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MICHAEL VAN GERWEN is aiming to retain his Unibet Masters title this weekend in Milton Keynes to kick off 2016 in the same manner he began an imperious year 12 months ago.

The Dutch star proved untouchable as he took home the £60,000 first prize in last year^s Masters, which features the world^s top 16 players competing across two days at ArenaMK in Milton Keynes, live on ITV4.

Van Gerwen defied 13 maximum 180s from Dave Chisnall as he edged their quarter-final 10-9 before hitting 14 180s of his own in a stunning defeat of Raymond van Barneveld in the final, as the world number one averaged 112.

He went on to win another 17 tournaments during an incredible 2015, and is hoping that this year^s Masters - where he is the 2/1 favourite with sponsors Unibet - can mark the start of another successful year.

The 26-year-old opens his challenge in this year^s event against Stephen Bunting on Saturday night, and said: "My targets are very high again this year and I hope that I can retain my title and send out a message again for the rest of the year.

"It^s going to be difficult to beat last year, but it^s a massive target. Last year was special and I^m really happy with that because you never know how many tournaments you^re going to win this year.

"You try to play as well as possible in every tournament that you play in, because if you don^t then you might as well stay at home with the standard now, and I always give it my all.

"Any tournament that you win is special, but this is only the top 16 so it^s the best of the best and I want to win it again. Hopefully I^ll have prepared well and I^ll play well."

World Champion Gary Anderson is up against another Dutch star, Vincent van der Voort, as he begins his challenge to follow up last month^s Alexandra Palace victory with another title.

Anderson swept past van der Voort in straight sets when they met in the World Championship last month, but said: "This will be a completely different game but I^m looking forward to it.

"I^ve not played competitively since the World Championship so I^m not sure what to expect, but it will be great to get back on the board. I did well last year to reach the semi-finals and I^d love to do even better this weekend."

The first round also features a tasty rematch between 2013 Masters champion Phil Taylor and debutant Jelle Klaasen, just over a month after the Dutchman took victory when they met at the third round stage of the World Championship.

Number three seed Adrian Lewis opens up against Belgian ace Kim Huybrechts, while 2014 champion James Wade - who took the title with his memorable comeback against Mervyn King - will meet Terry Jenkins.

World Grand Prix champion Robert Thornton opens the event against Dave Chisnall, while Peter Wright faces Ian White and debutant Michael Smith plays 2015 runner-up Raymond van Barneveld.

The £200,000 tournament will conclude on Sunday, with the quarter-finals taking place in the afternoon session and the semi-finals and final in the evening session.

2016 Unibet Masters
First Round Draw & Tournament Bracket
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Stephen Bunting (16)
Michael Smith (8) v Raymond van Barneveld (9)
Phil Taylor (4) v Jelle Klaasen (13)
Peter Wright (5) v Ian White (12)
Gary Anderson (2) v Vincent van der Voort (15)
Robert Thornton (7) v Dave Chisnall (10)
Adrian Lewis (3) v Kim Huybrechts (14)
James Wade (6) v Terry Jenkins (11)

Schedule of Play
Saturday January 30
Afternoon Session (12.45pm-5pm)
First Round x4
Robert Thornton v Dave Chisnall
James Wade v Terry Jenkins
Peter Wright v Ian White
Michael Smith v Raymond van Barneveld

Evening Session (7pm-11pm)
First Round x4
Adrian Lewis v Kim Huybrechts
Phil Taylor v Jelle Klaasen
Gary Anderson v Vincent van der Voort
Michael van Gerwen v Stephen Bunting

Sunday January 31
Afternoon Session (12.45pm-5pm)
Lewis/Huybrechts v Wade/Jenkins
Anderson/van der Voort v Thornton/Chisnall
Taylor/Klaasen v Wright/White
van Gerwen/Bunting v Smith/van Barneveld

Evening Session (7pm-11pm)

First Round - Best of 19 legs
Quarter-Finals - Best of 19 legs
Semi-Finals - Best of 21 legs
Final - Best of 21 legs

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