Stars set for double trouble in World Grand Prix

The World Grand Prix kicks off at Dublin’s Citywest Hotel tonight, as 32 stars of the sport – including ten-time winner Phil Taylor and reigning champion Michael van Gerwen – compete in the double-start event.

The £350,000 event, unique for the format which sees players need to both begin and end each leg by hitting a double, will be held across seven days in Dublin, live on Sky Sports HD.

The first round will be split across Monday and Tuesday evenings, with ten-time World Grand Prix champion Phil Taylor headlining the opening night as he faces resurgent Jamie Caven, who has won two ranking titles this year.

“I’d love to win the World Grand Prix again,” said Taylor, who was knocked out in the second round by Robert Thornton 12 months ago. “It’s one of my favourite tournaments – I love the World Grand Prix.

“It’s a great format, as long as you’re playing well. If you start missing and don’t kick in with your doubles [in the first three darts] then trust me, it’s one of the loneliest places in the world.”

Taylor has previously lost three times in the short best-of-three set first round in the double-start event, and is expecting a tough test against Caven.

“When you look at the draw now, every game’s juicy,” he said. “You’ve got all the top players playing each other in the first round, where this wouldn’t have happened years ago.

“You’d get through a couple of stages before meeting top players. Now it’s straight in, and my first round’s like a final to me, that’s how important it is – Jamie’s a good player, he’s gutsy and he’s no mug.”

Two-time World Grand Prix champion James Wade is also in action tonight, when he takes on Steve Beaton, a former semi-finalist in the event who ended four years without a ranking event victory recently in Germany.

2004 World Grand Prix winner Colin Lloyd kicks off the tournament against Ronnie Baxter, world number four Simon Whitlock meets Northern Ireland’s Michael Mansell and number eight seed Wes Newton plays Peter Wright, the colourful Scot who reached Sunday’s Players Championship final in Dublin.

Irish ace Connie Finnan takes on two-time finalist Terry Jenkins, and Thornton plays Paul Nicholson in the opening night’s other fixture.

Tuesday’s remaining eight games from the first round will be headlined by reigning champion van Gerwen’s meeting with Canadian legend John Part, a three-time World Champion and twice a finalist in this event.

Van Gerwen’s triumph in last year’s World Grand Prix final, when he came from 4-2 down to win 6-4 in sets against Mervyn King, proved the springboard for an amazing 12 months which has included his Premier League Darts triumph, ten other wins and runs to the World Championship and Grand Slam of Darts finals.

“It’s been a fantastic year for me and it’s a great feeling coming back to Dublin as the reigning champion,” said van Gerwen. “I’ve prepared well and I’m very confident but I know I’ll have a tough game against John because he’s a fantastic player.

“It’s probably the hardest tournament to win because of the double-start, but I enjoy it and I’m really looking forward to the week.”

King plays Wayne Jones in Tuesday’s opening fixture, while 2011 World Grand Prix runner-up Brendan Dolan – who hit the historic first double-start nine-darter two years ago – plays another former finalist, Adrian Lewis.

The pair had met in Saturday’s Players Championship at the Citywest Hotel, when Lewis came from 3-0 down to claim a 6-4 victory in what he hopes will be a precursor to Tuesday’s clash.

“I wanted to make a set a marker out ahead of Tuesday and put it into Brendan’s head, so it was great to pick up the win,” said Lewis. “I finished really well on Saturday and it’s done my confidence the world of good going into the World Grand Prix.”

Dutch star Raymond van Barneveld, another two-time World Grand Prix finalist, also goes into the double-start event on a high after winning Sunday’s Players Championship.

The world number nine had been a first round loser in August’s Sydney Darts Masters and also struggled during September, but returned to top form over the ProTour weekend in Dublin.

“I love this game and I love winning – sometimes I love this game too much,” he added. “I want to show the world that I can still play and I want to play against Phil Taylor, James Wade, Michael van Gerwen and Adrian Lewis at my best game.

“Sometimes players like me, James Wade and Adrian Lewis need the pressure to play our best darts. Adrian won on Saturday and I won today, and for some reason it gives us better focus.

“I had a bad September and struggled for the month, but I’ve started well in October and hopefully I’m going to do well for the rest of this year.”

Number six seed Andy Hamilton meets Belgium’s Kim Huybrechts, Justin Pipe plays Andy Smith, Kevin Painter meets Richie Burnett and Dave Chisnall plays Ian White.

The second round of the £350,000 event will be split across Wednesday and Thursday at the Citywest Hotel, with the quarter-finals being held on Friday, the semi-finals on Saturday and the final on Sunday.

Phil Taylor heads the betting at a general price of 2/1, with Michael Van Gerwen a top priced 9/2 with BetVictor. Adrian Lewis is next best in at 9/1 with 888sport with Simon Whitlock a general 14/1 chance. It’s then 16/1 and better the rest.

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