World Grand Prix - Preview

MICHAEL VAN GERWEN will begin his bid to claim a fourth title in six years at the Unibet World Grand Prix when he faces John Henderson in Sunday's opening night of the 400,000 tournament.

Dutch star Van Gerwen claimed his maiden PDC televised title at the 2012 World Grand Prix, and has mastered the double-start format in 2014 and 2016 to complete a hat-trick of triumphs at Dublin's Citywest Hotel. The World Champion and world number one is the odds-on 4/5 favourite with sponsors Unibet to claim his fourth World Grand Prix win over the coming week, but is first focusing on his opener with Scottish ace Henderson. Having lost out in the group stage of last month's Champions League of Darts, Van Gerwen is determined to get back to winning ways on the big stage in Dublin.

"The Champions League wasn't good for me but there is no point looking back," said Van Gerwen. "I can only look forward, and I'm even more motivated to win the title in Dublin. "I have great memories in the World Grand Prix. I have won it three times - I'm going to do my best to make it four. "I'm really looking forward to it. It's different to the rest of the tournaments, it's fantastic. Every game is something special."

Sunday's opening night also features 2015 World Grand Prix champion Robert Thornton taking on Kim Huybrechts, with the Scot having earned a reprieve to qualify following the withdrawal of Phil Taylor from competing in Dublin. Former finalists Raymond van Barneveld, Adrian Lewis and Dave Chisnall come up against Kyle Anderson, Daryl Gurney and Jelle Klaasen respectively. Rob Cross - who won Friday's Players Championship to continue his amazing first year on the circuit - makes his World Grand Prix debut against Steve Beaton, while Alan Norris meets Justin Pipe and Joe Cullen plays Darren Webster.
Two-time World Grand Prix champion James Wade opens his challenge for a third Dublin triumph when the first round concludes on Monday, taking on Steve West - whose debut in the double-start tournament last year included a memorable win over Taylor.

"Steve will be keen but if I turn up I'll win and if I don't, I'll lose," said Wade. "I've had a month off and I've had a nice holiday - probably the longest time I've had out of darts for about 12 years. "I definitely needed a break, some time away, and that's what I've done. I feel fresh. Now I've had a break I've got to get back into the game and put the work in. "I've got so many fond memories of the tournament, I've had some great games over the years there and there have been so many great memories."

Number two seed Gary Anderson, last year's beaten finalist in Dublin, opens his bid to go one better against debutant Richard North, having also been the Champions League runner-up in his most recent tournament.

"It was great in Dublin last year and I'd love to have another good run," said Anderson. "I think I played Richard a couple of months ago but I keep hearing about him and he's been knocking out big names, but he's up on stage now and he's got to learn the stage. "The double-start format is always hard - I'm lucky if I can finish a game on doubles, never mind start on doubles!"

World number three Peter Wright - who has won ten events this year - meets Stephen Bunting, Champions League of Darts winner Mensur Suljovic plays Ian White, while former Dublin runner-up Mervyn King takes on debutant Ronny Huybrechts. Australian ace Simon Whitlock comes up against Christian Kist, Benito van de Pas plays Spain's Cristo Reyes and Michael Smith plays Gerwyn Price.







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