PDC World Championship 2020 preview: Van Barneveld set for farewell, Van Gerwen seeks fourth title

Raymond van Barneveld
Raymond van Barneveld made his first World Championship appearance in 1991 at Lakeside
William Hill PDC World Darts Championship 2020
Date: 13 December 2019-1 January 2020 Venue: Alexandra Palace, London
Coverage: Daily reports on the BBC Sport website and app, plus live text coverage of the final on 1 January

Darts fans will say goodbye to a legend of the sport at the 2020 PDC World Championship, with five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld preparing to toe the oche one last time before retiring.

World number one Michael van Gerwen, the defending champion, is chasing a fourth world title, but there are plenty of contenders aiming for the £500,000 first prize when the tournament concludes on 1 January.

Here are some of the stories to follow...

Saying goodbye to Barney

Van Barneveld said in November 2018 that this would be his final tournament, although the end could have happened a lot sooner.

A poor showing and early elimination from this year's Premier League prompted Van Barneveld to announce his immediate retirement in March, only to reverse his decision 24 hours later.

The hugely popular 52-year-old won the BDO World Championship four times (1998, 1999, 2003 and 2005) before switching to the Professional Darts Corporation circuit in 2006 and beat Phil Taylor for his fifth world title - and first with the PDC - a year later in one of the greatest matches ever.

Raymond van Barneveld
Van Barneveld, known as "Barney", has built a huge following of supporters during nearly three decades at the top of darts

But Van Barneveld, who will face American Darin Young in the first round on Saturday, has had a lean few years in terms of trophies.

The 2014 Premier League is his most recent major individual honour, but his run to the last eight of the Players Championship Finals in November suggested there is potential for one final flourish.

However, it is another Dutchman who is the player to beat at the Alexandra Palace...

'I love winning in anything I do'

Van Gerwen has won the Premier League, World Grand Prix, Masters, Champions League, World Series and Players Championship in 2019 - a year which started with a victory over Michael Smith that clinched his third world title.

The 30-year-old, who is the favourite to win the world crown once more, said: "I just want to win every tournament that I'm competing in, whether I'm defending it or winning for a third time in a row.

Michael van Gerwen wins four straight legs to clinch Champions League title

"I love winning in anything I do. Whatever it is I always want to win, whether it's a game of Monopoly or a game of cards.

"The World Championship is the most important one, the one you have to perform in and you get judged on. If you do badly, people write you off but that's how important the World Championship is.

"My preparation is going quite well and I hope I can do some more damage in the tournament."

Other players to watch

Gerwyn Price's form heading into the World Championship makes the Welshman a serious contender.

He is up to third in the PDC rankings after retaining his Grand Slam of Darts title in November and then running Van Gerwen close in the Players Championship final.

Three-time BDO world champion Glen Durrant will make his debut in the PDC's flagship event after an exceptional first year on its tour, reaching the semi-finals of both the World Matchplay and World Grand Prix.

And, as the past two years have proved, the World Championship provides a stage for unlikely stars to shine.

Current world number two Rob Cross capped a remarkable first year as a professional when he won the world title on debut in 2018, while a deep run in the 2019 tournament provided the springboard for Nathan Aspinall to force his way into the elite - he went on to win the UK Open in March.

Female stars aim for first win

For the second successive year, there are two female players in the field of 96.

Japan's Mikuru Suzuki, the reigning BDO women's world champion, and England's Fallon Sherrock came through the two qualifying events to ensure they will make their first appearances in the PDC World Championship.

Mikuru Suzuki
Mikuru Suzuki defeated four-time champion Lisa Ashton to win the BDO Women's World Championship in January

Three women - Gayl King, Anastasia Dobromyslova and Lisa Ashton - have previously competed in the event, but all failed to win a match.

Ashton took the opening set of her first-round game against Jan Dekker last year, before eventually losing 3-1.

Suzuki impressed during the recent Grand Slam, narrowly losing group matches to PDC major winners Price and Robert Thornton. She will play James Richardson in the first round on Sunday, while Sherrock - a former BDO World Championship finalist - will take on Ted Evetts on Tuesday.

Is this the year that history is made?

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