Steve Beaton and Kevin Painter rolled back the years on the World Championship stage, whilst Belgium’s Dimitri van den Bergh produced the performance of his career to stun Ian White at the Alexandra Palace on Saturday afternoon.
Beaton and Painter, both of whom are second only to Phil Taylor in terms of consecutive World Championship appearances, have struggled results-wise over the last 12 months, but both men recorded emphatic victories this afternoon.
Beaton narrowly prevailed in a topsy-turvy first-set against his Kiwi opponent Koha Kokiri. The first four legs went against throw, but when pressured, ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ produced the goods.
He posted a stunning 11-darter in the fourth leg, before finishing 180 in 4 darts to secure the lead. Nevertheless, Kokiri narrowly missed D13 for a 106 checkout which would have given him the set, and sealed the fifth consecutive break of throw.
The 1996 Lakeside Champion continued his exemplary finishing by breaking the Kiwi in the opening leg of set two, taking out 121 on the bull. However, Kokiri demonstrated great resilience to post a 177 to set up a 14-darter for an instant break back.
Yet, the 39-year-old, who now resides in Perth, relinquished the initiative, by missing three darts to hold. Beaton took full advantage of this reprieve, polishing off 46, before hitting D4 to extend his sets advantage, with his average pushing 102.
Kokiri posted his second maximum early in leg three, but Beaton was undeterred; converting 56 to continue his fine finishing.
Kokiri responded with a comfortable hold on D10, before the pair both squandered opportunities in leg three. Beaton eventually converted D1 to move to within one leg of round-two, but Kokiri preserved his slender hopes by hitting D8.
Steve’s scoring in the fifth leg was slightly scrappy and just as it appeared that the New Zealander would steal the set, ‘The Adonis’ sealed the win in style; with a fabulous 164 checkout. It was a tremendous all-round performance from Beaton. His average was just below 96, and his checkout ratio of 56% was extremely impressive.
Despite this, Koha deserves great credit for his performance. He averaged a very respectable 93.22 and competed throughout, in spite of Beaton’s brilliance. He lacked composure in decisive moments, although this confidence ultimately comes with gaining more big-stage experience.
In his post-match press conference, Beaton spoke of his ‘unbelievable relief’ about overcoming the first-round hurdle. “On that 164, he was sitting there to take the set, and I thought, it could be 2-1, 2-2 and it could go all the way then. It was so important to get it finished. I’m delighted, absolutely delighted.”
“I didn’t realise I was averaging 100. When you’re up there you don’t realise, you’re just focusing on the game. But to have an average like that, I’m over the moon,” he added.
Beaton was also full of praise for his plucky opponent. “I was quite surprised by how well he played, as I’d never seen him play before. I’ll go down there now, buy him a drink, have a chat, and wish him a Merry Christmas!”
Meanwhile, Dimitri van den Bergh, ranked 62nd on the Order of Merit, caused the biggest shock of this year’s World Championships with a 3-1 victory over World Number 9 Ian White. Dimitri hit four fantastic ton-plus finishes en route to victory on his World Championship debut.
Van den Bergh’s walk-on was something to behold, but he let his darts do the talking in the early stages. After trailing 2-0 in the opening set, he converted classy 122 and 107 finishes to force a fifth and deciding leg. However, White was handed a major reprieve, as the Belgian missed four set darts, allowing the Stoke-on-Trent star to seal the opener on D5.
Van den Bergh responded tremendously to this disappointment and secured an early advantage in set two with an accomplished 72 checkout. He threatened a 170 finish in the following leg, but his dart at bullseye was somewhat wayward.
Irrespective of this, he clinched the leg to move one leg away from levelling up proceedings. The 21-year-old missed two set darts and was punished by the World Number 9 in leg three, but he delivered an instant riposte, posting a 15-darter to restore parity.
Van den Bergh’s talent is undeniable. He has enjoyed tremendous success on the Youth and Development Tour, but the maturity and composure he was demonstrating was admirable. He took out a further two ton-plus finishes, 112 and 103 on his way to sealing a third-set whitewash.
The Belgian won his fifth straight leg to edge ahead in the fourth set, before producing a clinical two-dart 76 kill, to move within one leg of the second-round. White finally stopped the rot, hitting D4 to maintain his hopes, before he forced a fifth and deciding leg by taking out D9.
If there was any uncertainty about how Dimitri would cope with the pressure of throwing for the match, he dispelled it emphatically. The World Number 62 produced a brilliant 14-darter to win it, sealing his progression on D16; a double which served him so well throughout the encounter.
In his post-match press conference, The Belgian star expressed his delight at the character he demonstrated. “I recovered myself really strongly and I surprised myself. But I just kept enjoying the game; that’s why I think I won this match. I kept enjoying the game and didn’t feel the nerves.”
Dimitri also told me that this was possibly a career-defining victory. “The Worlds is the tournament that can make your career really big, so if I can keep it going like this, this can actually be the start of a new life,” he added.
In the second-round, Van den Bergh will face either Max Hopp or Benito van de Pas, both of whom he has faced on the Youth Tour. “Those guys are talents as well; they are the future, just like I am, so we’ll see who has his moment on the stage,” he added.
Elsewhere, Kevin Painter eased through to the second-round of the World Championships, with a comprehensive 3-0 victory against Finland’s Kim Viljanen.
Painter claimed the opening set without reply, hitting two 180’s and hitting 3 doubles from just 5 attempts.
Viljanen opened his account with an excellent 76 checkout in the opening leg of set two, but ‘The Artist’ brushed this off, replying with a fine 87 finish. Painter established his superiority by winning the following two legs to storm into a commanding 2-0 advantage.
Viljanen continued to plug away and he secured his second leg midway through set three, although Painter was in firm command and closed out the contest by hitting D5. It was a professional performance from Kevin; he averaged 93.43 and boasted a respectable 45% on the doubles.
Viljanen had produced a fine comeback to defeat Sven Groen in this afternoon’s preliminary tie. He averaged 98 in the third and decisive set, whilst his checkout ratio was an outstanding 62%. Nevertheless, he was unable to replicate such a performance against the 2004 World finalist.
Speaking exclusively to Josh’s Dartistry after his victory, Painter claimed the most satisfactory aspect of his performance was his solidity. “In general, just to get up on that stage and win, after not being on the stage for so long, is the most pleasing thing.”
“Some of these lads have played 50 or 60 events this year; those of whom who have been playing in Dubai and Australia; they’re all stage sharp. I’m not; so I didn’t know what was going to happen up there,” he added.
Painter admitted: I’ve had my personal problems, but since July, I’ve been throwing some good darts and getting my head out of the gutter. “
Looking ahead to his potential second-round tie against 16-time World Champion Phil Taylor, Painter joked: “Every time Phil plays me he goes mental! Phil won’t be disturbed by playing me whatsoever. “
It’s all about how well I play- if I can upset his rhythm and ruffle his feathers, all well and good. But I’ve got to make sure my game is A+; if you don’t put in an A+ game against Taylor, you get beat,” the Artist added.
William Hill World Darts Championship
Saturday December 19
Afternoon Session (1pm-5pm)
Kim Viljanen 2-1 Sven Groen (P)
Steve Beaton 3-0 Koha Kokiri
Ian White 1-3 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Kevin Painter 3-0 Kim Viljanen