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JAMES HUBBARD will celebrate his 20th birthday by making his Betfair World Matchplay debut on Tuesday night – but opponent Wes Newton is determined that a celebratory cake is the only present he receives from their clash in Blackpool.

World Youth Champion Hubbard will continue his remarkable rise when he steps onto the Winter Gardens stage – having competed in an amateur tournament in Blackpool last summer.

Having turned professional in November, the 19-year-old has soared to stardom and recently qualified to play in the £400,000 World Matchplay.

“It’s a dream for me to be playing in this event,” said Hubbard. “Winning the World Youth Championship was special but I wasn’t a professional when I qualified for the final, so this is the biggest stepping stone of my career.

“This time last year I was here playing in an amateur tournament, and now I’ll be on stage in the second-biggest event in darts.

“It would be very special to win but there’s no pressure on me either because I never expected to qualify for this.

“To beat the world number five on television in his own backyard would be a great achievement, and I’ll be giving it my best shot on Tuesday.”

Former UK Open finalist Newton was a quarter-finalist in last year’s World Matchplay, and enters their clash as the heavy favourite.

However, the number five seed is taking nothing for granted, and admits: “I’ve known James since he was a cheeky kid and it’s great to see him in the World Matchplay.

Images courtesy of Lawrence Lustig/PDC

“He used to play in youth tournaments around PDC events so I’ve seen him grow up, and for him to have qualified shows how far he’s come in such a short space of time.

“He’s got a birthday cake but I don’t want to be giving him any more presents on stage on Tuesday night! I’m there to do a job and I’m looking forward to the game – to be in the second round is the main aim.”

Story and images courtesy of PDC

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