European Championship Darts: Australian Simon Whitlock set to defend his title
Simon Whitlock will begin the defence of his European Championship title in Germany on Thursday against Kim Huybrechts.
Last Updated: 06/07/13 7:28am
Australian star Whitlock won his maiden major at the European Championship last year, when he defeated Wes Newton to claim first prize at the RWE Sporthalle.
"It was the greatest moment of my career when I won the European Championship last year and it's given me the hunger to win more major titles," said Whitlock.
"Everyone sets out to win every tournament that they play in and we all know that you can't win everything, but the feeling I got by winning the European Championship is driving me on.
"To win this again would be another massive achievement because the field's incredibly strong. I've got Kim first and he's been sensational for the last 18 months and deserves to have broken into the world's top 16 now.
"If I get past him, there's players like James Wade, Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Taylor in my half of the draw, so even getting close to the final will be tough, but it will be a great event."
Taylor opens his challenge against Holland's Vincent van der Voort, with the world champion capping a fine June by following up his UK Open win with victory in the Gibraltar Darts Trophy last weekend.
"I'm really looking forward to it," said Taylor, a four-time European Champion from 2008-2011. "I'm feeling great and my form's good, and to win in Gibraltar was a perfect warm-up for the European Championship."
World No 4 Wade will also be in action on Thursday night as he takes on Mark Webster, who was a late replacement in the event after Gary Anderson was ruled out on Wednesday through illness.
Raymond van Barneveld will return from a holiday in Las Vegas which has seen him skip the last two PDC ProTour weekends as he takes on Germany's Tomas Seyler in their opener.
Bookies' favourite Michael van Gerwen plays Belgium's Kurt Van De Rijck in their opener on Thursday, while number three seed Adrian Lewis takes on leading Austrian Mensur Suljovic.
Ronny Huybrechts, the elder of the Belgian brothers, kicks off the event against another European Championship debutant, Stuart Kellett, and Jamie Caven plays Dave Chisnall before Colin Lloyd meets Peter Wright, and Robert Thornton faces Brendan Dolan - a semi-finalist in last year's European Championship.