form and is guaranteed a vociferous backing from the partisan Dutch crowd here.
Van Gerwen’s thrilling 11-10 win over Price in the Champions League continued his incredible head-to-head dominance, and the Welshman will be desperate to finally stop the rot in the Dutchman’s own back yard.
Price, runner-up in Gottingen last Sunday, averaged 101.8 in seeing off Michael Smith 6-3 in Round One and will be out to sustain that level against his arch nemesis.
Meanwhile, James Wade begins the defence of his title with a revenge mission against Jonny Clayton – who pulled off a 6-0 whitewash in the opening round of the European Championship.
Brisbane Masters champion Damon Heta heads to Amsterdam as the number five seed following his remarkable Brisbane Masters triumph and starts out against former German Masters champion Mensur Suljovic.
Krzysztof Ratajski’s reward for his superb win over Aspinall in Round One is a show-down with Players Champion Daryl Gurney – who has lost all three of their meetings to date.
A repeat of May’s European Grand Prix final sees Ian White look to make it four wins in a row over Peter Wright – who was runner-up in this event in 2015 and 2016.
Gary Anderson starts his latest quest to reach a first televised final of 2019 with a tie against former Lakeside finalist Danny Noppert – who knocked out De Zwaan on his debut last night.
The pair met in the First Round of this year’s World Matchplay, with Anderson coming out on top 10-6 at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.
Rob Cross begins his bid for back-to-back TV titles with a crunch clash against in-form Dave Chisnall in the final match of the evening.
Cross took his tally of majors to three courtesy of his triumph at the European Championship and will be keen to pick up from where he left off by ending Chizzy’s hopes.
Cross is seeded number three after finishing runner-up in the Brisbane Masters and reaching the Semi-Finals of the Melbourne Masters and New Zealand Masters, while Chisnall defeated fellow wildcard Simon Whitlock 6-4 in Round One.
The action gets underway from 7pm GMT, with Second Round matches to be contested over the best of 11 legs.
World Series of Darts Finals 2019 Match Schedule
All times GMT (Local time one hour ahead)
Saturday November 2
7.15pm James Wade v Jonny Clayton
7.45pm Damon Heta v Mensur Suljovic
8.15pm Daryl Gurney v Krzysztof Ratajski
8.45pm Michael van Gerwen v Gerwyn Price
9.15pm Peter Wright v Ian White
9.45pm Gary Anderson v Danny Noppert
10.15pm Raymond van Barneveld v Jermaine Wattimena
10.45pm Rob Cross v Dave Chisnall