Reigning champion Smith faces Nebrida in 2024 Bahrain Darts Masters

Michael Smith (PDC)

Michael Smith will begin his defence of the Bahrain Darts Masters against Paolo Nebrida, while Luke Humphries will make his first outing as World Champion with a clash against local qualifier Abdulla Saeed in Thursday's first round.

The 2024 World Series of Darts begins with the second staging of the Bahrain Darts Masters this week, which will take place in The Dome at the Bahrain International Circuit on January 18-19.

Thursday's first round will see eight of the sport's biggest names pitted against eight Asian representatives, as reigning champion Smith bids to retain his crown in the 16-player event.

The 2023 World Champion will open his challenge against former PDC Asian Championship runner-up Nebrida, who made his second World Darts Championship appearance last month.

"It's amazing to be back here in Bahrain, and I'm looking forward to getting back on that stage again," reflected Smith, who defeated Gerwyn Price to triumph in last year's decider.

"I've had a week in Dubai with the family to recharge the batteries and then I went to the PDC Asian Tour last weekend, which gave me the hunger to get back on the dartboard and get ready for this."

Meanwhile, newly crowned World Champion Humphries, who also became the new world number one following his Alexandra Palace exploits, will take on Bahrain's Saeed, who is making his televised debut on home soil after coming through last month's qualifiers.

"I'm very excited to hear John McDonald announce me as the new World Champion. I think that's a moment every World Champion looks forward to," admitted Humphries, who is bidding to extend his incredible 19-match winning run on the big stage.

"My motivation is high now. I'm going to be more dedicated than ever, and I want to continue to be successful and win more major titles." 

World Championship runner-up Luke Littler will play Hong Kong's Man Lok Leung in arguably the stand-out first round tie, as the World Youth Champion makes his highly-anticipated World Series of Darts debut.

"It's back to business for me now," said Littler. "I've chilled out and not really thrown many darts since the World Championship final, but I'm sure that once I'm in the practice room I'll be alright.

"I like playing all the time but after the World Championship I wanted to get away, which me and the family did. Hopefully I can have a good event here to get back playing."

Three-time World Champion Michael van Gerwen will make his Bahrain bow against local qualifier Hasan Haji, while 2023 runner-up Price has drawn Philippines' Reynaldo Rivera.

World Matchplay champion Nathan Aspinall will kick off his campaign against eight-time World Championship qualifier Lourence Ilagan, while 2018 World Champion Rob Cross meets emerging Japanese star Tomoya Goto.

Two-time World Champion Peter Wright will open the tournament on Thursday, and the Scottish veteran faces PDC Asian Champion Haruki Muramatsu for the right to play Smith or Nebrida in the last eight.

The tournament draw was made on Wednesday evening, as the 2024 Bahrain Darts Masters was launched with local media and representatives from promoters Bahrain International Circuit and CBX.

Following Thursday's first round, the 2024 Bahrain Darts Masters concludes on Friday with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final in one bumper session.

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The Bahrain Darts Masters will be broadcast live on PDCTV in all territories other than Germany, Austria & Switzerland (coverage via DAZN).

UK viewers can watch through ITVX on Thursday and on ITV4 for Friday's final stages.

2024 Bahrain Darts Masters
Draw Bracket

(1) Luke Humphries v Abdulla Saeed
Gerwyn Price v Reynaldo Rivera
(4) Nathan Aspinall v Lourence Ilagan
Luke Littler v Man Lok Leung
(2) Michael van Gerwen v Hasan Haji
Rob Cross v Tomoya Goto
(3) Michael Smith v Paolo Nebrida
Peter Wright v Haruki Muramatsu

Schedule of Play
Thursday January 18 (1900 local time, 1600 GMT)

First Round
Peter Wright v Haruki Muramatsu
Gerwyn Price v Reynaldo Rivera
Nathan Aspinall v Lourence Ilagan
Rob Cross v Tomoya Goto
Luke Littler v Man Lok Leung
Luke Humphries v Abdulla Saeed
Michael van Gerwen v Hasan Haji
Michael Smith v Paolo Nebrida

Friday January 19 (1900 local time, 1600 GMT)

First Round - Best of 11 legs
Quarter-Finals - Best of 11 legs
Semi-Finals - Best of 13 legs
Final - Best of 15 legs