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Article: Stars Face Double Challenge In World Grand Prix

Stars Face Double Challenge In World Grand Prix

THE World Grand Prix begins on Monday night in Dublin, as 32 of the world^s greatest players gather at the Citywest Hotel Convention Centre for the unique double-start event.

The £350,000 tournament will be played from Monday October 4-Sunday October 10 and screened live on Sky Sports HD - as players battle to deny Phil Taylor a tenth victory in the event.

The World Grand Prix is unique in the darting calendar, with all legs having to both begin and end with a double - ensuring tension and drama throughout the event, especially in the best of three set first round.

Reigning champion Taylor opted not to play in the two Players Championships over the weekend, and has enjoyed a relaxed build-up as he bids to add to his nine wins in the double-start event.

However, his three defeats have all come in the first round - to Kevin Painter in 2001, Andy Callaby in 2004 and Adrian Gray in 2007 - and he admits he will have some nerves against Brendan Dolan on Monday night.

"It^s a short format and Brendan^s in good form so I know I^ll have to be on top of my game from the start," said Taylor. "I^m always a bit apprehensive in the first round here but if you get through that then you can relax as the format gets longer.

"I^m feeling good through. I^ve had a great year so far and prepared well for this, so I^m looking forward to it. Hopefully I can get past Brendan and have another successful week."

Fermanagh-based Dolan also took on Taylor a year ago in the first round, losing 2-0 in sets, but believes he can cause a major upset on Monday night.

"The first round is the only time he^s been beaten in the competition and that^s happened three times, so hopefully last year^s experience of playing against him will help me do the job this time," said Dolan, the world number 37.

"I got beaten 3-1 in both sets last year but I was on doubles when he was checking out so he didn^t run all over me, although the scoreline was 2-0 in sets.

"It looks lopsided but we all have to get to that level, be clinical and take every opportunity that comes our way, especially against a man of his calibre."

The opening night sees eight first round matches take place at the Citywest Hotel, including two-time runner-up Terry Jenkins up against Holland^s Vincent van der Voort, world number four Mervyn King taking on Wayne Jones and Adrian Lewis^ clash with Alan Tabern.

Andy Smith makes his first televised appearance since needing major surgery on an infected leg wound in August, when he takes on Jamie Caven in the tournament^s opening game, while debutants Steve Brown and Steve Farmer will also clash.

Ronnie Baxter, a former semi-finalist in Dublin, will meet Scottish number one Gary Anderson, and Kevin Painter faces Mark Dudbridge in a clash of former World Championship finalists.

Tuesday sees the first round continue with eight further games, including Raymond van Barneveld - the runner-up to Taylor for the past two years - meeting Northern Irish veteran, the oldest player in the event at 69 years old.

Van Barneveld has not played competitively since August 1, when he suffered a quarter-final loss to Jones in the European Championship, and has recently been sidelined with a back injury.

MaGowan, though, is expecting the Dutchman to return to action in good form on Tuesday, having hit a nine-darter in the summer^s World Matchplay after a similar sabbatical.

"I know what he can do and I expect him to play well," said MaGowan, a quarter-finalist in the 2005 World Grand Prix. "I^ve played Raymond a lot of times and beaten him a couple of times - a long time ago, of course!

"I^ll do my best and I^m practising well, and that^s all I can do. The crowd will help me and I always look forward to it because I get good support down there.

"Raymond does a lot of exhibitions in Ireland and he^s very popular anyway, so it^s a game the fans will want to watch."

James Wade, the 2007 champion, will begin his challenge for a second Dublin title when he meets Irish ace Mick McGowan.

"I^d love to win this title again and I feel good about my game at the moment," said Wade, the world number three who won a Players Championship last month.

"Mick will have lots of support because he^s local but hopefully I can silence his fans, get through the first round and have a good week."

Irish fans will also get the chance to cheer on a home hope when Limerick^s emerging talent William O^Connor faces Welshman Barrie Bates on his World Grand Prix debut.

O^Connor has made a big impression in his maiden year as a professional, reaching the last 32 at the UK Open in June, and admitted: "I^m very nervous but looking forward to playing on stage in this.

"It^s been an amazing year for me and maybe I didn^t expect to do this well as quickly, but I^m enjoying myself and can^t wait to play on Tuesday."

In-form Simon Whitlock - who won Saturday^s Players Championship at the Citywest Hotel - will face Paul Nicholson, January^s Players Championship Finals winner who used to be based in Melbourne, in a tasty all-Australian battle.

Colin Lloyd, the 2004 champion, faces Wes Newton, 60-year-old Dennis Priestley plays Andy Hamilton, Denis Ovens drew Mark Walsh and Colin Osborne takes on Holland^s Co Stompe.

Tournament sponsors make Phil Taylor the 4/9 favourite, with van Barneveld and Whitlock the 9/1 joint second-favourites and James Wade priced at 10/1. World Grand Prix Schedule of Play
Monday October 4
First Round
6.00pm Andy Smith v Jamie Caven
6.40pm Terry Jenkins v Vincent van der Voort
7.20pm Steve Brown v Steve Farmer
8.00pm Adrian Lewis v Alan Tabern
8.40pm Ronnie Baxter v Gary Anderson
9.20pm Phil Taylor v Brendan Dolan
10.00pm Kevin Painter v Mark Dudbridge
10.40pm Mervyn King v Wayne Jones

Tuesday October 5
First Round
6.00pm Dennis Priestley v Andy Hamilton
6.40pm Denis Ovens v Mark Walsh
7.20pm Colin Osborne v Co Stompe
8.00pm Colin Lloyd v Wes Newton
8.40pm James Wade v Mick McGowan
9.20pm Raymond van Barneveld v John MaGowan
10.00pm Simon Whitlock v Paul Nicholson
10.40pm William O^Connor v Barrie Bates

Wednesday October 6
Second Round
6.00pm King/Jones v Brown/Farmer
7.30pm Jenkins/van der Voort v Lewis/Tabern
9.00pm Taylor/Dolan v Smith/Caven
10.30pm Baxter/Anderson v Painter/Dudbridge

Thursday October 7
Second Round
6.00pm van Barneveld/MaGowan v Ovens/Walsh
7.30pm Whitlock/Nicholson v Priestley/Hamilton
9.00pm Wade/McGowan v Osborne/Stompe
10.30pm Lloyd/Newton v O^Connor/Bates

Friday October 8
6.00pm Jenkins/van der Voort/Lewis/Tabern v King/Jones/Brown/Farmer
7.45pm van Barneveld/MaGowan/Ovens/Walsh v Lloyd/Newton/O^Connor/Bates
9.15pm Taylor/Dolan/Smith/Caven v Baxter/Anderson/Painter/Dudbridge
10.45pm Whitlock/Nicholson/Priestley/Hamilton v Wade/McGowan/Osborne/Stompe

Saturday October 9

Sunday October 10

Preceded at 6.15pm by Irish Matchplay Final, Michael Mansell v Stephen Byrne (best of 11 legs)

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