The World Series of Darts kicks off this evening via the Dubai Masters, and Michael van Gerwen will begin the defence of his crown against James Wade, while Phil Taylor goes head-to-head with Peter Wright in what promises to be a cracking night of action in the Middle East.
Mighty Mike got the better of Raymond van Barneveld to claim the $50,000 prize at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium 12 months ago, and will be desperate not to let another title slip through his fingers, having lost out to his fellow countryman in last week’s Premier League playoffs.
Van Gerwen needs Dutch courage
The Dubai Masters will provide Van Gerwen with a stern test, not just because of the quality of his opponents but also psychologically, as losing the Premier League crown will have hurt him. The 25-year-old is a top-priced 2/1 with Ladbrokes to once again prevail in this event.
His opponent this evening, Wade, is a six-time major tournament winner, but recent form points to this match being a straightforward assignment for the World No. 1. This is reflected in the betting, with Van Gerwen a general 1/4 shot and The Machine is as big as 10/3 with Bet365.
Taylor out to prove that he still has the power
Sixteen-time world champion Phil Taylor is the clear second favourite to emerge victorious in Dubai at 9/4 with BetVictor. The Power is also expected to sail through his opening tie against Wright, with the Stoke thrower as short as 1/3 with 888sport. Conversely, if you reckon the Scotsman can spring a surprise he’s a standout 11/5 with Bet365.
Taylor will be keen to atone for his slip-up at the O2 last week. He was leading Barney 3-0 in their face-off, but the redoubtable Dutchman battled back courageously to seal an 8-5 victory, and in the process record his first victory over The Power at the 21st attempt.
Barney, fresh from his Betway Premier League triumph, will take on Adrian Lewis in the opening game of the draw. As the betting suggests, this is likely to be a tight match, with Barney a top-priced 9/10 with Paddy Power and Jackpot can be backed at even money with William Hill.
In the other match, Simon Whitlock and Dave Chisnall will lock horns. Again, this is a hard one to call with Chizzee Rascal the marginal jolly at a best-priced 5/6 (Betfair) and Whitlock is an 11/10 chance with Hills, but as short as 10/11 in places.