The world’s top 16 darts players go head-to-head in Edinburgh this weekend as a bumper autumn of televised darts continues with the 2014 Unibet Masters, live on ITV4.
Featuring the best of the best from PDC darts, including last year’s inaugural champion Phil Taylor, the Masters tournament sees all the players in within the top 16 of the Order of Merit rankings square off over two days in front of raucous Scottish crowd at the Royal Highland Centre.
Taylor defends his title against his familiar rivals which include reigning world champion Michael van Gerwen, who also won last weekend’s European Championship in Germany, televised by ITV4, as well as last year’s Masters runner-up Adrian Lewis.
Three Scottish players will have the vociferous support of the home fans with 2014 World Championship finalist Peter Wright and 2012 UK Open Robert Thornton – who both competed last year – joined by resurgent Gary Anderson, who has jumped back up to seventh in the Order of Merit having rediscovered his form on the non-televised floor tournaments this year.
James Wade, Dave Chisnall, Andy Hamilton, Wes Newton, Brendan Dolan, Mervyn King, Ian White, Raymond van Barneveld and Kim Huybrechts are the other current members of the PDC’s top 16.
The Masters is a unique event among the PDC’s packed calendar of televised events in that only the top 16 players in the world rankings are invited to compete and, compared to other ITV4 tournaments, the early matches are played over a longer format, with the first round and quarter-final matches played over the best the 19 legs, while the semi-finals and final are best of 21 legs.
16-time world champion Taylor, who has not a had a vintage year by his very high standards, claimed glory in the inaugural Masters event last year, sweeping aside his Stoke-on-Trent rival Adrian Lewis 10-1 with a stunning performance in the final.
Taylor picked up the £50,000 winner’s cheque, adding his name to yet another new trophy and will be the man to beat this weekend as the leading lights in darts travel north of the border.
World number one Michael van Gerwen, who won the World Grand Prix in October, is however the pre-tournament favourite with the tournament sponsors Unibet, with Taylor not far behind.
James Wade’s resurgence in recent months sees him as a strong contender for the title, alongside in-form Gary Anderson, with last year’s runner-up Adrian Lewis also in the mix, though the strength in depth among the top PDC players means that all 16 players more than have an equal chance of claiming the title.
Among the fascinating head-to-heads in the opening round sees world champion van Gerwen face off against his Dutch compatriot and five-time World Championship winner Raymond van Barneveld.
PDC chairman Barry Hearn commented: “We’ve thrown up some very special games for darts fans during this event. It is the best versus the best – the top 16 in the world – and it’s an event not to be missed.”
With the nights drawing in this autumn and winter, the usual plethora of world class darts continues apace with the second staging of the PDC Masters and the whole tournament will be live and free on ITV4 this weekend.
ITV Sport will broadcast both days from the 2014 PDC Unibet Masters exclusively live from the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh on November 1-2.
Live coverage of all four sessions will be shown on ITV4 and in high-definition on ITV4 HD across the weekend, with each session of play introduced by Matt Smith alongside regular ITV pundits and former PDC professionals Chris Mason and Alan Warriner-Little.
Stuart Pyke and John Rawling lead the commentary team alongside Mason and Warriner-Little, while Ned Boulting conducts the pre and post-match interviews with the players.
ITV4’s live coverage starts on Saturday lunchtime at 12.45pm and continues through to Sunday, with the quarter finals taking place in the afternoon, followed by the semi-finals and final in the evening, when the second PDC Masters champion will be crowned.
Darts fans who are away from their TV sets can watch the whole tournament live online via ITV Player, available on the web and via the app on all major mobile devices.
The tournament is part of ITV4’s bumper autumn of live free-to-air darts, which began last weekend with European Championship, and concludes at the end of November with the Players Championship in Minehead.
ITV Sport signed a three-year deal with the PDC last year to cover four televised PDC events during the annual tour calendar, a deal which runs until the end of 2015.
Visit the official PDC website – pdc.tv – for more information, results and statistics about the tournament.
Saturday 1st November DAY 1: Afternoon Session – Round 1 LIVE: 12.45pm-5.00pm ITV4 Peter Wright v Justin Pipe
Dave Chisnall v Robert Thornton
Simon Whitlock v Mervyn King
Adrian Lewis v Kim Huybrechts DAY 1: Evening Session – Round 1 LIVE: 7.00pm-11.00pm ITV4 James Wade v Brendan Dolan
Phil Taylor v Wes Newton
Michael van Gerwen v Raymond van Barneveld
Gary Anderson v Andy Hamilton
Sunday 2nd November DAY 2: Afternoon Session – Quarter Finals LIVE: 12.45pm-4.55pm ITV4 Whitlock/King v Wright/Pipe
Wade/Dolan v Lewis/Huybrechts
Taylor/Newton v Anderson/Hamilton
van Gerwen/van Barneveld v Chisnall/Thornton DAY 2: Evening Session – Semi Finals & Final LIVE: 7.00pm-11.00pm ITV4