World Darts Championship Day One schedule, preview and predictions: Van Gerwen gets title defence underway
The wait is officially over as the curtain is lifted on the 2020 William Hill World Darts Championship, with the world number one and defending champion in action on Friday evening.
This coming festive period sees 96 competitors from 28 different nationalities compete over 28 sessions, vying to lift the Sid Waddell Trophy and the life-changing £500,000 winner’s prize.
Van Gerwen is joined by World Youth champion Luke Humphries, former semi-finalist Jelle Klaasen, South Africa’s Devon Petersen, Northern Irish qualifier Kevin Burness, as well as Kim Huybrechts and Geert Nentjes on the opening night.
The action will get underway from 7pm at Alexandra Palace in north London, with the television cameras and the millions of viewers around the world being hooked on the biggest tournament in the sport.
TURNING POINT! What a checkout from Jelle Klaasen after Cullen missed a dart for a two-leg advantage. pic.twitter.com/iAlKuFvsqW
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) May 7, 2017
JELLE KLAASEN VS KEVIN BURNESS
As the curtain came down on the draw for the tournament, eyes were drawn to the potential second round clash between Jelle Klaasen and Michael van Gerwen.
However, Kevin Burness will almost certainly have something to say about the tussle occurring – as he did 12 months ago when ousting Paul Nicholson out of not only the tournament, but the PDC circuit as a whole.
Klaasen and Burness have met on two previous occasions, with the Dutchman pulling through victorious in both, including a recent 6-0 whitewashing in a Players Championship event.
Klaasen will be making his 12th PDC World Championship appearance, having missed just one tournament since switching from the BDO to the PDC in 2008.
The Dutchman was one of 32 ProTour qualifiers despite somewhat lacking consistency across the year, whilst Burness stringed together some scintillating performances as he came through the Tour Card Holders’ Qualifier.
Prediction: 3-1 Klaasen – Burness has struggled in terms of results throughout the year and despite playing extraordinary in Wigan’s qualifier, Klaasen will be too much to handle.
Kim Huybrechts lit up the Grand Slam back up in 2014 with this stunning nine-darter against Michael van Gerwen!
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) November 6, 2019
KIM HUYBRECHTS VS GEERT NENTJES
There is one similarity between both Kim Huybrechts and Geert Nentjes, and that is that they are both somewhat known for hitting the perfect nine-dart finish.
Huybrechts rose onto the scene at the World Darts Championship, reaching the quarter-finals in 2012, before nailing perfection two years later at the Grand Slam of Darts against Michael van Gerwen.
This year alone, Nentjes has managed three nine-darters – that’s just one less than the world number one!
The 21-year-old has so far failed to transfer his Development Tour form to the ProTour, however, if he can recoup his form on the youth scene at Alexandra Palace, Huybrechts will be under the cosh.
The pair are very closely matched in terms of current performance – which was evident when the pair locked horns at a Players Championship event in February as Huybrechts edged it 6-5.
A match prior, the Dutchman had whitewashed Mervyn King, whilst averaging 107.4 and completing perfection. Nentjes told dartsnews.com: “I’m thinking of a nine-darter every leg and I want to throw them every leg.”
Prediction: 3-1 Huybrechts – The Belgian has the experience when it comes to the biggest stage of them all. Nentjes is still very much learning his trade at the tender age of 21 years old.
Here it is… the trademark Devon Petersen dance – with a few new moves too! pic.twitter.com/1EHMePT76y
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) December 21, 2017
LUKE HUMPHRIES VS DEVON PETERSEN
If it wasn’t for his mesmerising run at last year’s World Championship, Devon Petersen would not have been on the circuit this year. The South African defeated Wayne Jones, Ian White and Steve West during a deep run at the Ally Pally.
In contrast, if it wasn’t for his World Championship run 12 months ago – as well as his World Youth Championship triumph – Humphries would not be the well respected performer he is today.
The World Darts Championship very much made these two players, and they’ll contest a thriller on Friday evening.
‘Cool Hand’ and ‘The African Warrior’ faced off once before at a European Tour qualifying event in Barnsley – a marginally different situation to the one that beckons for them now. It was Petersen that narrowly reigned victorious on that particular occasion.
Prediction: 3-1 Humphries – The Newbury-based ace will be on top of the world currently after his career-best win in Minehead, and, while Petersen has found his feet this year on the ProTour, Humphries will have fond memories after his quarter-final run last time around.
A few weeks after Michael van Gerwen bemoans the lack of a prize for a nine-dart finish, it's announced £100k will be on offer for a player who does it twice at the worlds.
Wouldn't it be typical of MVG to go and do it twice in one match again…pic.twitter.com/V2Z4I4MIVX
— Chris Hammer (@ChrisHammer180) December 10, 2019
MICHAEL VAN GERWEN VS JELLE KLAASEN / KEVIN BURNESS
As per tournament tradition, the defending champion will feature on the opening night at the Alexandra Palace.
Due to him obviously being a seeded participant and entering the tournament in the second round, Michael van Gerwen is yet to find yet who he’ll face in Friday’s closing affair.
It could be a potential grudge match between two Dutchman who have their differences, or it could be a first ever meeting between the world number one and Kevin Burness.
Van Gerwen has faced Jelle Klaasen on 25 occasions, winning a sublime 18 of them, with his only loses coming on the ProTour.
‘Mighty Mike’ has ousted Klaasen on both the European Championship and Premier League stages and each time he’s faced his countryman on television, he’s prevailed to win the tournament.
Prediction: 3-0 MvG – Klaasen has been persistently inconsistent this year as has Burness but to a further degree, while van Gerwen has remained his in tune self. ‘The Green Machine’ will be determined to win back-to-back world titles and I can’t see him departing this early on.
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