Darts has been booming in the UK and beyond for some time and after a successful foray into the UAE in 2013, the best in the business are in town once again.
Eight players – led by reigning Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters champion Michael van Gerwen, 16- time World Champion Phil Taylor and new Premier League Darts champion Raymond van Barneveld – will contest the second staging of the World Series of Darts event at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Thursday and Friday night.
The tournament also features UK Open champion Adrian Lewis, former European Champion Simon Whitlock, seven-time major winner James Wade and Premier League Darts stars Peter Wright and Dave Chisnall.
Sally Edwards, director of Dubai Calendar, said: “Complementing a sporting line-up including the richest horse race in the world, the Dubai World Cup, the annual Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters is yet another example of the emirate’s first-class sporting events offering.
"Welcoming darting champions from across the globe, the Masters not only delights Dubai’s expat community, but also showcases the traditional 1800’s pub game of darts to a diversity of cultures currently unfamiliar with the sport.
"We look forward to welcoming these international darting heavyweights to the city, and to seeing the delight on the faces of supporters and newcomers to the sport at The Irish Village as the drama unfolds.”
So if you’ve booked your tickets for the two-day event then you’re in for a treat as the men set to battle it out have proven themselves to be the sport’s elite. If you haven’t then there will still be tickets (first come, first served) on the night.
Spectators must be 21 and over, with ticket prices starting from Dh250 for one day, and Dh399 for an event pass.
Van Gerwen, who will face Wade first, will be looking to make it two successive wins in Dubai, but knows he will have to adapt to playing outdoors to get the job done.
He said: “Last year I handled the conditions quite well so I’m really looking forward to trying to win it again. I like to play in Dubai as it is something very different for us.
“There is always a bit of extra pressure being number one but I think I am handling it well. I was the favourite going into the world championships and I won them so I am feeling confident."
He added: “James Wade is a fantastic player and we are very good friends. I actually stayed in his house before flying out and I just knew I would be drawn against him.
“He’s a very good player but has struggled a little in the last year, whereas I have enjoyed some really good form.”
Meanwhile, Van Barneveld arrives having just bagged the Premier League title, but says he has already had a wobble to remind him he’ll have to apply himself.
“I was extremely happy with the win (the Premier League) last Thursday but I played two pro tours on Saturday and Sunday and went out in the first round so it put me back down to earth,” he said. “I played really badly those two days so maybe there was too much going on in my head after winning the Premier League. It makes me sharp for this week though.”
Barny admits coming to Dubai adds a touch of glamour and plans to cope with playing outdoors by using different flights on his darts.
“It’s the whole atmosphere (here in Dubai), your family, everyone is jealous,” he said. “You feel like a popstar. I could get used to that!
“At the venue if you play fast then the draft can’t get a hold of a dart so perhaps it will help Michael (van Gerwen).
“But if you play with a bow like I do then it can go straight in fives or 12s which is why I put a different flight on.”
Usually the headline act, however, is the 16-time world champ, Taylor – and ‘the Power’ is keen to put on a show.
He said: “I’d love to win this. I don’t keep trophies in my house to be honest but this is one I would keep. I love Dubai and it’s getting better. It’s a tournament I’ve never won and I want to win everything before I retire.”
Thursday, May 29, from 8pm (Best of 19 legs)
Adrian Lewis v Raymond van Barneveld
Simon Whitlock v Dave Chisnall
Phil Taylor v Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen v James Wade
Friday, May 30, from 8pm (Best of 21 legs)
Van Gerwen/Wade v Lewis/Van Barneveld
Taylor/Wright v Whitlock/Chisnall
WHAT: Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters.
WHEN: Thursday and Friday from 20:00
WHERE: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Irish Village.
COST: One-day ticket from Dh250. Event pass Dh399. AGES: 21+.
Sport360 VERDICT: It’s the second time the competition will be held in the UAE, and with the biggest names in the sport here, it will be two nights of top quality matches.