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Dutch Darts Championship: Preview

Luke Humphries has turned down the opportunity to go for a European Tour hat-trick this weekend, but there is still a high-class field ready to take on home hero Michael van Gerwen in the Dutch Darts Championship.

A field of 48 players has assembled at the IJssehallen in Zwolle for the Dutch Darts Championship, the eighth event on the 2022 European Tour, with Michael van Gerwen the 7/2 favourite.

There are 13 events on the European Tour, with the top 32 in its Order of Merit qualifying for the season-ending European Championship.

Van Gerwen and Humphries, who between them have shared six victories in the previous seven events, are well clear in the rankings, with the Dutchman on top.

And he will be looking to extend his advantage in the absence of Humphries, winner of the last two events, who is skipping this weekend's action to attend a friend's wedding.

New name on the trophy

There will be a new name on the Dutch Darts Championship trophy this weekend with big guns Van Gerwen, Gerwyn Price and world champion Peter Wright sure to be highly fancied to take the honours.

Price is a 5/1 shot, Wright 11/2 and - in the absence of Premier League table-topper Jonny Clayton - next best is Michael Smith at 11/1.

There will be a new name on the cup because the only previous running of the competition was staged in 2018 in Maastricht when Ian White beat Ricky Evans 8-5 in the final, but neither man has qualified this time around.

MVG not the only home hope with a chance

It being the Dutch Darts Championship, it means there are a number of home hopefuls toeing the oche with the final places at these events always filled by host nation qualifiers.

That means 11 Dutchmen are going for glory in Zwolle, with Van Gerwen inevitably the one with the pedigree and the class. Like Humphries, he's a three-time European Tour winner this year and simply adores hoovering up prizes.

Of his compatriots, it will be interesting to see if former Lakeside world champion Jelle Klaasen - a 200/1 shot - can move on after showing flashes of his old form last weekend at the European Grand Prix in Stuttgart.

But the one to probably keep an eye on is 22/1 Danny Noppert, runner-up to Van Gerwen in ET4 in Austria at the start of the month and who threw well again last week in Stuttgart, where he reached the quarter-finals.

Starting in round one, Noppert beat Karel Sedlacek, Smith and Nathan Rafferty before running into an inspired Wright, though the Dutchman left the arena with his head held high and a 101 tournament average.

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Can Cross break his duck?

One man who would love to break his European Tour duck this weekend is sixth seed Rob Cross (14/1), who has done everything but win  in recent weeks and who just cannot get across the line.

Six times Cross has been a European Tour finalist, six times he has lost in that final, including three times in 2022.

He was beaten 8-5 by Van Gerwen in Halle in March and then has lost twice to Humphries in the last two weeks, 8-5 in Prague and, agonisingly, 8-7 last time out in Stuttgart.

Humphries and Cross are the best of friends and Cool Hand couldn't resist a sly dig at his mate, laughing that Voltage will have a better chance with him not on the scene in Zwolle.

Cross finds himself in the bottom half of the bracket and that's the far tougher section featuring Van Gerwen, Wright, Premier League finalist Joe Cullen (14/1) and always a danger Dimitri van den Bergh, who is available at 16/1.

Heta to turn up the heat

That means the top half has an open look to it featuring Price, Smith and a stack of genuine contenders, including 16/1 shot Ryan Searle, Dirk van Duijvenbode and Krzyzstof Ratajski.

Jose de Sousa is the one of the big names you'd probably be avoiding backing right now, unlike Damon Heta, who looks a winner-in-waiting every week.

The Australian, a 14/1 shot, has reached a pair of Pro Tour floor finals this year - winning one, beaten in the other - and has also amassed some decent European Tour order of merit points courtesy of a pair of semi-finals.

He made the last four of the German Grand Prix in Munich in April and threw beautifully in Stuttgart last weekend seeing off Mickey Mansell, Searle and Martin Schindler, all by 6-5 scorelines to illustrate that under pressure he's definitely a player you can trust.

He was eventually undone by Cross, 7-4, where Heta produced a near-98 average that simply wasn't good enough against Cross' 110.73.

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