Former World Champions Mark Webster and Christian Kist both progressed through to the second-round of the World Championships, whilst the seeded duo of Justin Pipe and John Henderson were beaten at Alexandra Palace on Friday afternoon.
2012 Lakeside World Champion Kist, eased into the second-round of the World Championships after demolishing 20th seed Justin Pipe. Kist reeled off seven consecutive legs to seal the win, dropping just two legs against an abject Pipe, who averaged a mere 75.
Kist snatched a tight opening set and never looked back from that point onwards. Pipe held throw with a classy 104 checkout in the opening leg, but Kist responded with a 13-darter.
‘The Force’ converted D20 for a comfortable hold, before the Dutchman produced an impressive 116 checkout to force a fifth and deciding leg. Kist enjoyed an excellent scoring leg against the throw, leaving D18 after just 12 darts. The ‘Lipstick’then clinched the set with his final dart at D9.
The second set was a procession for Kist. Justin was visibly struggling for any semblance of fluency, whereas Christian appeared to be brimming with confidence. He won three straight legs without reply, to move one set away from his first ever victory at the PDC World Championships.
The third set followed a very similar pattern to the second. Pipe was virtually a spectator, as Kist continued to maintain his professionalism and edge closer towards the second-round. At one stage, Justin became so disillusioned with his poor T20 hitting that he started legs by aiming for the T19.
It was a miserable afternoon for the Taunton star, who has struggled at the Alexandra Palace in recent years. Justin has failed to progress past the second-round since 2012, and he’ll be hoping to rectify his form heading into 2016.
However, Kist will have been extremely satisfied with his performance. He has been suffering with arthritis in his throwing arm recently, but he looked at ease on the big stage, averaging a shade under 95.
Speaking after his victory, Kist told Josh’s Dartistry that he has ‘no preference’ over who he plays in round-two. He will face either Dave Chisnall or Rowby-John Rodriguez, but Christian claimed: “I don’t mind who I play. They are both good players.”
Mark Webster continued his revival as he recorded a straight-sets victory over Irish Matchplay Champion Mick McGowan. ‘Spider’ was tested by the Irishman, but his quality and composure paid dividends.
The Welshman was under severe pressure from the outset, as McGowan raised his level considerably from his earlier preliminary tie. McGowan was a comprehensive winner in a bizarre preliminary round contest in this afternoon’s opener against China’s Qiang Sun, who will be remembered for his personality, rather than his darts.
Sun certainly brightened up everybody’s afternoon at the Darts with his infectious enthusiasm, although he played a starring role in arguably the most bizarre leg seen in World Championship history.
Qiang began by pulling his first dart of the match into the single 18; he responded by turning around and embracing the crowd’s ironic cheers, before nestling his next two darts perfectly in the T20. The Chinese star had instantly earned the adoration of the Alexandra Palace crowd!
However, after being in cruise control of the opening leg, he somehow managed to bust 133 by hitting T19 with his final dart. In the subsequent visit, he then missed the board completely when aiming for the same target. As a result, McGowan capitalised on Qiang’s obvious nerves and clinched an error-strewn first set in three straight legs.
McGowan began the second set strongly; hitting D8 for a 15-darter, but Sun won his first leg of the contest, with a clinical 48 checkout, provoking jubilant scenes in the crowd. However, McGowan eventually managed to stagger over the line by hitting D20s in the fourth leg.
The 42-year-old, from Balbriggan then took to the stage against Webster in the final match of the afternoon session and played his part in an intriguing tussle. Webster won nine legs to McGowan’s six, although he ran out a comprehensive 3-0 winner.
The first two legs of the encounter were shared, before McGowan squandered three clear darts to break Webby’s throw.
The Irishman forced a fifth and deciding leg in the opening set after hitting D12, but Webster demonstrated his class to secure the initiative. After an underwhelming scoring leg, the left-hander delivered a special 126 checkout, culminating on D6, to move 1-0 ahead.
The second-set was an equally close affair. McGowan illustrated his intent, opening up with an impressive 13-dart hold. However, Mark’s riposte was emphatic; he produced a brilliant 11-darter, before breaking throw with a two-dart 65 kill.
Nevertheless, uncharacteristic profligacy from the Denbigh ace handed McGowan a surprising reprieve. Webster missed three darts for a 2-0 lead in sets and the Irishman broke back and had the advantage of throw in the fifth and deciding leg.
Despite this, Webster again produced a spell of sheer quality in the critical juncture of the second set. Webster, seeded 22nd for the event, posted his third maximum, before completing a clinical two-dart 69 finish to extend his lead.
To be able to finish 249 in five darts is impressive irrespective of the situation, but to do so at such a decisive moment is the epitome of a world-class performer.
Webster moved 2-1 ahead in the third set, after producing tremendous 72 and 98 finishes in two-darts apiece. However, McGowan held comfortably on D16 in leg four, to force a fifth and deciding leg for the third consecutive set.
Once again, the outcome remained the same. McGowan appeared poised to break throw, but he relinquished control with some sloppy scoring, before missing one dart at D16 for the set.
Webster took full advantage, following up a perfectly-timed 140 with a 60 checkout to seal a straight-sets win. However, the score-line certainly wasn’t reflective of how competitive McGowan was throughout.
Mark’s exemplary finishing was the decisive factor; his checkout ratio was a mightily impressive 60% and in his post-match press conference, Webster admitted to Josh’s Dartistry that his finishing is a major plus point for him.
“60% is very good but I’ve got to score a lot better. With some finishes, I was relying on Mick missing, but I’m just glad to be through the first-round, and there’s room for improvement, as you said.”
Mark could face Terry Jenkins in the second-round after Christmas, but Webster wasn’t looking that far ahead. “Terry’s a great player, he’s experienced, but I’m not deterred by him. He’s got to get past Darin first. He’ll be feeling the nerves, as he’s come unstuck in the first-round before, like myself,” the Welshman added.
Elsewhere, John Henderson was another seed to tumble at this year’s World Championship, after he was beaten 3-1 by Darren Webster. Henderson led 1-0 and threw for a 2-0 advantage at one stage, but Darren won seven out of eight legs to complete a fine comeback.
Henderson, ranked 32nd in the PDC Order of Merit, significantly under-performed, as he averaged a miserly 81.06. John’s double percentage of 46% was entirely respectable, but Darren hit 43 ton-plus scores, as opposed to John’s 27 ton-pluses. This ultimately proved decisive.
Henderson won a scrappy first set against the darts. The Scot started strongly, breaking Webster’s throw in 15 darts with a clinical 79 checkout. However, ‘Hendo’ was handed a reprieve in the second leg, as Darren failed to register a dart at double, despite having six darts at 108.
The ‘Demolition man’ opened up his account in leg three by hitting D2 for an 18-darter, but Henderson produced an impressive 14-dart leg on throw to clinch the first set.
Nevertheless, Darren Webster showed impressive character to restore parity, by edging a topsy-turvy second set. After ‘Big John’ narrowly missed D20 for a spectacular 157 checkout, Webster posted D4 for a crucial break.
The second leg of the set was high-quality. Webster hit his first maximum, but Henderson responded emphatically, hitting six perfect darts to threaten an instant break back. Yet, after the Scot was unable to convert 45, Webster extended his advantage.
Henderson produced a solid hold courtesy of D18 to prolong the set, before capitalising on five missed set darts from Darren to level up the set. Henderson appeared to hold all the aces, but Webster responded superbly; posting a nerveless 64 finish to level up proceedings at one set apiece.
The Norwich ace was galvanised by this terrific turnaround and he cruised to the third set without reply. Webster hit successive ton-plus finishes of 116 and 110, before nailing D10 to establish daylight.
The 47-year-old won his fifth consecutive leg by breaking Henderson’s throw once more; the amiable Scot was enduring a startling capitulation. His game was littered with single 1s and 5s and he was desperately lacking fluency.
Webster moved to the cusp of victory via D18 for his sixth leg in succession; however Henderson finally stopped the rot by taking out 80 in two darts.
However, this simply delayed the inevitable; Henderson was unable to produce a 132 finish to preserve his hopes and Webster returned to hit D20 to seal comfortable progression through to round-two.
Friday December 18
Afternoon Session (1pm-5pm)
Qiang Sun 0-2 Mick McGowan (P)
John Henderson 1-3 Darren Webster
Justin Pipe 0-3 Christian Kist
Mark Webster 3-0 Mick McGowan