Reigning World Darts Championship winner Michael Smith will start his title defence against either Kevin Doets or Stowe Buntz following yesterday’s draw for the iconic Alexandra Palace tournament.
Smith beat Michael van Gerwen 7-4 in the 2023 final having hit an iconic nine-dart finish in the showpiece match.
Van Gerwen will take on either Keane Barry or Reynaldo Rivera in his opening match. Peter Wright and Luke Humphries make up the four favourites for the Ally Pally showdown.
“It is going to be a sad moment because I am going to be introduced as the reigning champion, but if I get beat next time I am going to be the former,” Smith told PA.
“I don’t want to be the former. Eventually it will happen, but I’m not ready for it to end yet. I want to be announced next year as the reigning back-to-back champion, that is what I am striving for.
“I know I can do it, I have to work on my game to find it. I have done it countless times before, it is one more big push now to end the year on a big high.
“It feels like it has gone too quick. I have enjoyed it, I have virtually taken the year off darts, especially the floor events, just to enjoy what I did. Twelve months has gone by too quickly, it’s a bit saddening, but also happy to be at Ally Pally and defend my title.”
Smith’s win in 2023 was his first at the tournament in 12 appearances with last year’s beaten finalist Van Gerwen on three wins from 16 appearances. Former player Phil Taylor leads the way with 14 titles in 25 appearances.
Superstar Fallon Sherrock will need to overcome Jermaine Wattimena before facing 26th seed Martin Schindler – she is in the same quarter as Van Gerwen.