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PHIL TAYLOR will begin the defence of his Sydney Darts Masters title against Australian World Cup star Paul Nicholson on Thursday at the Hordern Pavilion, while Simon Whitlock has drawn qualifier David Platt in the first round of the event.

The leading names in darts are back in Sydney for the PDC^s World Series of Darts event, which will be held at the Hordern Pavilion in Moore Park from August 28-30 and broadcast live on FOX SPORTS.

The 16-player event was won last year by Phil Taylor, the 16-time World Champion and last weekend^s Perth Darts Masters winner who will open his bid to retain the title against Paul Nicholson.

"I^ve got great memories from when I beat Michael van Gerwen in Sydney last year but it^s going to be tough to win the title again," said Taylor, the $2.75 joint-favourite to win the event with sponsors

"That^s part and parcel of it with these World Series events, but I^m enjoying the toughness of it and I^m relishing the competition. I feel good and I love winning.

"Paul^s a great competitor and I know his game really well, and I^ll have to be on my game on Friday against him."

Nicholson, formerly based in Melbourne and the winner of the Players Championship Finals in 2010, has represented Australia in four World Cup of Darts pairs events alongside Simon Whitlock, reaching the 2012 final.

He had been defeated by Taylor in last year^s Sydney Darts Masters and lost to van Gerwen in the quarter-finals in Perth last week, but said: "I feel great after Perth and, even though I lost to Michael, it was a step in the right direction for me.

"I^m getting some consistency in my game. I don^t think anybody expects me to beat Phil, so I^m going to go up there and enjoy it, and if I get shots at doubles I^ll take them.

"My confidence is starting to grow again and I^m starting to feel comfortable with my new darts. It^s all positive and I can^t wait for the future."

World Champion Michael van Gerwen, last year^s runner-up to Taylor in Sydney, will take on New Zealand^s number one player Warren Parry in their first round clash on Thursday.

Van Gerwen has already won World Series of Darts titles in Dubai and Singapore but lost to Taylor in the Perth Darts Masters last weekend, and the joint-favourite said: "I^ve never won a tournament in Australia before so I^d love to do that this weekend.

"Last year I lost to Phil here and last week I lost to him in Perth too, but I hope I can get some revenge and I^m really looking forward to this tournament.

"Australia is a great country and darts is getting bigger over here, which is fantastic. I want to do really well and give the fans some good games this week."

Australian number one Simon Whitlock, meanwhile, will begin his challenge in Sydney against David Platt on Thursday night, with the Perth-based thrower having hit a nine-dart finish in a DPA ranking event on Sunday.

World Championship finalist Peter Wright, the number four seed, has drawn current DPA Australian Grand Prix Order of Merit leader Loz Ryder, from Perth, for their first round clash.

Reigning Premier League Darts champion Raymond van Barneveld will meet another top Australian star, Kyle Anderson, in a tasty first round contest which sees the emerging ace back on home soil after moving to the UK to compete full-time on the PDC circuit.

"He^s a brilliant player," said Barneveld. "I^ve played him twice on the tour and we^ve got one win each. He^s a heavy scorer and I^m looking forward to this game."

Seven-time major champion James Wade faces fellow left-hander Shane Tichowitsch, the Bundaberg thrower who is currently second on the Australian Grand Prix rankings.

2013 World Grand Prix finalist Dave Chisnall opens up against qualifier Damon Heta, while World Series of Darts debutant Stephen Bunting - the reigning Lakeside Champion - has drawn another new face from the DPA circuit, John Weber.

Tickets for Thursday^s Sydney Darts Masters are still available from Ticketek by calling 132 849 or online at

The Sydney Darts Masters will be broadcast live through FOX SPORTS in Australia, as well as via Sky New Zealand, Fox Asia and online through www.LIVEPDC.TV for International Pass Subscribers.

Delayed coverage will be aired through Challenge (Sky channel 145) in the UK & Ireland and through RTL7 in the Netherlands. Sydney Darts Masters
First Round Draw & Tournament Bracket
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Warren Parry
James Wade v Shane Tichowitsch
Peter Wright (4) v Loz Ryder
Stephen Bunting v John Weber
Phil Taylor (2) v Paul Nicholson
Dave Chisnall v Damon Heta
Simon Whitlock (3) v David Platt
Raymond van Barneveld v Kyle Anderson

Thursday August 28 (8pm local time)
First Round Schedule of Play
Dave Chisnall v Damon Heta
Stephen Bunting v John Weber
Peter Wright v Loz Ryder
Raymond van Barneveld v Kyle Anderson
James Wade v Shane Tichowitsch
Phil Taylor v Paul Nicholson
Simon Whitlock v David Platt
Michael van Gerwen v Warren Parry
Best of 11 legs
Tickets: 132 849 or

Friday August 29 (8pm local time)
Best of 15 legs
Tickets: Sold Out

Saturday August 30 (8pm local time)
Best of 19 legs
Best of 21 legs
Tickets: Sold Out

Pre-Tournament Outright Odds
$2.75 Michael van Gerwen
$2.75 Phil Taylor
$9 James Wade
$11 Simon Whitlock
$11 Raymond van Barneveld
$15 Peter Wright
$17 Dave Chisnall
$17 Stephen Bunting
$41 Paul Nicholson
$101 Warren Parry
$151 Loz Ryder
$151 Shane Tichowitsch
$151 David Platt
$151 John Weber
$250 Kyle Anderson
$250 Damon Heta
Odds subject to change and correct at 1pm EST on August 27, courtesy

FOX SPORTS Australia Broadcast Times
Thursday August 28 - 8pm-12am EST on FOX SPORTS 3HD & 3
Friday August 29 - 8pm-11pm EST on FOX SPORTS 2HD & 2
Saturday August 30 - 8pm-11pm EST on FOX SPORTS 2HD & 2
FOX SPORTS is available to Foxtel sports subscribers

In the UK & Ireland, coverage will be shown delayed as live in full on Challenge (Sky channel 145)
Thursday August 28 - 10pm-2am
Friday August 29 - 10pm-1am
Saturday August 30 - 10pm-1am

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