By Alex Moss
23 MAY 2017 • 8:12PM
Gary Anderson will start the defence of the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters title against Phil Taylor tomorrow, while Dutch rivals Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld face off in the curtain-raiser for this year’s World Series of Darts.
The fifth staging of the Dubai Darts Masters takes place over tomorrow and Thursday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, with the open-air setting providing a unique backdrop for the two-day tournament.
The year’s first event of the 2017 World Series of Darts sees defending Dubai champion face off against 16-time world champion Phil Taylor.
Taylor will be making his final appearance in the Dubai tournament ahead of his retirement at the end of the season, while Anderson returns to the scene of the first of his three World Series wins last year.
“It’s a tough game,” Anderson said. “Phil beat me the last time we played in the Premier League so it will be a hard game, and he’ll be trying his damnedest because this is his last year.
“It’s nice to get over to Dubai and be back here. Winning the event last year was a great memory and I’d love to do it again.”
Newly crowned Premier League champion van Gerwen, who won the first three stagings of the Dubai Darts Masters, saw his grip on the title end after losing out to Anderson in last year’s final.
The world number one and reigning world champion faces fellow Dutchman, Raymond van Barneveld, in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, in a repeat of their clash in the final four years ago.
“I’m looking forward to it,” van Gerwen said. “It’s always a fantastic tournament for me and I’ve always played well over here.
“Last year I let Gary Anderson walk away with the trophy, unfortunately I made a few mistakes, but I’m here to try to get it back again.
“That’s what you need to aim for, keep your confidence high and make sure you perform well and also prepare well because you need to get used to the heat again. I feel comfortable about it.”
Van Barneveld was one of just two players to record a win over van Gerwen during the recent Premier League season, and the five-time world champion is targeting another win over his Dutch rival tomorrow.
“There were no easy draws and you know what you’ve got to do – play your best,” van Barneveld said. “To beat Michael, the Premier League champion and world champion, is going to be tough so I hope I play well tomorrow.
“Mike is a machine but someone has to stop him and why not me? If there is one player in darts that can beat him it’s me, I’ve shown that for the last two or three years.”
Elsewhere in the quarter-finals, fourth seed James Wade will face World Series debutant Gerwyn Price, who secured selection for the invitational tournament after his run to the UK Open final in March.
Premier League runner-up Peter Wright, another former finalist in Dubai, goes up against Dave Chisnall in the other quarter-finals, with both players in strong form recently.
“My plan is to come here and win,” said Wright, who picked up his eighth title of the season after winning Players Championship 11 on Saturday.
“I want to make up for losing out in the Premier League so I’m going to try and win this one.
“I think Chizzy is probably playing the best darts of anyone else and you just have to look at the end of the Premier League, when he was unbeaten in seven games, so I’ve got a very hard game.”
2017 Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Raymond van Barneveld
James Wade (4) v Gerwyn Price
Gary Anderson (2) v Phil Taylor
Peter Wright (3) v Dave Chisnall
Schedule of Play
Wednesday May 24 (8pm)
James Wade v Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright v Dave Chisnall
Gary Anderson v Phil Taylor
Michael van Gerwen v Raymond van Barneveld
Best of 19 legs
Thursday May 25 (8pm)
Best of 21 legs
Best of 21 legs