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Article: 2024 Bahrain Darts Masters preview

2024 Bahrain Darts Masters preview

2024 Bahrain Darts Masters preview

The 2024 Bahrain Darts Masters begins on Thursday, as newly crowned World Champion Luke Humphries makes his first competitive appearance since lifting the iconic Sid Waddell Trophy earlier this month.

The sport's biggest names return to The Dome at the Bahrain International Circuit for the second staging of the World Series of Darts event, which will take place from January 18-19.

Thursday's first round will pit eight PDC stars against eight Asian representatives, which includes two local qualifiers from Bahrain who are making their televised debuts.

World number one Humphries will face one of the Host Nation Qualifiers for a place in the quarter-finals, as he opens his title challenge with a clash against Abdulla Saeed.

Humphries has enjoyed a magical run of form over recent months, following up World Grand Prix, Grand Slam of Darts and Players Championship Finals success with victory at Alexandra Palace on January 3.

The 28-year-old is bidding to extend his astonishing 19-match winning run on the big stage in Bahrain, as he bids to lift his fifth televised title in the space of six events.

"I don't know what to expect, because I've never seen Abdulla play, but I won't be taking him lightly because there is a lot of hidden talent out there," insisted the World Champion.

"I am sure he will enjoy the moment and I will enjoy the moment as well, because being in places like this is a real privilege, and I'm sure it will be a great spectacle.

"I'm very excited to hear John McDonald announce me as the new World Champion. I think that is a moment every World Champion looks forward to.

"My motivation is high now. I'm going to be more dedicated than ever, and after what I achieved last year, I want to continue to be successful and win more major titles." 

Reigning champion Michael Smith will also headline a star-studded opening night, as the 2023 World Champion begins his defence of the title against former PDC Asian Championship runner-up Paolo Nebrida.

"It's amazing to be back, and I'm looking forward to getting back on that stage again," reflected Smith, who is now ranked third on the PDC Order of Merit following his fourth round exit at the World Championship.

"When I lost to Chris [Dobey at the World Championship], I literally didn't pick up my darts until a day after the final, but I've been practising again.

"I've had a week in Dubai with the family to recharge the batteries and then I went to the PDC Asian Tour last weekend, which gave me the hunger to get back on the dartboard and get ready for this.

"Bahrain is a beautiful country and I'm really happy to be here, but the main thing is putting on a great show for the crowd over the next few days."

World Championship runner-up Luke Littler will make his highly-anticipated World Series of Darts debut on Thursday, as he faces Hong Kong's Man Lok Leung in a blockbuster first round showdown.

Littler generated global headlines with his record-breaking exploits at Alexandra Palace, enjoying a fairytale run to the final on debut, before succumbing 7-4 to Humphries in a match watched by 4.8m viewers on Sky Sports.

"It's back to business for me now," insisted the World Youth Champion, who will also feature in the 2024 BetMGM Premier League Darts, which gets underway in Cardiff next month.

"My life's changed and my family's life has changed and I'm grateful for the opportunities I'm getting.

"It's been crazy. Warrington Wolves invited me down and I went to the Manchester United game [last weekend] and met Sir Alex Ferguson.

"To meet him was amazing and he said some lovely things to me about staying dedicated and believing in myself.

"I've chilled out and not really thrown many darts since the World Championship final, but I'm sure that once I'm in the practice room I'll be alright, and hopefully I can have a good event here."

Michael van Gerwen and Nathan Aspinall will also make their debuts in Bahrain this week, with Van Gerwen pitted against local qualifier Hasan Haji in his opener.

The Dutch superstar is the most successful player in World Series of Darts history, scooping titles in New York and Warsaw in 2023, before claiming a fifth World Series Finals crown in Amsterdam.

Van Gerwen overcame Aspinall to triumph on home soil in September, and the World Matchplay champion kicks off his campaign against the enigmatic Lourence Ilagan, who topped the 2023 Asian Tour Order of Merit.

Elsewhere, 2023 Bahrain Darts Masters runner-up Gerwyn Price will play Filipino qualifier Reynaldo Rivera, while two-time World Champion Peter Wright meets PDC Asian Champion Haruki Muramatsu.

The remaining first round tie will see 2018 World Champion Rob Cross play emerging Japanese star Tomoya Goto, who showcased his credentials at last month’s World Championship.

Following Thursday's first round, the 2024 Bahrain Darts Masters concludes on Friday with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final in one bumper session.

The Bahrain Darts Masters will be broadcast live on PDCTV in all territories other than Germany, Austria & Switzerland (coverage via DAZN).

UK viewers can watch through ITVX on Thursday and on ITV4 for Friday's final stages.

2024 Bahrain Darts Masters
Draw Bracket

(1) Luke Humphries v Abdulla Saeed
Gerwyn Price v Reynaldo Rivera
(4) Nathan Aspinall v Lourence Ilagan
Luke Littler v Man Lok Leung
(2) Michael van Gerwen v Hasan Haji
Rob Cross v Tomoya Goto
(3) Michael Smith v Paolo Nebrida
Peter Wright v Haruki Muramatsu

Schedule of Play
Thursday January 18 (1900 local time, 1600 GMT)

First Round
Peter Wright v Haruki Muramatsu
Gerwyn Price v Reynaldo Rivera
Nathan Aspinall v Lourence Ilagan
Rob Cross v Tomoya Goto
Luke Littler v Man Lok Leung
Luke Humphries v Abdulla Saeed
Michael van Gerwen v Hasan Haji
Michael Smith v Paolo Nebrida

Friday January 19 (1900 local time, 1600 GMT)

First Round - Best of 11 legs
Quarter-Finals - Best of 11 legs
Semi-Finals - Best of 13 legs
Final - Best of 15 legs

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