Van Gerwen odds-on for world title defence

Michael van Gerwen will begin his World Championship defence against fellow countryman Christian Kist.

Reigning champion Van Gerwen, the 4/5 pre-tournament favourite with William Hill, will begin his challenge to claim a third Alexandra Palace triumph against former Lakeside Champion Kist.

Legendary 16-time World Champion Phil Taylor takes part in his last finals, as he will will retire following the World Championship.

The 16-time World Champion has been drawn against one of the sport’s top young prospects for the first round as he takes on Bedlington’s Chris Dobey, the world number 38.

Number two seed Peter Wright has drawn debutant Diogo Portela, who will become the first Brazilian to compete in the World Championship next month after making his breakthrough in 2017.

Two-time World Champion Gary Anderson, whose bid to claim a third successive title was ended by Van Gerwen in last year’s final, will take on the winner of the preliminary round meeting between Canada’s Jeff Smith and young Englishman Luke Humphries, the 2017 PDC Unicorn Development Tour Order of Merit winner.

Number four seed Daryl Gurney, October’s World Grand Prix champion, drew Belgian ace Ronny Huybrechts, whose younger brother Kim will meet James Richardson in the first round.

Champions League of Darts winner Mensur Suljovic, seeded fifth, plays 2004 World Championship finalist Kevin Painter in a tasty fixture, while five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld meets emerging star Richard North and Dave Chisnall drew Dutchman Vincent van der Voort.

Adrian Lewis, the 2011 and 2012 World Champion, will play either Russia’s Aleksandr Oreshkin or Germany’s Kevin Munch, with 2010 finalist Simon Whitlock set to face German newcomer Martin Schindler.

Three-time semi-finalist James Wade takes on former World Youth Champion Keegan Brown, Jelle Klaasen faces an all-Dutch tie with Jan Dekker, Michael Smith drew Irish debutant Steve Lennon and Benito van de Pas plays Steve West.

Alan Norris, the 15th seed, will meet Finland’s Kim Viljanen, whose fellow countryman Marko Kantele drew Scottish ace John Henderson, a World Grand Prix semi-finalist last month.

Welshman Gerwyn Price, seeded 16th, drew debutant Ted Evetts after the youngster won the PDPA Qualifier in Milton Keynes on Monday to secure his first World Championship appearance.

Number 17 seed Ian White will play either American policeman Willard Bruguier or New Zealand’s Cody Harris, while Joe Cullen drew quick-fire Dutchman Jermaine Wattimena.

European Championship finalist Rob Cross, the 9/1 co-third favourite with William Hill on his World Championship debut following a remarkable first year as a professional, has drawn either Japan’s Seigo Asada or Australia’s Gordon Mathers.

Former Lakeside Champion Stephen Bunting plays new World Youth Champion Dimitri Van den Bergh, Mervyn King drew Austrian qualifier Zoran Lerchbacher and Darren Webster faces South Africa’s Devon Petersen.

Auckland Darts Masters winner Kyle Anderson has drawn debutant Peter Jacques, the postal worker from Huddersfield who has broken through in 2017, while former Lakeside Champion Steve Beaton meets Irish Matchplay winner William O’Connor.

Spanish duo Cristo Reyes and Antonio Alcinas drew each other for their first round contest, while Justin Pipe takes on either Chinese youngster Xiao Chen Zong or New Zealand’s Bernie Smith.

Former UK Open and World Grand Prix winner Robert Thornton plays either Croatia’s Alan Ljubic or Northern Ireland’s Brendan Dolan, with former Lakeside Champion Mark Webster meeting Hong Kong’s Kai Fan Leung or Singapore’s legendary Paul Lim.

Welshman Jonny Clayton, the runner-up to Van Gerwen in the Players Championship Finals, meets either Belgium’s Kenny Neyens or fellow countryman Jamie Lewis, and 32nd seed James Wilson plays Polish debutant Krzystof Ratajski.

The William Hill World Darts Championship will be held from December 14 to January 1 at London’s Alexandra Palace.

First Round Draw:
(1) Michael van Gerwen v Christian Kist
(32) James Wilson v Krzystof Ratajski
(16) Gerwyn Price v Ted Evetts
(17) Ian White v Willard Bruguier/Cody Harris
(8) Dave Chisnall v Vincent van der Voort
(25) Steve Beaton v William O’Connor
(9) Raymond van Barneveld v Richard North
(24) Kyle Anderson v Peter Jacques
(5) Mensur Suljovic v Kevin Painter
(28) Robert Thornton v Alan Ljubic/Brendan Dolan
(12) Jelle Klaasen v Jan Dekker
(21) Stephen Bunting v Dimitri Van den Bergh
(4) Daryl Gurney v Ronny Huybrechts
(29) John Henderson v Marko Kantele
(13) Michael Smith v Steve Lennon
(20) Rob Cross v Seigo Asada/Gordon Mathers
(2) Peter Wright v Diogo Portela
(31) Jonny Clayton v Kenny Neyens/Jamie Lewis
(15) Alan Norris v Kim Viljanen
(18) Kim Huybrechts v James Richardson
(7) Adrian Lewis v Aleksandr Oreshkin/Kevin Munch
(26) Cristo Reyes v Antonio Alcinas
(10) Simon Whitlock v Martin Schindler
(23) Darren Webster v Devon Petersen
(6) Phil Taylor v Chris Dobey
(27) Justin Pipe v Xiao Chen Zong/Bernie Smith
(11) James Wade v Keegan Brown
(22) Mervyn King v Zoran Lerchbacher
(3) Gary Anderson v Jeff Smith/Luke Humphries
(30) Mark Webster v Kai Fan Leung/Paul Lim
(14) Benito van de Pas v Steve West
(19) Joe Cullen v Jermaine Wattimena


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