RECORD CROWD AS 2018 WORLD SERIES BEGINS IN GERMANY
THE German Darts Masters will get the 2018 PDC World Series of Darts underway at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen on Friday with a one-day spectacular in front of 20,000 fans.
The 16-player tournament is the first of six global events on the 2018 World Series circuit and will see the home of FC Schalke 04 transformed into a "Darts Music Arena" for the one-day spectacle, which marks the continued growth of the sport in Germany.
Eight leading German players will compete in the tournament, led by newly-crowned German Darts Open champion Max Hopp and Berlin's emerging star Martin Schindler.
German Superleague qualifiers Gabriel Clemens, Manfred Bilderl, Stefan Stoyke, Robert Marijanovic, Nico Kurz and Dragutin Horvat are joined by Hopp and Schindler as they take on the eight PDC stars.
Reigning German Darts Masters champion Peter Wright heads the eight PDC representatives, which include Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson who were both double winners on last year's international World Series circuit.
World Champion Rob Cross, Welsh star Jamie Lewis and Belgium's Dimitri Van den Bergh will all make their World Series debuts, while Mensur Suljovic and Raymond van Barneveld will also star at the Veltins Arena.
Last year's World Series of Darts Finals champion Van Gerwen faces crowd favourite Hopp in round one, and the Dutchman can't wait to perform in front of a record-breaking crowd.
"I'm really looking forward to playing in this tournament in front of such a huge crowd," said Van Gerwen, who also took victory in Shanghai and Las Vegas in 2017.
"I love playing in the World Series and I am focused on winning as many titles as I can this year starting with this one - I want to take the title off Peter."
The Dutchman will face a stern test against Hopp, fresh from his European Tour win in April, who is hoping to put on a show in front of his adoring home crowd.
"It will be amazing to play in front of so many of my home fans," Hopp commented.
"My confidence is growing now and I believe I can do great things, I want to beat the big players and put on a show for the German crowd."
Wright, who starred in every 2017 World Series event, will come up against Horvat in a replay of last year's first round tie, and the Scot is expecting another tough test after surviving missed match darts on that occasion.
"I've got good memories of the tournament because it was the first World Series title I won, but I could have gone out in the first round," Wright admitted.
"Dragutin had darts to beat me but I got through it and went all the way, which I will be hoping to do again."
Five-time World Champion Van Barneveld will get the action underway in the opening afternoon session as he takes on Bilderl.
Lewis will face PDC debutant Kurz and Austria's Suljovic will play Marijanovic, before the opening session is rounded off with a clash between Anderson and Clemens, who reached the final of Players Championship 11 last weekend before losing to the Scot.
After a short interval the first round action continues as Belgium's Van den Bergh meets Schindler, before Van Gerwen clashes with Hopp.
Reigning champion Wright faces Horvat, before the first round action concludes with Cross against Stoyke.
The first round will be split across two mini-sessions at 3pm and 5.30pm local time, with the quarter-finals kicking off a bumper evening session from 8pm.
The intervals will see music acts on stage at the Veltins Arena to complement the unique World Series of Darts tournament.