Netherlands Hosts First PDC Ranking Event of the Year

Zwolle is the destination for the 6th European Tour event of the season, with first-round matches getting underway from noon today.

Michael van Gerwen will be welcomed home by a sea of orange shirts and banners as he takes to the stage on Saturday in search of a 5th successive Dutch Darts Masters crown.

The no.1 seed will once again be the bookies favourite following last weekend’s astonishing performances in Germany where he averaged skyward of 109 in the Quarter’s, Semi’s and Final to claim a 10th PDC title of the campaign.

Demolition Job?

So will ‘The Green Machine’ blast his way through the 48-man field once again?

One man who will certainly believe he can knock him off his perch is Darren Webster. ‘The Demolition Man’ proved to be the biggest obstacle to van Gerwen in Sindelfingen- succumbing to a narrow 6-5 defeat in the third-round.

Webster will face Dutch favourite Jeffrey de Graaf or 2017 runner-up Steve Beaton in Round 2 (Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

49 year-old Webster has broken into the elite top 16 in the Order of Merit for the first time in his career, nearly 16 years after entering his first Pro Tour event.

He has progressed immensely over the past few seasons and always seems to raise his game against MVG. Having pushed him in the past at the World Championships and the Players Championship Finals- where he famously led 6-0- Webster will be chomping at the bit for another crack at the Dutchman, should they both make it into the last 16.

Furthermore, ‘Mighty Mike’ lost his last two competitive fixtures on home soil in the Premier League, just last month.

Star Performer

The bottom half of the draw contains 5 of this years’ Premier League participants. But of these, only Peter Wright has performed better in Europe than ‘The Rockstar’ Joe Cullen.

28 year-old Cullen is currently at a career-high of 18 in the Order of Merit (Photo:Lawrence Lustig)

Standing 7th in the European Tour Order of Merit, Cullen has pocketed £22,000 to date, reward for a new-found consistency up on the stage.

Indeed, he has reached at least the Quarter-Finals of all 5 tournaments so far and was 3 darts away from a place in the Final in Austria.

Another strong showing this weekend could see him become the 49th man in PDC history to climb into the top 16. European Tour debutant Adam Huckvale will square-off against rising Dutch star Jermaine Wattimena for the right to face Cullen on Saturday.

Big Hitters and Home Hopefuls

With 11 major titles and 29 major final appearances between them, James Wade, Adrian Lewis and Terry Jenkins will all begin their campaigns in first-round action today.

Whilst Wade has shown in recent weeks that he is still a huge force within the game, Lewis and Jenkins will try once more to breathe life into their own stuttering careers.

Since Jenkins returned full-time to the tour in January he has only managed to reach the last-16 in two out of 15 tournaments that he has entered. ‘The Bull’ has slipped to 43rd in the rankings following his long hiatus in 2017, and faces the prospect of a second-round tie against MVG if he can see off Belgian Mike de Decker this evening.

Jenkins and Lewis have enjoyed magical moments in their careers, but have struggled over the past 12 months (Photo:Lawrence Lustig)

Meanwhile, Lewis will attempt to improve his mediocre record across European competition.

In keeping with the last few years, ‘Jackpot’ withdrew from last weekends’ meeting. His last Semi-Final appearance came at the German Darts Masters way back in 2015, and he lines up against home nation qualifier Jan Dekker in the penultimate game tonight.

With the crowd firmly in his corner, Dekker will fancy his chances against the former Double World Champion. Lewis, on the other hand, needs to start taking these events seriously if he has ambitions of a return to the summit of the sport.

Kiss of Life

Former Lakeside Champion Christian Kist came through qualifying last night and will make his first European Tour appearance of the year, this afternoon.

The hugely talented Dutchman, still only 32, has been cursed with a recurring elbow injury since switching over from the BDO 4 years ago, earning just £2000 in prize money on the Pro Tour this year.

Kist stunned Tony O’Shea to lift the World Title by 7 sets to 5 (Photo:PA)

In any case, ‘The Lipstick’ remains a huge favourite in Holland for his incredible World Championship victory as a virtual unknown commodity in 2012.

Fans will be hoping he can finally overcome adversity and recapture his old form- a tough ask as he faces Aussie world no.25 Kyle Anderson in Round 1.

Follow all the action as it unfolds live in High Definition at PDC.TV!

Schedule of Play

Friday May 11

First Round
Afternoon Session (1pm local time, 12pm BST)
Ryan Joyce v Michael Rosenauer
Toni Alcinas v Dragutin Horvat
James Richardson v Jason Cullen
Adam Huckvale v Jermaine Wattimena
Wayne Jones v Jamie Lewis
Johan Engstrom v James Wilson
Steve Lennon v Rowby-John Rodriguez
Christian Kist v Kyle Anderson

Evening Session (7.15pm local time, 6.15pm BST)
Cameron Menzies v Kevin Munch
Mike De Decker v Terry Jenkins
Jeffrey de Graaf v Steve Beaton
Tobias Mueller v Stephen Bunting
Josh Payne v Jonny Clayton
Ricky Evans v Krzysztof Ratajski
Jan Dekker v Adrian Lewis
James Wade v Cristo Reyes

Saturday May 12
Second Round
Afternoon Session (1pm local time, 12pm BST)
Kim Huybrechts v Jones/J Lewis
John Henderson v Richardson/Jason Cullen
Gerwyn Price v Alcinas/Horvat
Mervyn King v Joyce/Rosenauer
Joe Cullen v Huckvale/Wattimena
Dave Chisnall v Menzies/Munch
Ian White v Kist/Anderson
Michael Smith v Mueller/Bunting

Evening Session (7.15pm local time, 6.15pm BST)
Simon Whitlock v Dekker/A Lewis
Mensur Suljovic v Payne/Clayton
Rob Cross v Lennon/Rodriguez
Peter Wright v Engstrom/Wilson
Jelle Klaasen v Evans/Ratajski
Daryl Gurney v Wade/Reyes
Michael van Gerwen v De Decker/Jenkins
Darren Webster v De Graaf/Beaton

Sunday May 13
Afternoon Session (1pm local time, 12pm BST)

Third Round

Evening Session (7.15pm local time, 6.15pm BST)