The Masters - Preview

The 2024 Cazoo Masters gets underway on Friday evening, as 24 of the sport's top stars compete for the title across three days of action at Milton Keynes' Marshall Arena from February 2-4.
Friday's opening night will see players ranked from 9-24 on the PDC Order of Merit in action, including reigning Masters champion Chris Dobey.
Dobey will open his title defence against UK Open champion Andrew Gilding on Friday evening, as he bids to become only the second player to retain the title since the tournament's inception. The 33-year-old defeated 2018 World Champion Rob Cross to triumph in last year's showpiece, overcoming four televised title winners on his way to celebrating a maiden televised success.

"The Masters is where I won my first TV title, so it's an event that holds great memories for me," said Dobey, who reached four TV ranking quarter-finals during a consistent 2023 campaign. "My practice is going well after the World Championship, so I am confident I can keep my good form going. "I still think I have a lot more to give, so hopefully this year is where I make my big breakthrough. "Andrew is another major winner, and he has his own style as well. I'm going to have to deal with that, but hopefully I can knuckle down and get the job done."

Dobey could take on five-time champion Michael van Gerwen in Saturday's second round, as the Dutch superstar eyes a record-extending sixth Milton Keynes crown. Van Gerwen is hoping to continue his positive start to 2024, having stormed to victory on home soil in last weekend's Dutch Darts Masters.

"It's always nice to lift titles," admitted the world number two, a winner of five successive Masters titles between 2015 and 2019. "It was a great event [in Den Bosch], but then you need to make sure you get back to reality, because now we have more tournaments on the doorstep. "I'm feeling comfortable in my game, I'm quite positive and I'm looking forward to this event. "I want to do well in every tournament I am competing in, but you need to stay focused, so I am just taking it game by game, tournament by tournament."
World Champion Luke Humphries will also headline Saturday's second round, with former European Champion Ross Smith or a resurgent Stephen Bunting awaiting the world number one in round two. Humphries won 20 consecutive televised games during a sensational spell between November and January, and the top seed is confident of rediscovering his winning formula over the coming weeks.

"I probably have got a target on my back," conceded Humphries, also a World Grand Prix, Grand Slam and Players Championship Finals winner in 2023. "I don't feel that pressure though. I don't feel like everyone is desperately trying to beat me, but I think there's probably been a bit of hangover from the World Championship. "My practice routine has been a bit up and down. Everyone knows I like to put a lot of practice in, so I'm going to have to adapt [to the schedule], but I believe I'll soon be back playing as well as I did in 2023. "I think this is going to be an exciting year for me, and I've got to make sure that I work hard and stay determined to win more titles."

Last year's runner-up Cross will open his campaign on Saturday afternoon, with Damon Heta and Gabriel Clemens battling it out for the right to face the sixth seed. Cross enjoyed a welcome return to form in 2023, following up back-to-back World Series titles by reaching November's Grand Slam of Darts decider, before progressing to January's World Championship semi-finals.

"My game has been in a really good place over the last year," insisted Cross, who has also returned to the Premier League fold following a two-year absence. "My hunger has come back, and I think I'm playing some of the best darts I've played since I won my World Championship [title] in 2018. "I'm feeling much stronger mentally than I was a couple of years ago, and I feel ready to compete again."

Elsewhere, 2023 World Champion Michael Smith will kick off his campaign against Belgium's Dimitri Van den Bergh or 2014 champion James Wade, who collide in one of Friday's stand-out ties. Gerwyn Price's withdrawal has seen Daryl Gurney replace the Welshman in the draw, and Gurney will play 2022 champion Joe Cullen or his Northern Irish counterpart Josh Rock for a place in the quarter-finals. Jonny Clayton is another former champion in first round action on Friday, as the Welshman takes on Poland's Krzysztof Ratajski for the right to face 2020 winner Peter Wright in round two.
Dirk van Duijvenbode and Ryan Searle will lock horns in the tournament's curtain-raiser on Friday, with a meeting against World Matchplay champion Nathan Aspinall the reward for the winner. Meanwhile, world number seven Danny Noppert has been pitted against two-time runner-up Dave Chisnall or German number two Martin Schindler, who go head-to-head on Day One.
Following Saturday's second round, The Cazoo Masters will conclude on Sunday February 4, with the quarter-finals in the afternoon session, followed by the semi-finals and final in a bumper evening session. The 2024 Cazoo Masters will be broadcast live on ITV in the UK, through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV (excluding Germany, Austria & Switzerland based subscribers).

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