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Stuart Dalgleish 30th Jan 2015 - 20:30

Masters Darts preview - Dave Allen

JAMES WADE will face Mervyn King in a rematch of the 2014 Masters final when this year's £200,000 tournament kicks off at ArenaMK in Milton Keynes on Saturday.

World number six Wade picked up the eighth major title of his career last year when he produced one of the sport's greatest fightbacks, coming from 9-2 down to defeat King 11-10 in a thrilling deciding leg.

With the first round for the event - which features the top 16 players from the PDC Order of Merit - being played in a draw bracket based on rankings, Wade has been paired against number 11 seed King in Saturday's opener.

The left-hander is aiming for a faster start when they play over the best of 19 legs in Milton Keynes, live on ITV4, but is in confident mood ahead of his title defence.

"It brings back good memories playing against Mervyn, but I imagine that this will be a different game," said Wade.

"I'll probably need to start a bit quicker, but perhaps the game will be in his mind a little bit too and that may be an advantage if it comes down to the nitty gritty. He'll probably be pretty keen, so it should be a good game.

"It would be lovely to retain this title. It's an honour to be playing against these players so to win it twice would be brilliant."

New World Champion Gary Anderson plays his first match since lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy on January 4 when he takes on Andy Hamilton in their opener on Saturday night.

"It's been a whirlwind three weeks," admitted Anderson. "The reaction since I won the World Championship has been fantastic but I've got to put that behind me on Saturday and get back to business.

"It will be great to be introduced as World Champion but then I've got to concentrate on playing because that means nothing once the referee calls 'Game On' against Andy."

World number one Michael van Gerwen takes on Wes Newton, with the Dutchman having enjoyed a holiday in the Maldives since his semi-final defeat to Anderson in the World Championship.

"I've had a good break and am feeling refreshed, but I'm looking forward to getting back to playing on Saturday," said van Gerwen.

"This is a great tournament because it's only the top 16 players in the world, so it would be brilliant to win but first I have to get myself ready to play Wes because he's a fantastic player."

2013 Masters winner Phil Taylor is also making his first competitive appearance since the World Championship final and playing for the first time since his mother passed away a fortnight ago as he takes on Terry Jenkins - a two-time major finalist during 2014.

Reigning UK Open champion Adrian Lewis' last competitive appearance saw him land a nine-darter in the World Championship against Raymond van Barneveld, only to lose out to the Dutchman.

Lewis faces Stoke rival Ian White on Saturday afternoon, and said: "I've known Ian for a lot of years and he's a good mate - but when I play him there's no friends on the oche!

"We've had some great battles and he's a quality player. He's got a lovely rhythm to his throw, and he's a very tough competitor, so I've got to be on my guard.

"My form's really good and I'm looking forward to the year ahead. I can't wait to get back playing again."

World number five Peter Wright kicks off the tournament against Brendan Dolan, and Scottish star Robert Thornton plays 2014 Grand Slam of Darts finalist Dave Chisnall.

Van Barneveld, meanwhile, meets Australian ace Simon Whitlock as the pair bid to make a winning return to action since the World Championship.

The third staging tournament - which has seen an increase of £40,000 in prize money to be worth a total of £200,000 - will conclude on Sunday, with the afternoon session's quarter-finals followed by the semi-finals and final in the evening session.

The move to the new ArenaMK has proven a huge success, with Sunday's decisive evening session sold out and only a small number of tickets still available for the other three sessions over the weekend.

Tickets can still be purchased either online via www.arenamk.com or in person at the ArenaMK Box Office.

Schedule of Play
Saturday January 31
Afternoon Session (12.45pm-5pm)
4x First Round Games
Peter Wright v Brendan Dolan
Robert Thornton v Dave Chisnall
Adrian Lewis v Ian White
Simon Whitlock v Raymond van Barneveld

Evening Session (7pm-11pm)
4x First Round Games
James Wade v Mervyn King
Phil Taylor v Terry Jenkins
Gary Anderson v Andy Hamilton
Michael van Gerwen v Wes Newton

Sunday February 1
Afternoon Session (12.45pm-5pm)
Wright/Dolan v Lewis/White
van Gerwen/Newton v Thornton/Chisnall
Taylor/Jenkins v Whitlock/Barneveld
Wade/King v Anderson/Hamilton

Evening Session (7pm-11pm)

First Round - Best of 19 legs
Quarter-Finals - Best of 19 legs
Semi-Finals - Best of 21 legs
Final - Best of 21 legs

Prize Fund
Winner £60,000
Runner-Up £25,000
Semi-Finalists £17,500
Quarter-Finalists £10,000
Last 16 £5,000
Total £200,000

In addition, should a nine-dart finish be achieved there will be a bonus of £5,000. Should more than one player achieve a nine-darter during this event, the bonus will be shared on a pro-rata basis.

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