Catch a glimpse of some of the world’s best players in action including two-time defending champion Michael van Gerwen when the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters gets underway on Thursday.
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– INTERVIEW: Brazil striker Marta aiming for World Cup glory
– Friday Night Live at Dubai Sports City all set to kick off
World No 1 van Gerwen will be eyeing his third straight title in the UAE but faces stiff competition from 16-time world champion Phil Taylor, newly-crowned Premier League winner Gary Anderson, Adrian Lewis, Peter Wright, James Wade, Raymond van Barneveld and Stephen Bunting.
And you can see how they fare from 20:00 at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium with tickets still available for Thursday and Friday’s action.
Keen to put last week’s Premier League defeat to Anderson behind him, van Gerwen will enter today’s quarter-final clash against van Barneveld as strong favourite to go all the way.
And the 26-year-old Dutchman is relishing the chance of attempting a hat-trick of titles in Dubai.
— Sport360° (@Sport360) May 27, 2015
“I’ve had a superb two years in Dubai and it holds many good memories,” he said. “But this is a new year and I need to play exceptionally well. There are many good players here and I need to be at my best to do well.”
Having beaten van Barneveld in last week’s Premier League semifinals in London, van Gerwen is wary of his compatriot.
“We’ve played many times before so we know what to expect and it will be a nice game for both of us and also for the crowd.”
With the 2015 Masters and 2014 World Championship among the accolades in his trophy cabinet, van Gerwen acknowledges all eyes will be on him but does not feel under pressure.
“I don’t feel pressure because I’ve been under pressure for the last two years,” he said. “I’m feeling really relaxed. Some things don’t go according to plan in life but you just have to go out there and try to handle the situation as well as you can.”
Unlike many of the tournaments, this event will be played outdoors and van Gerwen admits the hot climate could provide some challenges.
He added: “There is a little bit of difference with the kind of conditions but you have to handle that. I have no problem playing outdoors but playing in the heat is completely different.”
Hoping to register a victory in Dubai, Taylor opens his campaign against world No 5 Wright.
“I will be giving it a good go because I’ve been playing well and doing everything properly in practice, and everything’s going to plan so far,” he said.
Wade, who takes on Anderson in his last-eight clash, is confident of success but admits the competition is wide open.
The world No 6, said: “I haven’t come here to lose and I will give my best and play my natural game that I’ve been doing for the last couple of years.”
He added: “I wouldn’t say there is one person who is the outright favourite to win. In any tournament you feel there may be one or two players in with a chance of winning, but there are five or six players who can win here, including myself.”
Completing the quarter-final line-up is 2011 world champion Lewis, who takes on Bunting. Tickets can be purchased on www.dubai-darts.com/tickets or in person at the Irish Village.
WHAT: Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters
WHEN: Thursday and Friday from 20:00
WHERE: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Garhoud
Sport360 VERDICT: Expect thrilling matches with some of the world’s finest players in action in what will be a vibrant atmosphere.
CONTACT: For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.dubai-darts.com/tickets. Tickets can also be purchased on the day at the venue.
Some argue Phil Taylor is one of Britain’s greatest living sportsman. At 54, he has nothing left to prove, but refuses to quit. Nicknamed ‘The Power’, Taylor has defined and transcended the sport of professional darts for 25 years.
He has 16 world championships to his name – nobody else has won more than five. But as the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters roles into the UAE for its third instalment, the tournament remains a sticking point.
He is yet to win a game in the previous two years with world number one Michael van Gerwen taking home the title on both occasions. There is, though, something different about Taylor this year. The twinkle in his eye a testament to his rejuvenated love of the game.
And ahead of his opening tie against Peter Wright, Sport360 caught up with ‘The Power’.
This is your third time competing in Dubai. What do you make of it?
I’m not just saying this because I’m here but it is my favourite place to visit. I’m lucky enough to have travelled to some wonderful destinations with darts but everything about this place is beautiful. And to me it’s still a city under construction, in the next 10 years it will be something like landing on the moon, it’ll be fantastic.
Coming into this tournament how do you assess your form at the moment?
My form is perfect. It’s lovely. I feel like my darts are bang on at the moment. I’ve been tinkering with my darts a little bit of late but now I’m doing everything as I should do and everything is in order heading into this competition.
— Target Darts (@TargetDarts) May 27, 2015
I got beat in the last 16 of the Players’ Championship last week but I swear I’m playing better than ever, the competition is just so good now, but I love that.
This tournament has not been kind to you so what are your expectations?
I’m so determined to win this tournament because I’ve not had much luck so far in Dubai, and I can’t wait. I have got to do better this year and get past that first round. I am playing well but they are all decent players here. You will get a very tough game no matter who it is you come up against.
You’ve won everything there is in the game, what are your motivations now?
For the first time in my career I’m being a bit selfish because I’m playing for me. I still want to be the best at what I do, I still have the desire to win titles. But it’s the first time I’ve turned down personal appearances and things like that and it’s helping me to focus on my game.
I’ve changed my phone number so many times and got rid of the ‘can I have brigade’ in my life so I’m absolutely loving it right now.
You’ve been in this sport for the best part of 25 years. How do you think darts has grown?
I’m a big shareholder in the PDC and I get a divvy each year, which is just getting bigger and bigger. You couldn’t invest in a better company at the moment and it’s funny because when I decided to do it people thought I was mad but just look at where we are now.
If you were to look at one area of darts for improvement, what would it be?
The World Tour. Barry Hearn [chairman of the Professional Darts Corporation] is so passionate about this tournament. I was going to retire this year at 55 but he’s asked me to stay on another five years!
Barry said “I need you on this tour and then it’s going to go massive”. He’s really excited about the tour but it’s got a bit to go.
Why do you think darts has taken to the hearts of not just the British public but here in the UAE too?
It’s a sport that people can pick up very easily. The rules are very simple and the atmosphere at the places we play at are just brilliant. When I first came to Dubai I expected it to be quiet but it was anything, but – they love it here.
What other sports take your interest when you’re away from the oche?
I love watching rugby. No idea what the rules are but I love it and I of course follow England and half the players are from Wales so we have a lot of fun when that’s on.
In terms of football I’ve supported my hometown club Port Vale for over half a century. My good mate Robbie Williams [multimillionaire singer] is too but I don’t get to see them as much because I’m always away.
Who do you think are the big characters in darts right now?
Michael [van Gerwen]. He’s a very funny guy but you’ve got the others as well because obviously Barney [Raymond van Barneveld] has his own identity and Gary [Anderson] is growing as well.
Peter [Wright] of course is a big character and the joker of the pack. The camaraderie is all right among us all. We spend virtually 52 weeks of the year together so you do get the odd arguments every now and then. It hasn’t come to blows – just yet – although it has been close.
It is difficult but generally it’s very good. Me and Adrian [Lewis] are terrible together. We take the mick out of each other all the time and that’s great because it’s such a busy schedule you haven’t got time to be miserable when you’ve suffered a defeat.
A nine-dart finish is one of the most exciting moments in darts, how does it feel when you’re on for one?
Well this year, it’ll be the car, as Sixt UAE will give an all-new Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 to whoever lands a perfect leg first. I’ve had the grandkids pointing at it but I’ve got six cars already! I’d still love to win it.
What do you do when you get some free time?
In the morning I’ll do some training in the gym and the same in the evening but I enjoy my cycling so I’m doing a lot of that at the moment. That’s one of the biggest changes to darts is what happens away from the spotlight.
We eat healthy now and focus a lot more on that side of things and it has to be done because otherwise you’re not going to last.
When do you think you’ll call it a day?
I’m really not sure. I’ll keep going until I feel like I’ve had enough. Pete Williams, Robbie’s dad, said to me you’ll wake up one morning and you’ll just know. At the moment, I’m loving every minute of it and enjoying myself.
What’s one positive and one negative about a career in darts?
A positive is very easy; you get to travel the world and I would never have done that without darts. But a negative is on the same side of the coin because you have to sacrifice your family. My children are grown up so it’s not too bad now but for the other guys that can be tough.
Happy 40th birthday to Pakistani cricket legend Misbah-ul-Haq, congratulations to Kyle Walker for reaching a quarter century and a huge happy 29th birthday to Michael Oher- (Big Mike) the NFL player who was the inspiration for the film The Blind Side, for which Sandra Bullock won a Best Actress Oscar.
Misbah-ul-Haq is the current Test captain of the Pakistan national cricket team, and was also the One Day International (ODI) captain until his retirement from ODI cricket after the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
Michael Oher is an NFL football player with the Baltimore Ravens. He was the subject of Michael Lewis's book, The Blind Side, and the 2009 film of the same name.
Kyle Walker is a powerful, attacking England international full-back that plies his trade for Tottenham Hotspur.