Hubbard makes debut in world spotlight
Wymondham's James Hubbard goes up against the best in the world this weekend as he makes his bow at the PDC World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace.
Hubbard takes on 25th seed Richie Burnett in the first round this afternoon, a huge step for a 20-year-old who is still feeling his way in the senior ranks.
Hubbard won the junior world title in 2011 and graduated to life with the big boys, but he admits breaking through can be a slow process, citing the example of Michael van Gerwen, one of the best players in the world who won the World Masters when he was 16, but then failed to live up to a quickly gained reputation for the next five years.
'It's not going to happen just overnight, so these tournaments on TV, I'm not really going into them with pressure, I'm going into them to gain experience and do as well as I can,' he said.
Hubbard takes the sound advice of training partner and fellow Norfolk representative Mervyn King into the competition.
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'I'm learning every day from him and I couldn't think of anyone better to practice with,' said Hubbard.
The bookmakers rate Hubbard an 11-8 shot to beat Burnett, who is 4-6, while the youngster is 200-1 and longer to win the title – not helped by being in the same side of the draw as 15-time champion Phil Taylor.
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King, seeded 14th, opens his campaign against Dean Winstanley next Tuesday and is rated a 40-1 shot by Skybet.
Norwich's Darren Webster take on 22nd seed Mark Walsh whilst Carlton Colville-based Peter Wright starts his campaign against Arron Monk.
Number one seed Taylor takes on Michael Mansell while current holder Adrian Lewis comes up against Dutchman Gino Vos.
Taylor, 52, says is confident of winning a 16th world title, a year after failing to make the quarter-finals for the first time.
'I am feeling brilliant and I can win a 16th title without a shadow of a doubt,' Taylor said.
'I have probably been playing on the practice board better than I have before.
'If I can take that form onto the stage, then I know I will be up there.'
Taylor has dominated darts for over two decades, but has failed to win the World Championship for the last two years.
Lewis won the 2011 and 2012 events but Taylor is confident he can prevent his one-time protege from claiming a third successive victory.
He added: 'People say that I am finished but then I've won five out of eight tournaments this year, but everyone expects me to win all eight.
'It is impossible to peak all year, but I can get myself ready for certain tournaments.
'I have set my target on the World Championship, that is the one I am after.'