European Championship 2022 - Preview
The 2022 Cazoo European Championship gets underway in Dortmund on Thursday, as Rob Cross bids to defend his title in the 500,000 pound event.

Cross defeated Michael van Gerwen to lift the title in Salzburg 12 months ago, and the pair will be among the leading contenders at this year's showpiece, with former champions Peter Wright and James Wade also headlining the 32-player field.
The tournament's 15th staging will see the top 32 players from the 2022 European Tour Order of Merit in action from October 27-30 at the Westfalenhallen, with 120,000 pound on offer to the winner.

The first round will feature 16 matches across the first two sessions on Thursday and Friday, including a blockbuster clash between former champions Cross and Wade on the tournament's opening night.
Two-time winner Cross boasts a superb record at this event, and after clinching his second Pro Tour title of 2022 in Barnsley last weekend, the 32-year-old heads to Dortmund in bullish mood.

"I've made three finals in five years - that's not bad for an amateur," quipped Cross - who also appeared in three European Tour finals in 2022. "I've got a tough first round against James [Wade], but every game is tough now. "When I rocked up [on the tour] I managed to get away with a few games and then got my brilliant best out, but now you've got to produce from the outset. "If you're going to be here and you deserve to be here, you have to play your best darts, and I love it. I think there are no limits to where I can go."

Top seed Luke Humphries also kicks off his campaign on Thursday, with the former UK Open runner-up locking horns with Poland's Krzysztof Ratajski for a place in round two. Humphries - a winner of four European Tour titles in 2022 - is aiming to cap off a breakthrough campaign by clinching his first televised crown in Germany.

"Winning those titles made me believe. It made me believe I could win, and that is crucial," said Humphries, who has broken into the world's top ten for the first time in his career. "Once you win that first title, it makes you believe things can happen. "The top 16 now is very elite. There is nothing between us. We're all very good players and it's exciting times for darts, because there is exceptional talent around."

Elsewhere, fifth seed Damon Heta plays experienced Dutchman Vincent van der Voort on Thursday night, and the Australian is brimming with confidence ahead of his opener. Heta celebrated his maiden European Tour title at the Gibraltar Darts Trophy less than a fortnight ago, before producing a series of imperious displays to clinch his third Pro Tour title in Barnsley last Friday.

"I am looking forward now. I really want to push on in these big tournaments," insisted Heta, who guided Australia to their first World Cup of Darts success in June. "I'm not trying too hard anymore. I'm more relaxed, I'm throwing quicker and things are happening. "I think I've nailed it down to stick to my game - believe in what I'm throwing, believe in my action. "I feel like life is going easy at the moment, so when you're on a high like this, I'm going to let it ride, and hopefully it rides to the top."

Another fascinating first round tussle will see last year's semi-finalist Nathan Aspinall meet Northern Irish sensation Josh Rock - one of six debutants in the field. Rock averaged over 103 across the day en route to claiming his maiden Pro Tour title on Sunday, and the 21-year-old will make his highly-anticipated televised debut against World Grand Prix finalist Aspinall.

Thursday's first round also includes a tie between Dutch Darts Championship winner Michael Smith and Czech qualifier Karel Sedlacek, while UK Open champion Danny Noppert plays Andrew Gilding - a runner-up at the Belgian Darts Open.
This year's tournament kicks off with a showdown between Dutch star Dirk van Duijvenbode and Latvia's Madars Razma, with Ryan Searle up against Martin Lukeman.

Friday's action will see a further eight first round matches take place, as four-time champion Van Gerwen faces Chris Dobey, and 2020 winner Wright plays Ryan Meikle.
Welsh duo Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton are up against Rowby-John Rodriguez and Gabriel Clemens respectively, with in-form Martin Schindler taking on former Grand Slam champion Jose De Sousa.
Hungarian Darts Trophy winner Joe Cullen plays Ross Smith, Dimitri Van den Bergh and Daryl Gurney collide in a battle of the former TV title winners, while Dave Chisnall and Stephen Bunting compete in an all-St Helens affair.

Following the conclusion of the first round, the last 16 will take place across two sessions on Saturday, before the tournament concludes with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final in a bumper double-session on Sunday.

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