BetVictor Masters Preview
The 2019 televised darts season gets underway on Friday night as 16 of the world’s best head to Milton Keynes for the seventh edition of the Masters.
Exactly one month on from Michael van Gerwen’s third World Darts Championship triumph, the world number one returns to the competitive oche against debutant Jonny Clayton looking to kick-off a campaign culminating in a fifth consecutive Masters title. As well as Clayton, Joe Cullen and Darren Webster also make their debuts at the unranked event, while Gary Anderson has been forced to withdraw due to ongoing back problems with Stephen Bunting taking his place.
‘The Bullet’ returns to Arena MK after a two-year absence and will play Webster in the opening round on Friday, with Daryl Gurney and Dave Chisnall kicking off proceedings and Mensur Suljović and Michael van Gerwen also featuring on the first night. ‘Mighty Mike’ romped to a fourth consecutive Masters title this time last year, averaging more than 100 in all four of him games and defeating Raymond van Barneveld 11-9 in the final.
Van Barneveld misses the tournament for the first time this year after dropping down the rankings, and his attentions will turn to the start of the Premier League and a return to ProTour action. Former finalist in the Masters, Adrian Lewis, makes a comeback to the showpiece event and will be involved in arguably the pick of the first-round matches, against world number three Peter Wright. It’s another tough draw for ‘Jackpot’ following similar fortunes in the World Grand Prix, European Championship and World Championship, but if he can get past an out of form ‘Snakebite’, he could go one better than he did in 2013.
The aforementioned Anderson has only made one Masters final, where he lost a scintillating game to Van Gerwen, but will now have to wait until the Premier League to get his season up and running. However, even his participation in that is now doubtful with his back issues which have influenced his last two World Championship campaigns and also the start of his Premier League last year. There is perhaps the potential for ‘The Flying Scotsman’ to miss the first week in Newcastle, which would force someone else to play twice if he thinks he can get it sorted within the next two weeks.
In the worst case scenario, Anderson may have to fully withdraw from the Premier League, and there have even been some calls for him to take the first half of 2019 off, get his back fixed and return for July’s World Matchplay. If he did pull out, Simon Whitlock would surely take his place after being pipped by the retiring Raymond van Barneveld. ‘The Wizard’ is also the highest-ranked non-invited player for the Premier League, but this weekend all eyes will be on Milton Keynes.
The Australian takes on Mensur Suljović in another mouth-watering first round clash, which is one of the four games on the Friday night. The arguably more competitive bottom half gets underway on Saturday evening, with the quarter-finals onwards on the Sunday to conclude what should be a high-quality event. Michael van Gerwen will be looking for a now routine triumph in Milton Keynes, but the likes of Michael Smith and Rob Cross will surely have something to say about that.
2019 BetVictor Masters
(1) Michael van Gerwen v (16) Jonny Clayton
(8) Mensur Suljović v (9) Simon Whitlock
(5) Daryl Gurney v (12) Dave Chisnall
(Alt.) Stephen Bunting v (13) Darren Webster
(2) Rob Cross v (15) Joe Cullen
(7) Gerwyn Price v (10) James Wade
(6) Michael Smith v (11) Ian White
(3) Peter Wright v (14) Adrian Lewis
Schedule of Play
Friday February 1 (1900 GMT)
4x First Round
Daryl Gurney v Dave Chisnall
Mensur Suljović v Simon Whitlock
Stephen Bunting v Darren Webster
Michael van Gerwen v Jonny Clayton
Saturday February 2 (1900 GMT)
4x First Round
Gerwyn Price v James Wade
Rob Cross v Joe Cullen
Michael Smith v Ian White
Peter Wright v Adrian Lewis
Sunday February 3
Afternoon Session (1300 GMT)
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
Semi-Finals & Final
First Round – Best of 19 legs
Quarter-Finals – Best of 19 legs
Semi-Finals – Best of 21 legs
Final – Best of 21 legs
First Round Losers £5,000